When Mike Leach became the head coach of the Washington State Cougars, the expectations for instant success on the Palouse were a little out of hand. The pairing seemed to be a perfect match on paper. Many people, myself included, predicted that Leach would get WSU bowling in year one, but things didn’t quite turn out that way.
Instead, the Cougs endured a rocky first season where they went just 3-9 with only one win in the Pac 12 and saw 19 scholarship players removed from the team in Leach’s first year. But despite the struggles on the field, the team is heading in the right direction under Leach…even if they didn’t look like it.
It would have been hard to believe after Paul Wulff was fired as the head coach that one year later, some people would be pining for the “good old days” with him calling the shots. Many people felt that the team actually took a step back in 2012 from where they were in 2011. On closer inspection, however, that just isn’t the case.
In Wulff’s final season, most of the offensive production the Cougars put came early against very weak competition. Marshall Lobbestael led the nation in passing for three weeks, just to give you an idea of how week the competition was. Outside of that, the statistics from 2012 point to a progression of the team’s success, rather than regression.
The team’s yards per game went up from 345 per game in 2011 to 364 per game in 2012. Additionally, defensive yards surrendered dropped from 423 to 417. And while the 2012 team gave up more sacks and interceptions than in 2011, that can be explained by Leach’s pass-heavy system resulting in more opportunities for sacks and interceptions to happen.
Further, there were some areas that the team saw significant improvement in last season under Leach in 2012. The team generated 18 more sacks, four more forced fumbles and six more interceptions than they did in 2011 thanks to defensive coordinator Mike Breske’s aggressive style of defense. That bodes well for the Cougars because Mike Leach will build the offense in time. Having a defense to go with it will be icing on the cake.
While the end result wasn’t what fans were hoping for in Mike Leach’s first season in Pullman, they can take some satisfaction in knowing that the team is headed in a positive direction. Hopefully, that will translate into more wins and a bowl bid sooner rather than later.