Mike Leach is OK with his quarterback tucking the ball and running on occasion. He just wishes it weren’t necessary.
In other words, the coach is still trying to raise the bar for his veteran offensive line.
Luke Falk, who normally stays close to the pocket when defensive pressure heats up, tried a different tack in rainy conditions in Pullman last week and wound up with 56 gross rushing yards in Washington State’s 24-0 over Colorado. Falk finished with 41 total yards once yards lost on sacks was factored in.
Leach approved. But he continues to be critical of his acclaimed offensive linemen, who “ought to take it personally” when the quarterback gets sacked.
The No. 15 Cougars (7-1, 4-1) return to the road to face Arizona (5-2, 3-1) in a conference football game Saturday (6:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) at Tucson, Ariz. Washington State is favored by a field goal.
A week after getting sacked nine times in a 37-3 loss at California, the 6-foot-4 Falk showed a new willingness to scramble for positive yardage against Colorado, generally sliding to a stop with prudence if not stellar technique. In the second quarter, a 16-yard gain by the senior quarterback immediately preceded his 50-yard touchdown pass to Tay Martin.
The wet, windy conditions weren’t the only factors in Falk’s decision-making.
“Sometimes he freezes up back there – I don’t like that,” Leach said. “I mean, do something, make something happen. It has been a concerted effort to not just stand back there.”
Even when Falk is lingering too long in the pocket, Leach wants his offensive linemen to stay in protective mode.
“If they really work and develop, they can be pretty good,” the coach said. “But right now we’re pretty average.
“As far as I’m concerned, if a quarterback ever gets hit, a lineman ought to take it personally. How can you not? They say, ‘Well, he held the ball.’ Let’s say he holds the ball for 10 seconds. Why was it your guy that hit him? Why wasn’t it their guy? Why can’t you outlast your four colleagues?”
MARTIN JR. REINSTATED
Leach said he expects Tavares Martin Jr. to rejoin the Cougars’ active roster this week after missing the Colorado contest on a disciplinary suspension. The junior receiver reportedly had an emotional outburst after the lopsided loss at Cal.
In his absence, true freshman Tay Martin (no relation) submitted a breakout performance against Colorado, catching four passes for 78 yards and a TD.
Leach declined to name a starter at the X position where Martin Jr. plays and where Tay Martin spends much of his time. The starter last week was CJ Dimry.
Tay Martin has also spent time at the Z position. He can probably take the flip-flopping as a compliment, since Leach normally tries to avoid it.
“He had a little stage fright early on (in the season),” the coach said, “but he’s always played hard. I think he’s definitely still emerging. He’s been bouncing between X and Z, which is a situation I don’t love, because I’d like to get him in a position and settle him in.”
shades of the sun bowl – Leach said the combination of rain and swirling wind in the first half of the Colorado game created conditions comparable to those of the Cougars’ snowy win over Miami in the 2015 Sun Bowl.
“It’s not the discomfort of the weather – that can be distracting – but (the fact that) it impedes the communication,” he said. “You can’t hear clearly, you can’t see clearly, because it was swirling. All of a sudden you get drilled in the face with stuff as you’re trying to look at something. Yeah, they were tough conditions but I was proud of how we reacted.”