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The Best and Worst of the Mike Leach Era, Part One

Best wins, worst losses. We’ve got ‘em!

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

Good morning, and welcome to something that’s going to end up being a series because my editing skills are even worse than my writing skills, if you can believe it. As we mentioned last week, the Cougar sports content wasteland that is late spring and early summer requires some creativity when it comes to tickling your fancy, dear reader.

That means that we at CougCenter HQ need to either get creative or retread some old hot button issues. I don’t know which one today’s topic is, but I do know that I don’t recall a lot of discussion about it. So like those awful reruns of SEAL Team my wife watches, it’s new to me!

Mike Leach has completed seven full seasons as head football coach of your Washington State Cougars, coaching 89 games and compiling a record of 49-40. As with most coaches who have compiled a decent-sized sampling of results, Leach has had several exhilarating wins and gut-wrenching losses among those 89 contests. But which among those wins was the best? Which of the losses was the worst? TIME FOR A 100% ARBITRARY RANKING TO SETTLE IT ONCE AND FOR ALL. But first, the methodology.

Like everything else in my life outside of cockpit checklists and Untappd ratings, there isn’t any. Some of the “bests” were called such because they had season-altering implications, while others were due to the fact that they came out of nowhere. There’s even one where there was no other choice. You’ll never guess which opponent I’m talking about!

As for the losses, the same decided arbitrariness - TIL that’s actually a word – applies. Lows range from embarrassing blowouts to no-shows to close games that just didn’t break right, to losses where they played great but just couldn’t close the deal and so on. So let’s get it started with the group of teams we see the most, the Pac-12 North. Leach’s all time record against each school is in parentheses.

Washington (1-6)

Best - 2012: Welp, pretty easy choice here, unfortunately. I guess the upside is that Leach’s only Apple Cup win was the result of the greatest comeback in series history. So we’ve got that going for us. It took one of the worst kicks ever on the part of UW’s kicker, followed by a Toni Pole near pick-six and an Andrew Furney game winner to get there, but get there the Cougs did. Ahh, memories.

Worst – 2018: Lots of choices here! Among all of the ignominious Apple Cup defeats great and small during the Leach era, 2018 probably stings the most. WSU was actually the betting favorite, and Washington wasn’t anything special. Even still, there the Huskies were, taking a knee in the fourth quarter at the WSU five yard line.

Oregon (4-3)

Best – 2018: Yeah, there’s an argument to be made for 2015 because it was on the road, it was very nearly lost etc. etc. But the odds are pretty long that any win over Oregon will eclipse what went down in 2018, for reasons oft-mentioned here and elsewhere. It wasn’t only the game - which was great - so much as it was the event. The Cougs looked as if they might blow Oregon out of the stadium, then damn near surrendered the 27-0 lead they’d built. Then came the Minshew dagger to Dezmon on!

Worst – 2014: One of Leach’s worst teams played its best game of the year against Marcus Mariota and the juggernaut Oregon Ducks, hanging with them score for score. Then a crippling Jamal Morrow fumble helped get the Ducks into the lead, and the referees allowed Oregon to assault Isiah Myers on a would-be game-tying drive. Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

Hey, Mark Helfrich, has Oregon beaten WSU since that 2014 game that WSU probably should have also won?

Oregon State (5-2)

Best – 2014: It’s the anti-Apple Cup, in that there’s a lot from which to choose. I’ll go with 2014 because it pretty much came out of nowhere. The Cougs were eight-point road underdogs, they’d lost four straight games and Luke Falk was starting for the first time due to Connor Halliday’s broken leg. All Falk did was throw for 471 and five TDs, establishing what would be a dominant career against the Beavers.

Worst – 2013: Aka when “F**k it, go deep” goes off the rails and into an active volcano crater. The Cougs were looking pretty good for a while, and things were even at 24 entering the fourth quarter. Three straight Connor Halliday INTs later, Austin Apodaca entered the game and…threw an interception (after a Brett Bartolone fumble). After taking a 24-17 lead, WSU’s last six possessions went fumble, interception, interception, interception, fumble, interception.

Stanford (3-4)

Best – 2016: Following a disastrous start to the season, both on and off the field, the Cougs had righted the ship somewhat, and were coming off a whipping of Oregon in the Pac-12 opener. Despite being on the wrong end of a beatdown the week prior, Stanford entered the game ranked 15th and was favored by a touchdown. In quite a surprising series of events, WSU absolutely eviscerated the Cardinal. The only reasons the 42-16 result didn’t look worse were a Luke Falk pick six and a meaningless Stanford TD with no time on the clock. It was a great way to exorcise some Stanford demons. Speaking of which…

Worst – 2015: Stanford came in ranked 8th, and unbeaten in the Pac-12. The Cougs entered the game at 5-2, and hopes were high in Pullman. WSU led 22-10 midway through the third quarter, only to see Stanford storm back and take a late 30-28 lead. The Cougs got in position to win, but an Erik Powell 43-yarder sailed wide, and WSU lost despite compiling 130 more yards and 11 more first downs than the Cardinal. A win in this game would likely have meant a Pac-12 North title for WSU. Alas…

Cal (3-4)

Best – 2013: Not every game ever against Cal has been terrible. No, really! The Cougs entered the 2013 game at 3-2, but were coming off a horrible beating at the hands of Stanford and had lost eight in a row to the Golden Bears. Leading 28-15, Halliday found Vince Mayle up the left sideline, and Mayle destroyed that poor Cal safety enroute to the end zone. That is still one of my favorite WSU football plays ever.

