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WSU Cougar football found its toughness

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Mike Leach is impressed with how his team has responded after the loss to Boise St.

NCAA Football: Oregon at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

This roller coaster of a Cougar football season has many fans (myself included) feeling cautiously optimistic about the upcoming matchup with Stanford this weekend, and on Thursday, Mike Leach shared some thoughts on what might have turned the season around.

The WSU head coach joined host John Clayton on 710 ESPN Seattle. They talked about Saturday’s game and the team’s development in the last month. One thing that he seems to be more pleased with is the team’s toughness. It was just three weeks ago, after the Boise St game, when Leach eviscerated the team for how hard it was playing.

"Our team has gone from being pathetically not physical to pretty physical the last two weeks," Leach said to Clayton.

It does seem like there’s room for improvement in that regard, and Leach isn’t impressed with every player.

"We’ve got a few guys still who think toughness is an angry expression and blustery outbursts."

Any way you slice it, the Cougs have improved as the season has gone along, and getting tougher has probably contributed. We all saw the Cougs maul Oregon in the trenches last week, something they didn’t do against Eastern in week one. On that note, check out this breakdown of the offensive line’s performance against the Ducks (h/t ptowncoug30). It’s written by a saddened Oregon fan, making it all the more enjoyable.

Is it time to buy back in on this football team? Have they found their edge, their toughness? Or was last week a mirage, that will fade as the Cougs continue into conference play?

I say to hell with it, this team is legit and the Oregon game proved that. By percentile performance, a stat you can find on Football Study Hall’s advanced stat profiles, WSU has already played near elite levels twice this year. The Cougs’ scores of 89% and 88% against Boise St and Oregon are higher than any they achieved last year, according to the metric. I’ve talked myself back into this team, and will surely regret it within 48 hours. Cougs by two touchdowns.

*****

Football:

Why WSU will win on Saturday | The Spokesman-Review
I have a theory about the decline and fall of great civilizations, er, football programs. Well, I guess it is applicable to either.

Defense excels during WSU underclassmen scrimmage | The Spokesman-Review
Since Washington State is about to play its fifth football game, and thanks to a few big wins allowing the Cougars coaches to get backups on the field, which freshmen will play this season and which ones will redshirt is relatively set.

JaMarcus Shephard on Stanford defense: "Everything they do is impressive" | The Spokesman-Review
The inside wide receivers coach also talks about coaching blocking.

Ken Wilson says young WSU defenders are starting to separate themselves | The Spokesman-Review
The Cougars defenses relishes a shutout during Thursday Night Football just like a game.

What Went Wrong: Defensive Tackle Leverage in the 4-3 Defense | FishDuck
Charles Fischer of FishDuck.com looks at the mistakes made by defensive tackles, who lost leverage in the Oregon 4-3 defense against the WSU Cougars.

College Hotline: Pac-12 picks of the week
Not sure the Cougars have the moxie to win a close game in Stanford Stadium, but they have the talent to keep it tight to the end.

John Clayton with Mike Leach - sports.MyNorthwest.com
Thursday's second hour of John Clayton starts with Washington State head football coach Mike Leach joining The Professor as they preview the Cougars' big matchup against Stanford on Saturday and how they can build on their victory over Oregon this past weekend.

Stanford secondary gets ready for Wazzou’s Air Raid - SFGate
It’s an "Air Raid" week for the Stanford secondary, but there’s a new wrinkle to the Washington State offense: It also can unleash speedy running backs, Gerard Wicks, James Williams and Jamal Morrow.

Pac-12 football predictions and picks by Christian Caple | The News Tribune
It took five weeks, but finally, my point-spread-picking genius has produced a profitable record.

John Clayton's Schooled: Drew Bledsoe on what Pete Carroll learned as Patriots coach
Drew Bledsoe was coached by Pete Carroll in New England, and on the latest episode of John Clayton's Schooled he pointed out something he believes Carroll learned from that time.

WSU Cougars safety Robert Taylor wants ‘revenge’ at No. 15 Stanford this weekend | The Seattle Times
WSU safety Robert Taylor has played at Stanford before, in what seems like another lifetime, with an FCS team. Taylor walked away from an FCS scholarship because he believed he could play at the highest level. Now he's out to prove it.

WSU Cougars links: Mike Leach says the toughness level has improved | The Seattle Times
WSU coach Mike Leach thinks his team has made progress in the "toughness" category, but they're still not good enough to be able to play poorly and sneak away with a win at Stanford this weekend, he says.

Athletics:

Shawn Vestal: Why isn’t cutting athletics spending at WSU part of the budget-balancing plan? | The Spokesman-Review
WSU has lots of plans to bring in more revenue to help dig the athletics department out of its $50.7 million hole, but no plans to cut spending.