Mike Leach: 'We had people pouting on the sideline'

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Wednesday December 28, 2016

In a bowl season full of strange performances, perhaps the strangest came Tuesday night in San Diego.

Washington State lost 17-12 to Minnesota in the Holiday Bowl. The Cougars came into the game scoring 40 points per game, but only scored one touchdown against a Gopher defense that was thin in the backfield. Mike Leach said his team couldn’t handle adversity.

“I think we were frantic, whether you can say rusty, whatever it is,” he said. “We go out there, we try to adjust what our jobs are, we tried to make too much happen, and then when it didn’t work out, I thought we got frantic. I didn’t think we were mentally tough, as far as just allowing ourselves to get discouraged.

“We unraveled. The worst thing I saw is we had a certain number of people pouting on the sideline. Something doesn’t go our way and we’re entitled to pout in some fashion. Minnesota get a lot of credit for playing the way they played. They ought to be proud of that team.”

Luke Falk went 30-for-51 passing for Wazzu, and the Cougars averaged 1.7 yards per rush. It was reminiscent of Leach blasting his team's toughness after an 0-2 start. They won eight straight games after that, but finished this year with three straight losses.

The storyline weighing over the game was Minnesota’s brief boycott over a sexual assault investigation that has since brought criticism on the program for its response. Leach was asked after the game if his team was over-confident because of that, and the coach did think about it.

“I don’t know. I wondered that. I hope not,” Leach said. “If that’s the case, somehow it’s a total dereliction on our part as coaches that we have to address. I’m searching if there’s some element of that there. The most important thing you do as a coach is create a sense in your players that they respect opponents, no matter who they are.

“I can’t help but wonder that. Despite what you guys write, because you go willy-nilly on every subject. We have to have the discipline to keep our mind out of there. As coaches, we have to make that happen. I’ll be honest, there’s a part of me that wonders if we did successfully.”

Chris Vannini is in his fifth year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for the Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris now lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.