After going through the season as a whole, it wasn’t all that surprising that WSU beat Cal by 22 points, but at the time, it was pretty damn shocking.

Worst – 2015: OK PLEASE HEAR ME OUT. Yes, in 2014 Connor Halliday threw for a bajillion yards but WSU still lost because they couldn’t cover a kick and because they couldn’t convert a goddamn 19-yard field goal. And yes, 2017 was a complete disaster that showed everyone why WSU wasn’t as good as we hoped. THAT SAID, WSU wasn’t going anywhere in 2014, while the 2015 loss prevented a 10-win season. This game will be forever remembered for Cal’s draw play that resulted in a first down on
/checks notes
3rd and 36???!!! But there was also the fake punt disaster that resulted in a Cal touchdown, a Cal onside kick that they recovered and subsequently turned into a score, and five straight empty WSU possessions to close the game. Those included three trips into Cal territory that ended in a missed field goal, a fumble and an interception. I am getting mad about this game all over again. Whose idea was this, anyway?

Not that I’m as mad as closet-Husky Jeff Nusser was that week, when he totally called for Mike Leach’s immediate firing after the game and was seconds from becoming an OKG. Luckily the Cougs won in Eugene the next weekend and Jeff parachuted back onto the bandwagon.

That’s it for Part One. I’d love to hear all of your bests and worsts, as long as they agree with mine.

Coming up at some point, the Pac-12 South.

Finally, Happy Mother’s Day to all of you moms out there.

Cougars in the NFL

A couple weeks ago, and a few days before Cougfan hit CTRL+C, we forecasted Andre Dillard’s contract with the Philadelphia Eagles, and we weren’t far off.

NFL Draft 2019: Eagles sign Andre Dillard, Miles Sanders, 3 other picks | Here are their jersey numbers, contracts -
The Philadelphia Eagles signed their five-person rookie class on the night before minicamp.

You won’t believe this, but Gardner Minshew II is already making an impression in Jacksonville. I don’t get the whole DUUUUVAL thing, but I’m probably not the audience.



Ranking the top 25 Power Five college football coaches entering the 2019 season -
This feels like the right spot for Leach.

Five CFB teams ready to rise in 2019 — and 5 set to tumble
Stanford’s been a paragon of consistency under David Shaw, winning eight-plus games every year of his tenure. Yet there are plenty of questions about the Cardinal coming off a 9-4 campaign.

Ranking All 130 College Football Coaching Jobs
A complete breakdown and ranking of all 130 college football coaching jobs for 2019.

This Week in Parenting

Mrs. Kendall was out of town for most of the week, which meant that my contribution to the parenting effort had to increase by about 96 percent. The 10 year-old had a busy week. Between baseball practices, he volunteered to be on the stage crew for the school’s talent show, which called for daily practice. His 5th grade class went on a field trip to a space center in Belgium on Wednesday, which meant that I got to drop him off at 6am and pick him up more than 12 hours later. Good times!

As we were driving home, he was talking all about the cool stuff they did. Among the events was a simulated walk on the Moon and Mars. Without missing a beat, the 7 year-old asked, “did you walk on Uranus?”

Life in Germany

The Germans are very environmentally-conscious. I have a problem with grubs in my yard, and when I went to the local Lowes-like store, I was told I couldn’t use chemicals. I could, however, send away for some larvae of some sort that, after coming in the mail, would matriculate through my grass and maybe hopefully kill the grubs. No thanks.

Chemical weed killer is also highly frowned upon, so what’s a guy to do when trying to maintain a weed-free driveway, patio and sidewalk? Use a blowtorch of course!

Yep, can’t get my hands on any potent RoundUp over here, but they’ll gladly hand me something that’s capable of burning down a building. Germany!


Best beer I had this week: It wasn’t necessarily the best beer I had, so much as it was about the setting, and the fact that every time I drink a beer in a bowling alley I think of one of the greatest movies ever made.

Boston Beer Co. and Dogfish Head Will Merge to Form a Craft Beer Giant
Boston Beer Co., the makers of Samuel Adams, and Delaware-based Dogfish Head have signed a merger agreement valued at $300 million, it was announced today.


Unsolicited podcast recommendations

  • Against the Rules: Michael Lewis is an outstanding writer, and he has now put together a sensational podcast. It is highly informative and eye-opening. If nothing else, listen for his kid’s line at the end of the premier episode.
  • Friendly Fire: I discovered this one courtesy of Stuff You Should Know, and it’s really good. Friendly Fire features three guys who review war and war-ish movies, and they deconstruct each film quite well. I’m not much of a movie buff, but the three I’ve listened to so far (Dr. Strangelove, Predator and Bridge on the River Kwai) were all really good.

John Lee Bishop Built a Mega-Church Modeled on Starbucks—and Then Wound Up Running Drugs for a Mexican Cartel | Vanity Fair
He looked like Sammy Hagar, preached like Billy Graham, and brought a 350-pound tiger to church. Then he shot heroin with his son and was busted at the border for running drugs for a Mexican cartel.