PULLMAN — Mike Leach has as much time for excuses as he does patience for poor effort.
Very little, it turns out.
Washington State’s quest to play in its first bowl game since 2003 is off to a less-than ideal start after Thursday’s 30-6 loss to Brigham Young. But Leach does not talk like a coach who thinks it will take time for WSU to get the hang of his offense.
It needs to improve. Now.
“There’s some growing pains, but it doesn’t make it any more excusable,” Leach said after practice Sunday. “There’s growing pains but grow through them fast, you know? If you can do it later on, you can probably do it now.
“Any time you step on the football field, that’s an opportunity to improve, to make your play and develop your skills. You shouldn’t let the score impact you. You shouldn’t let the setting impact you. It’s an opportunity, and we need to approach it that way.”
Leach’s primary on-field expectation is that his players simply give their best effort on every play. The rest, he says, should take care of itself.
But how do you coach that?
“Part of it is, the guy just needs to make a decision,” Leach said. “They just need to duplicate what they can do on a daily basis. Whatever your best is, that’s always enough. That’s what you have. Just do that over and over.
“There’s a few guys that haven’t played a college football game, but they can’t lean on that. Nobody’s got time for that. They need to lean on what they did in practice every day.”
Personnel changes may be on the horizon, as well. With junior cornerback Damante Horton sidelined with a soft wrap on his left arm, Anthony Carpenter has moved from safety to corner the last two practices, and has spent time with the No. 1 defense.
“We’re trying to find our best productive players, if that makes sense,” defensive coordinator Mike Breske said Friday, when asked about the mix of personnel used against BYU. “And get them in situations that can be productive for us as a defense.”
And senior Wade Jacobson, who started Thursday’s game at left guard, spent the majority of Sunday’s practice at right tackle, with Jake Rodgers moving to left guard and Dan Spitz shifting from right tackle to right guard.
“I think we know who the best five are,” offensive line coach Clay McGuire said. “We just need to figure out how to put them in the right spots to make them successful.”
The Cougars’ attention turns to Eastern Washington, a Football Championship Subdivision team just two seasons removed from a national championship, and a few days removed from a convincing 20-3 win over Idaho.
Leach said the Eagles have “a program with a lot of tradition, has won a lot of games, expects to win a lot more.”
And after WSU’s poor showing against BYU, Leach chafed at the idea that the Cougars might overlook a team from a lower division.
“I can’t fathom how that should even be possible for our team,” Leach said. “And I can’t fathom how it should even be possible anyway. If you step on a field, it doesn’t matter if you go against the scouts, if you go against some little high school, some junior high school, it doesn’t matter if you go against the New England Patriots, the Green Bay Packers, none of that should matter. You step out there and you can do what you can do, your best is your best, you develop it as a habit and you do it over and over.”
They don’t have time — and Leach doesn’t have the patience — for anything else.