Leach pokes fun of Ducks’ sideline caution

Washington State head coach Mike Leach looks on during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Colorado in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

PULLMAN — In Washington State’s game against Oregon this week, Mike Leach doesn’t think the Ducks will benefit strategically by the presence of three of his former assistants.

But the coaches’ habit of covering their mouths when communicating play-calls? That’s a big advantage, Leach said Monday at his weekly news conference.

Only he was being facetious.

“America has always been this huge bastion of lip-readers,” he said. “Starting with kindergarten in some parts of this country, children are raised to read lips. So that’s why it’s so necessary for coaches to constantly take their game plan or their script and cover up their mouths so you can’t read their lips.”

As he generally does, Leach dispensed with conventional pregame diplomacy and flattery as the Cougars (4-3, 1-3) began preparing for a Pac-12 game at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN) at No. 11 Oregon (6-1, 4-0). The Ducks are favored by two touchdowns.

Leach poked fun at the idea of a defensive signal-caller reading lips, “deciphering it, discovering what play it’s going to be, aligning your defense accordingly ... and maybe substituting so it’s even more beneficial to you — and do all that in 20 seconds. But that’s the world we live in. Everybody can read lips nowadays.”

Leach also made clear his preference for WSU quarterback Anthony Gordon over his Oregon counterpart, the acclaimed Justin Herbert.

“I think he’s talented,” he said of the Ducks senior, “but I’m very pleased we have ours instead.”

Whether Leach thinks it’s an Oregon advantage or not, the Ducks’ coaching staff includes three former WSU assistants from the Leach tenure: Joe Salave’a and Ken Wilson on defense and Jim Mastro on offense. Another former Leach aide, David Yost, jumped to Oregon three years ago and is now offensive coordinator at Texas Tech.

“Generally not,” Leach said when asked if he worries about opponents’ first-hand knowledge of his schemes and tendencies, “because all your games are on film, and they see all them.

“They have brought in quite a few,” he said of the Ducks’ acquisitions from his staff. “They ought to just call me up and I’ll see if I can help them with anything they need. I mean, that’s the thing. ‘Oregon, what you looking for? Yeah, I’ll see if I can help you.’ That’s what we ought to do.”

The Ducks, who have a two-game lead over Oregon State atop the Pac-12 North standings, are looking for their first North title since winning four straight from 2011 to 2014. According to Leach, their rise this year should have been expected.

“Everybody says Oregon had one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, and everybody’s surprised Oregon wins something,” he said. “The surprising thing to me is that people are surprised. How the hell can you be surprised?”

Leach gave solid marks to his embattled defense after the Cougars’ 41-10 home win Saturday against Colorado.

“We were relatively consistent,” he said. “I thought we let them (the Buffaloes) have too many plays, but I thought we played well in the red zone.”

He was asked about linebacker Jahad Woods’ postgame remark that WSU defensive backs have a chip on their shoulders after drawing harsh criticism for their performance in a 38-34 loss at Arizona State.

“I didn’t think they played good against ASU, and they ought to have a chip on their shoulder,” he said. “They’d better have it there all the time and they’d better improve. If we’ve got any front-runners over there, they’d better change, because we can’t afford that. We’ve got to play our best all the time, rather than (have) some sort of gauge how much effort needs to be expended, and try to hit it just right. I can’t stand that.”

Grummert may be contacted at daleg@lmtribune.com or (208) 816-0629.

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