Mike Leach‘s debut at Washington State was one of the most highly anticipated in Week 1. We even predicted that the Cougars could be the pleasant surprise of the Pac-12 this season.
The Leach Kool-Aid was strong indeed.
Then the Cougars actually took the field Thursday against BYU and came out on the other side with a 30-6 loss that was every kind of awful. Since Leach has always been associated with absurd numbers, it’s probably better just to lay out the facts first:
Quarterback Jeff Tuel was able to pass for 228 yards, but threw two interceptions. The Cougars had -4 — I repeat, -4 — rushing yards on 16 attempts. WSU had eight penalties for 73 yards and converted just 33 percent on third downs.
And no touchdowns.
The last time a Leach coached team went without a touchdown? 2006, when Texas Tech lost to TCU 12-3. Per ESPN’s stats, Leach’s offense had been held out of the end zone in only two games during his career as a head coach. Tonight was No. 3, and it showed just how much work Leach has left to do in Pullman before this program can be even remotely competitive in the Pac-12, let alone compete for a championship.
Leach was visibly frustrated. So too was receiver Marquess Wilson, who had two spectacular catches called back for holding penalties. It was just that kind of night.
The one positive takeaway for Wazzu actually came from the defense of all places. Despite getting overrun all night by BYU — the (winning) Cougars were able to do pretty much whatever they wanted, when they wanted — Wazzu did not give up a touchdown in the second half.
But for as bad as Washington State looked, BYU looked equally good. Bronco Mendenhall fielded a well-prepared team that executed (outside 10 penalties, but that’s Week 1 for you).
Opening week games are a bit tricky in that you never quite know what you’re going to get, and the team that takes the field in late August/early September is never the same team that takes the field in late November/early December. Looking at it in that regard, things can certainly turn around for Washington State.
It’s just going to be a tougher task for Leach than many of us — myself included — thought it was going to be with the players returning.