By Brent Stecker
Washington State coach Mike Leach grabbed headlines with his dustup with Idaho’s Paul Petrino following the Cougars’ 42-0 win Saturday, but he made it clear on Monday that he’s moved past the altercation.
Leach and Petrino exchanged words while shaking hands after the game, and Leach was picked up on cameras yelling an expletive at Petrino, who appeared bothered by the way the Cougars tried to preserve their shutout in the final minutes of the game.
Cameras picked up Mike Leach yelling an expletive at Idaho coach Paul Petrino after the Cougars’ 42-0 win over their Palouse rivals Saturday. (AP)
“I have no idea what he is upset about,” Leach said Monday. “I don’t care, and if I did, which I don’t, I wouldn’t share it with you.”
Leach said that it was important for the Cougars to lock up the shutout, even in a game they had well in hand.
“There hasn’t been a shutout in a long time, and there is nothing more important to a defense than a shutout,” he said. “That is kind of a major goal to take a lot of pride in.”
The Cougars hope the momentum from their shutout will carry over into this week’s game against No. 5 Stanford (3-0) Saturday night at CenturyLink Field.
“I think they are one of the top programs in the country,” Leach said of the Cardinal. “Offensive line and defensive line, no question, they are real tough. … They are really strong. The biggest thing you notice about Stanford is their size and strength.”
Stanford has had no trouble scoring this season behind its big line, including in last week’s 42-28 win over No. 23 Arizona State. Running back Tyler Gaffney (323 yards, five touchdowns) has enjoyed success running behind the sturdy line, and quarterback Kevin Hogan has been comfortable enough to complete 62.9 percent of his passes for 546 yards and seven touchdowns to just two interceptions.
The Cardinal haven’t exactly been stellar on defense, however. Arizona State scored four touchdowns against them, and both Army and San Diego State managed double-digit points. That gives Washington State a chance to make things interesting, as its defense has allowed more than 10 points just once in its four games this season.
“Our front seven is pretty solid, (and) we do some good things in the secondary, too,” Leach said. “They keep getting better. They keep showing a little more dimension every time they play.”
Laufasa trades size for speed
Leach praised sophomore running back Jeremiah Laufasa – who rushed for 41 yards and two touchdowns on six carries against the Vandals – for slimming down to increase his speed over the offseason.
“There is not anyone with one year that has improved as much as him,” Leach said. “He was real built last year – thicker and stiffer. He has always been a weight room guy. … He has worked really hard. He just got quicker and more flexible. … He was a little more thick and cumbersome, now he is quick and he moves well and is powerful.”
Laufasa, a Kirkland native, has four total touchdowns this season on just 13 carries.
“He just brings a lot of power when he runs the ball. He is more elusive than you think,” Leach said. “He catches the ball well, too.”
The Cougars’ offense has had a more prototypical Mike Leach air-raid attack over the last two weeks than at any time in his first season with the team.
Quarterback Connor Halliday completed 31 of 43 passes to 11 different receivers for 346 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions against Idaho, and he was 32 of 41 to 10 receivers for 383 yards, five scores and one pick the week before against Southern Utah. Meanwhile the running game was limited just 15 attempts for 71 yards against the Vandals and 17 attempts for 54 yards against the Thunderbirds.
The results are exactly what a Leach-coached team is looking for – a combined score of 90-10 in WSU’s favor.
Editor’s note: This story has been edited to correct an error in the previous version.