FBS position coaches have notoriously low job security. As a special teams coach, that little amount of security drops to zero if your team allows two consecutive kickoff returns for touchdowns, and your team loses a game on a missed 19-yard field goal.
That’s what Washington State suffered through Saturday night, as the Cougars dropped a 60-59 decision to Cal despite Connor Halliday setting the FBS single-game record with 734 passing yards. After taking a 38-27 lead with 7:37 to play in the third quarter, the Cougars allowed Trevor Davis to race 100 yards for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff. Wazzu immediately marched 75 yards in seven plays to push the lead to 45-43, and Davis immediately took the kickoff back for a score – this one from 98 yards out.
Despite allowing 14 points on special teams, Washington State was still in position to win Quentin Brashears lined up for a 19-yard field goal inside the game’s final minute. He missed.
On Monday, Wazzu assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Eric Russell was fired.
“We made a change at special teams and well I think a great deal of coach Russell but we wanted to split the special teams up among the assistants and the way he’s most effective is with him running the whole thing,” head coach Mike Leach told the Spokesman-Review. “He’s a great coach. Yeah, I decided to make a change at special teams.”
Offensive quality control assistant Eric Mele has been promoted to the nine-man assistant staff, taking up special teams responsibilities while some other duties will be doled out amongst the staff.
“Really a lot of the same administrative stuff he was doing before and he’ll head up the special teams but deal it out among the assistants and just kind of keep it organized,” Leach said of the staff’s new flowchart.
The loss was a crippling one for Washington State’s postseason hopes, as the Cougars drop to 2-4 with three ranked teams, plus USC, Oregon State and Washington, remaining on the schedule.
Washington State visits Stanford on Friday (9 p.m. ET, ESPN).