Struggling Washington State plays Idaho in quest for 1st win
PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) Washington State's football team is in turmoil as the Cougars seek their first win of the season on Saturday against Idaho.
A team that was expected to contend for the Pac-12 North instead has opened the season with losses to FCS foe Eastern Washington and Boise State.
That prompted coach Mike Leach this week to rip his Cougars (0-2) as soft. Leach also ripped local police and the news media for too much focus on the alleged misdeeds of players.
Leach went on an epic rant about his team on Monday.
''Right now, we have the atmosphere of a JC softball game,'' he said. ''That's what we are, a JC softball team.''
He added: ''I've got receivers running routes that don't even resemble anything we teach. We don't tuck the ball and go straight up field. We do all these stupid moves.
''We run out of bounds more than any team in the country.''
''We're the easiest team in the country to tackle.''
''We don't like to run and hit, and this is a game for running and hitting.''
In response, Leach promised his players would undergo a hard week of practice.
Idaho, located just 8 miles away in Moscow, has often been a cure for what ailed the Cougars.
The Vandals (1-1), who are preparing to drop back to the FCS level in two seasons, are 17-71-3 all-time against Washington State. The Cougars are 26-point favorites in the 92nd meeting between the two closest neighbors in the FBS.
Idaho is coming off a 59-14 pounding at the hands of No. 8 Washington last Saturday.
Vandals coach Paul Petrino says the game is unlikely to be a defensive battle.
''They're going to score points,'' Petrino said. ''We've got to make sure that we score some points.''
The teams last played in 2013, a 42-0 win for the Cougars.
''They're a whole different team and we're a whole different team,'' Petrino said.
Here are five things to watch as Idaho plays Washington State:
LAW AND ORDER-PULLMAN: Leach complained on Tuesday night that local police and members of the media were unfairly focusing on alleged misdeeds by his players. Leach read a prepared statement after practice in which he complained about three recent incidents allegedly involving players that led to assault investigations by police. Leach said he was concerned that the only people being accused of crimes in the cases are football players.
AS THE DEFENSE TURNS: Idaho defensive coordinator Mike Breske was fired by Leach following the 2014 season and found a new job nearby with the Vandals. Meanwhile, Washington State defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has decided that working in the press box takes him too far from players during games. Grinch stayed on the sideline during a narrow loss to Boise State last week, and will be there again against Idaho. ''He can give you some pointers face-to-face,'' linebacker Parker Henry said.
AIR RAID: Washington State QB Luke Falk leads all active FBS quarterbacks in passing yards at 366.2 per game, while receiver Gabe Marks already owns the WSU record for career receptions at 247. Receiver Tavares Martin Jr. caught 12 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown at Boise State.
THREE IS LONELIEST NUMBER: Both WSU losses are by three points, 45-42 to Eastern Washington and 31-28 to Boise State.
AUSTIN'S POWERS: Idaho punter Austin Rehkow is the NCAA career punting leader with an average of 47 yards per kick. He is on the watch list for the Ray Guy and Lou Groza awards given to punters and kickers.