Oregon returns to Eugene this weekend to host the Cougars. We sat down with Jeff Nusser to talk about the upcoming game and if Washington State's facilities are better than Oregon's.
ATQ: How did WSU fans react to the loss against Portland State?
As you can imagine, most fans were pretty pissed. We were told by both Mike Leach and Bill Moos that this was a talented roster, and fans drew what seemed to be the logical conclusion: A talented FBS team should have no problems with an FCS team. That the Cougars did have trouble with the Vikings was all kinds of stunning, and caused just about everyone to question pretty much everything. Were they not as talented as we thought? Can Leach just not coach anymore? Was this just a weird blip that sometimes happens? There was a lot of confusion, and honestly, the fan base is still pretty divided on what it meant. Some (like me) think it’s indicative of larger problems; others believe the team has righted the ship, as evidenced by a road win over Rutgers, a reasonably sound defeat of Wyoming, and a narrow loss to No. 24 Cal on the road. They certainly looked much better in both games.
ATQ: Are Washington State's facilities really better than Oregon's?
Hahahaha. This has gotten a lot more traction in your state than in ours -- this isn’t the first time Leach has said this, actually, so I’m a little surprised at the reaction. Maybe because this time he said it on a radio show in Portland? At any rate, having only seen both facilities in pictures and video, I can’t speak authoritatively on the subject. But my personal take is that Oregon’s probably are more flashy, given the ostentatious nature of a lot of things Oregon does, but that WSU’s can match Oregon’s (or anyone else’s) in terms of functionality while also being sufficiently beautiful. Besides, Leach has a vested interest in spreading this idea, so it doesn’t really much matter if he’s actually saying something that’s true. I think the bigger point from WSU’s perspective is that it’s not blatantly untrue, and that’s a good thing.
ATQ: How long do you expect Mike Leach to be the football coach at Washington State?
At least one more year after this one. Although nothing is impossible, it’s extremely unlikely he gets fired after this season -- he’ll have four years left on his contract, and his buyout is prohibitive for a school with an athletic department budget the size of WSU's. Besides, the AD is all-in with Leach, and the school is going through a presidential transition, making it unlikely there will be sweeping changes this year. He probably only needs to avoid doing something to get fired with cause to return in 2016, regardless of on-field results. Beyond that? Fans disagree. I have serious questions about his ability to lead the program long term, while others feel like the development is a little slow, but nothing to panic about.
ATQ: Will Mike Leach ever learn how to run the ball effectively in Pullman?
This is the classic, "When everyone zigs, Mike Leach zags." Suggesting Leach still needs to learn something is a bit silly -- it's simply about wanting to. Washington State has shown in every game this year that it can be effective running the ball. And in every game, the Cougs have gone away from it for large stretches -- las week, Washington State ran the ball just twice in 35 plays in the second half against Cal (scoring only seven points in that time), after mixing it in effectively in the first half (and scoring 21 points). For whatever reason, while all of Leach's Air Raid disciples have decided to increase their run ratios over the past few years, Leach has decided to become even more extreme with throwing the ball. Whether he can truly experience the level of success we all want while doing this is yet to be determined.
ATQ: How do you expect Washington State to attack the struggling Oregon defense?
This is the classic, "When everyone zigs, Mike Leach zags." Suggesting Leach still needs to learn something is a bit silly -- it’s simply about wanting to. WSU has shown in every game this year that it can be effective running the ball. And in every game, the Cougs have gone away from it for large stretches -- last week, WSU ran the ball just twice in 35 plays in the second half against Cal (scoring only seven points in that time), after mixing it in effectively in the first half (and scoring 21 points). For whatever reason, while all of Leach’s Air Raid disciples have decided to increase their run ratios over the past few years, Leach has decided to become even more extreme with throwing the ball. Whether he can truly experience the level of success we all want while doing this is yet to be determined, I guess.
ATQ: What are your predictions for how this game plays out?
I’m not nearly as bullish on WSU’s chances as many of our fans, who are weirdly confident that we’re going to march into Autzen and give Oregon one hell of a game. This seems to be based on the idea that we gave Cal a run, Oregon is down, and we looked like we could beat Oregon last season.
No, the Ducks aren’t as good as they’ve been, but their demise has been greatly overstated, I think. I watched Oregon/Utah, I saw a game where literally everything that could go wrong, went wrong for the Ducks, and there’s no way on earth that Oregon is that many points "worse" than Utah. Then I watched Oregon/Colorado, and while Oregon needed some time to wear down the Buffs, they showed that the weapons were still there, and that they were clearly the superior team.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Oregon is still better than Cal. WSU is probably about as good as Colorado, but not playing at home as the Buffaloes were. Plus, the Cougs are headed out on the road for the second consecutive week after feeling like they blew a game last weekend. I worry that they’ve thrown their best punch and can’t bring it two weeks in a row, given they haven’t really shown that ability this year. I’ll go 42-21 Oregon.