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HCA: Mike Leach sounds off once again about the concept of a ‘balanced’ offense

Who needs to run the football, anyway?

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

As you’ve probably heard by now, the Washington State Cougars put up a net gain of 0 rushing yards in their win over the Utah Utes on Saturday.

The Cougs did rush the ball — James Williams finished with 5 carries and 13 yards to be exact — but thanks to a couple of late kneel downs, the net gain ended at a grand total of zero.

Washington State fans are used to this kind of total. After all, this kind of thing comes along with Mike Leach and the Air Raid offense. But just because everyone expects it, doesn’t mean the media will stop asking about it.

Coach Leach has been leading the crusade against the so-called ‘balanced offense’ for his entire career. Here’s a piece from a Michael Lewis profile on Leach in the New York Times all the way back in 2005:

Synergy, in Leach’s view, doesn’t come from mixing runs with passes but from throwing the ball everywhere on the field, to every possible person allowed to catch a ball. “Our notion of balance,” Leach says, “is that the five guys who catch the ball all gain 1,000 yards in the season.” (The Indianapolis Colts last season became only the fourth team in N.F.L. history to have three receivers gain more than 1,000 yards in a single season.) The trouble with running plays, as Leach sees it, is that they clump players together on the field -- by putting two of them, during a handoff, in the same spot with the ball. “I’ve thought about going a whole season without calling a single running play,” Leach says, only half-joking.

Now, just 13 years later, Leach is still trying to end the perception that an unbalanced offense is a bad thing.

“There’s nothing balanced about the 50 percent run, 50 percent pass because that’s 50 percent stupid,” Leach said in his media conference earlier this week.

“When you have five skill positions, if all five of them are contributing to the offensive effort, then that’s balanced. But this notion that if you hand it to one guy 50 percent of the time and you throw it to a combination of two guys 50 percent and your really balanced, then you proudly pat yourself on the back and tell yourself that... Well then you’re delusional.”

Leach went on to compare his offensive style to one that’s diametrically opposite in order to prove his point. “The wishbone, which I think is a great offense... There’s nothing 50 percent run about the wishbone. They’re like 95 percent run... But everybody touched the ball. That’s why it’s one of the greatest offenses devised.”

With a pair of running backs like James Williams and Max Borghi, you would think that Leach would turn to the run game a little more to show off their talent. Instead, like he has every other year of his career, Leach is getting them involved in every other facet of the game. And if it’s worked so far, why change it?


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