PULLMAN — With a game against No. 5 Stanford waiting this weekend, there can’t be anyone happier than Washington State cornerback and Seattle native Nolan Washington that this game is being played at CenturyLink Field.
“Football is football,” said Washington, who played prep ball at Kennedy High School. “If you play it in Seattle, if you play it in Pullman … it doesn’t really matter. I just want to win.”
Ah. OK, then. But surely, he’s at least excited to play in front of friends and family.
“Yeah, I guess,” Washington said. “But this team is my family. Being around these guys makes it better for me. I’m just glad I’m a part of this team.”
“I’d play in a desert if they told us we had to,” said sophomore linebacker Darryl Monroe.
This is an attitude reflective of the Cougars’ collective tunnel-vision, at least outwardly. Connor Halliday offered a more frank acknowledgment after WSU’s 42-0 victory over Idaho on Saturday night that playing games against teams like Stanford is what big-time college football is all about.
But the four WSU players made available to reporters on Monday — as well as head coach Mike Leach — praised the Cardinal, but also continued to toe the company line about winning one game each week and ignoring all other distractions.
“We’re built to score points; it should be fun,” sophomore receiver Gabe Marks said. “They think they can stop a lot of people, and we think we can score on a lot of people, so we’ll see who’s the better man.”
Leach doesn’t necessarily buy the notion that this could end up being WSU’s biggest game of the season.
“They’re all big,” the coach said. “They’re the only team we play this week, so we’re excited to play them.”
“We expect to win the game, obviously,” Marks said. “No other expectation than that. Just go out there and make routine plays and win the game.”
Honor thy neighbor
Much attention was given to the tense postgame exchange between Leach and Idaho coach Paul Petrino on Saturday. Video of the heated verbal spat has been circulating, and even the popular sports website “Deadspin.com” wrote about the apparent expletive used by Leach during the, uhh, conversation.
Then again, who hasn’t had a disagreement with their neighbor every now and again?
Yes, Leach and Petrino live in the same Pullman neighborhood, though Leach said he hasn’t seen the Idaho coach around and had never met him before Saturday’s pleasantries.
As for what may have raised Petrino’s dander — perhaps the reinsertion of a few defensive starters on Idaho’s final drive — Leach says he’s unsure.
“I have no idea what he’s upset about,” Leach said. “I don’t care. And if I did know, which I don’t, I wouldn’t share it with you. Next question.”
If Petrino was indeed upset about the Cougars putting some of their starters back in — and the world may never know — he’s not likely to receive an apology from Leach, who relishes the fact that WSU was able to achieve its first shutout since 2003.
“There hadn’t been a shutout in a long time, and nothing’s more important to a defense than a shutout,” Leach said. “That’s kind of a major goal, and that’s what you take a lot of pride in. I thought our defense had played really well. I thought they’d played hard. They gave up a couple of explosives (plays) but other than that I thought they played good. Wanted ‘em to get a shutout. It was good to see them rise up because Idaho had that great, big back, and really moved the ball down the field well that drive. I was proud of our guys for rising up and stopping them.”
Cal kickoff set
WSU’s game at California on Oct. 5 will kick off at 1 p.m., and will be televised by FOX Sports 1. After starts of 4 p.m., 7:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., it will be the Cougars’ earliest kickoff of the season.