WSU coach Leach praises Col­orado for its de­fense and ... mas­cot

Tri-City Herald - - Front Page - BY DALE GRUMMERT Lewis­ton (Idaho) Tri­bune

Com­pared to other coaches, Mike Leach doesn’t lav­ish a lot of gra­tu­itous praise on forth­com­ing op­po­nents.

But the Wash­ing­ton State foot­ball boss is gush­ing about the Col­orado Buf­faloes – not the team, but the beasts that over the years have served as Ral­phie, the school mas­cot.

“One thing I will say, their mas­cot is just out­stand­ing,” Leach said. “They and Mike the Tiger (of Louisiana State) are by far the best. Butch (of WSU) is a bet­ter … sym­bol of the whole thing, OK, I’ll go with that. But that buf­falo and Mike the Tiger, ut­terly out­stand­ing.”

The coach will pre­sum­ably be fo­cus­ing on the hu­man Buf­faloes when No. 10 Wash­ing­ton State (8-1, 5-1), the first-place team in the Pac-12 North, aims for its sixth straight win Satur­day (12:30 p.m., ESPN) at Col­orado (5-4, 2-4). The Cougars are fa­vored by six points.

“They’re good,” Leach said of the Buffs. “They’re like they al­ways are. They’re mean and scrappy and they like to play de­fense. They like to run to the ball. They’re pretty good at throw­ing it, pretty good at rush­ing it.”

Leach weighed in on sev­eral top­ics, as usual, and lauded the WSU de­fense for its per­for­mance in a 19-13 win at Pull­man on Satur­day over Cal­i­for­nia.

“I thought we played re­ally well on de­fense, ex­cept … we could have got them off the field quicker,” he said. “Of­fen­sively, we moved the ball pretty well but we weren’t as great in key sit­u­a­tions. And, of course, sta­tis­ti­cally they (the Bears) might be the best de­fense in the con­fer­ence, and I think they are a re­ally good one.”

Although the Cougars out­gained Cal­i­for­nia 413-291 in of­fense, the Bears held a pos­ses­sion-time edge of 31:19 to 28:41, largely be­cause of WSU’s seven penal­ties for 80 yards.

But Leach’s most an­i­mated re­sponse was to the ques­tion about Col­orado’s live mas­cot.

“And then it’s got the han­dlers,” he said, re­fer­ring to CU’s pregame rit­ual of hav­ing Ral­phie and a group of stu­den­tath­letes gal­lop around Fol­som Field at Boul­der, Colo. “No, they’re not pulling that buf­falo. That buf­falo is pulling them.

“Heck, I grew up in the West,” said Leach, who spent most of his child­hood in Cody, Wyo. “What can I say? Buf­falo is one that’s hard to ar­gue with, un­less you have a live griz­zly bear out there or some­thing.”

He said it “would be cool” if WSU went back to keep­ing a live mas­cot, as it did un­til 1978, but added that he doesn’t know how well cougars thrive in cap­tiv­ity.

RE­CEIVER ROLE CHANGE

Asked about ju­nior-col­lege trans­fer re­ceiver Calvin Jack­son Jr., Leach sur­pris­ingly said he’s “pretty dead-even” with starter Tay Martin at the Cougars’ X (far left) po­si­tion.

Martin leads WSU wide re­ceivers with 52 catches (tail­back James Wil­liams is tops over­all on the team with 58) but was held to one re­cep­tion for 1 yard against Cal. He was fre­quently spelled by Jack­son, a ju­nior who made three catches to bring his sea­son to­tal to 11.

“I think he’s done real well in prac­tice,” Leach said of Jack­son. “He’s got a quick burst to him, which we like. Also there’s no wasted steps. Calvin Jack­son doesn’t have any wasted steps.”

Of Martin’s re­cent dropoff in pro­duc­tion, Leach said, “Some of it’s luck and op­por­tu­nity, but the harder he plays prob­a­bly the more balls he’ll get.”

FYI: JUST IN CASE

The Cougars’ suc­cess against di­vi­sional op­po­nents has pro­duced a weird fact. They can lose their next two games and still win the Pac-12 North by beat­ing Wash­ing­ton in their reg­u­lar-sea­son fi­nale at Pull­man on Nov. 23.

That’s be­cause Wazzu owns a two-game lead over Ore­gon and Stan­ford (both 3-3 in league) and a tie-break­ing edge over both, based on head-to­head re­sults. The Cougs downed the Ducks and the Car­di­nal in suc­ces­sive games last month.

Wash­ing­ton stands sec­ond in the North at 5-2 and has a bye this week. Even if the Huskies beat Ore­gon State on Nov. 17, they need to de­feat the Cougars in the Ap­ple Cup to win the tie-breaker and thus the ti­tle. If the Ever­green State teams both fall apart here in the stretch run, Ore­gon and Stan­ford still have shots at the crown.

EX­TRA POINTS

Cougars play­ers con­tinue to draw at­ten­tion for post­sea­son awards. Quar­ter­back Gard­ner Min­shew is one of 16 semi­fi­nal­ists for the Davey O’Brien Award, given an­nu­ally to the best quar­ter­back in col­lege foot­ball. Line­backer Pey­ton Pel­luer, nom­i­nated for Come­back Player of the Year award, is one of three fi­nal­ists, along with Car­don John­son of James Madi­son Univer­sity and Sam Shook of Ohio North­ern Univer­sity. And first-year Wash­ing­ton State de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Tracy Claeys was nom­i­nated by Broyles Award, which honors the top as­sis­tant coaches in col­lege foot­ball.

DAVID ZALUBOWSKI AP

Han­dlers guide Ral­phie, the Col­orado Buf­faloes mas­cot, in the first half of a game Aug. 31 in Den­ver.

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