This week I was able to email with Jeff Nusser from CougCenter. They are the premier site to go to for more information on this week's opponent, Washington State. Jeff and his team are still recovering from the deflating upset suffered to FCS opponent Portland State last Saturday. Here is our conversation, including Jeff's prediction for Saturday.
What level is the panic meter for the fan base after the loss to Portland State?
The panic meter is broken. We were told there was a process to Mike Leach's rebuild, we were told this was the year we'd finally see substantial progress ... and we saw much of the same terrible stuff that's sabotaged two of his first three seasons lead to the most embarrassing loss in program history. (And let me tell you: That is an awfully high bar to hurdle.)
Tell me if this reminds you of a game you might have played in last year: WSU's defense still couldn't stop anyone for long stretches, the special teams still were a mess, and the team was again outplayed by more passionate counterparts. There has been a lot of debate over the years as to just whose fault these things have been, but after Saturday, there seems to be a consensus that this falls at Leach's feet.
Has the fan base given up on Mike Leach? What is his contract status and what is the likelihood of him being fired mid-season or after the season?
On a personal level, I have given up on him being the person who can truly set this program back on track. Just too many similar issues that have popped up consistently with different iterations of the team over the last four years. I don't believe Leach is effective at getting his message across anymore. Now, I can't speak for everyone else, but the vibe I get is that most people are fed up, too.
That said, it's unlikely it costs him his job. WSU would owe him nearly $5 million if they fire him after the season, we're not exactly awash in money, having run up a $13 million deficit last year -- and besides that, the athletic director is all-in with Leach, backing his coach at every turn over the last three years, including giving him a raise (to $2.75 million a year) before last season's 3-9 mess. Because of that, the AD will have to be fired, too -- a possibility, since WSU is going through a president change, but I'd be surprised if the new person comes in and cleans house, which means we've probably got Leach for at least one more season after this.
Oh, and there's really no chance he's let go mid-season unless there's some reason to fire him with cause. Things aren't *that* much of a mess.
Any details on QB Luke Falk's injury and if he can't play, will the offensive game plan stay the same with the backup Peyton Bender?
Leach doesn't give updates on injuries, but practice reports from the first couple of days indicate Falk should be healthy enough to play. I'd like to see Bender anyway; Falk has had three pretty awful starts in a row after performing lights out in his first. In the past few games, he's been slow to deliver the ball, and he often doesn't get it to the guys who are open. His command of the offense is not what you'd expect for a guy in his third year in the system, even if he's only made four starts.
Regardless of who starts, you'll see the same Air Raid. Mike Leach don't change for nobody.
The offense threw the ball 45 times in a rainstorm Saturday and was less effective than usual, especially on third down (4-16). Is there concern or do you chalk it up to the weather as a big reason for the struggle?
Some players referenced the weather, but they played in a driving rainstorm in Utah last season and ended up doing just fine. I just think the quarterback and receivers weren't very good.
How has the defense changed since last season and do you expect improvement?
Looks the same to me: Slow to react, poor in assignment correctness and bad at tackling. I expect it to continue to be awful, if only because hope has pretty much brought me continual disappointment.
Is the fan base hopeful to avenge last season's loss to Rutgers?
I guess there's always hope. But this was a game that was seen as a coin flip heading into the season. I don't think very many people are expecting a win at this point. Perhaps that's overreacting to one game, but let's just say the Cougars didn't exactly cover themselves in glory last season when they followed up the disappointing loss to Rutgers to open the season by then crapping the bed on the road at Nevada the next week. Confidence that WSU will rally this week is pretty low.
What is your prediction for the game?
I wanted to thank Jeff Nusser from CougCenter for taking the time to answer these questions and give us some insight on our opponent this weekend. I also will not argue with his prediction.
To read the Q&A that Jeff asked myself regarding the Rutgers perspective, click here.