PULLMAN — By now, Washington State’s practice last Tuesday has become the stuff of legend.
Or at least the stuff worthy of discussion six days later.
“I’ve seen it every single year I’ve been at this university,” quarterback Jeff Tuel said. “You have a bye week, guys come in like, ‘Oh, we’ve got a bye week, let’s relax and not come into it too hard and not give it our all,’ and it was just really bad Tuesday.”
Well, coach Mike Leach wasn’t going to have that, so he held WSU’s quarterbacks and receivers long after practice that day for extra work in the sand pit, as well as a few hundred more throws and catches.
The desired result was achieved, Tuel said. Leach thought the offense was much sharper during Wednesday’s practice, which preceded two days off before light workouts on Saturday and Sunday nights.
“Tuesday I think we might have won one drill, offensively,” Tuel said. “Then Wednesday, offense won every single drill there was against the defense. Isiah Myers, Kristoff Williams had really good days after pretty bad Tuesdays.”
The defense noticed, too.
“Coach Leach has a way to get to you,” junior safety Deone Bucannon said. “If you’re slacking, he’s going to pick you up one way or another and he’s going to make you work how he wants you to work. Receivers came out the next day and to be quite honest, they whipped the DBs. Receivers that hadn’t shown up in a while came out and showed what they had.”
Tuel figures to get his third start of the season on Saturday at Stanford. He’s listed atop WSU’s depth chart ahead of Connor Halliday, and Tuel has been taking the majority of the reps at quarterback with the first-team offense.
The senior said he’s getting more comfortable with Leach’s offense, particularly when it comes to checking in and out of plays at the line of scrimmage.
Earlier this season, Tuel said, he was barely checking at all. But he’s getting used to it.
“Throughout this season, I’ve learned he’s giving me the keys to the car,” Tuel said. “ ‘You’ve got to check out of things and get us into a better play. Just because I call it doesn’t mean you should run it. If you see something that you like better that’s going to work for us, then check out of it.’ That’s what I started to do. I did it against Oregon State and I did it a bunch at Cal and it worked out for us.”
Part of that challenge is knowing when to check into a running play that can actually gain yardage. The Cougars have had too few of those this season, and rank 119th nationally in rushing yards per game with 40.6. And this week’s opponent, Stanford, pressures quarterbacks relentlessly and will be especially at an advantage if the Cougars can’t keep them honest.
“It’s real important,” Tuel said. “We’ve got to have a running game. In this league, it’s tough to throw it every single down and be as successful as you want, because guys will start to figure you out.”