The media met with Coach Mora for a brief press session at the end of this morning's practice. The team will be leaving for Pullman tomorrow, holding a walk through session after getting into town.
Getting into the details of how to approach Saturday's game against the Cougars, Mora noted how the Washington State offense has been successful at spreading the field, making things more difficult for opposing defenses - and their coaches.
One of the aspects in which they have not been as successful is running the ball. In fact, the overall numbers look really bad, averaging just 29.3 yards/game on the ground. Part of that low number is due to Mike Leach's offensive scheme, but still... Mora was respectful of their team and ability to run, noting that all the sacks allowed (16 in just the last 2 games) have significantly depressed the stats. He is right, to a point. The Wazzu quarterbacks have combined for -201 yards rushing on the season. But even factoring that stat in, the primary running backs have been slightly less productive than Jordon James and Damien Thigpen have been off the bench for us this fall. And their QB's, while showing promise, have not given the type of JetSki-like boost to the offense that has made the difference for the Bruins.
No question that even with Marques Wilson off of the Cougar team for at least this week, the passing game is going to be WSU's only hope. They still have some good receivers, so don't expect Leach to change his scheme or gameplan on Saturday. With the next couple of opponents being heavy on throwing the ball, Coach Mora did note his pleasure that Aaron Hester and Sheldon Price have improved their game in his eyes - getting better at attacking receivers and making plays on the ball in particular. Cornerback is a tough position to master - the most difficult on defense per Mora - which could explain why the two have held off younger guys like Randall Goforth during the earlier rough stretches of the season. And those two certainly had plenty to learn after the 'coaching' received earlier in their UCLA careers.
Coach Mora was able to share some encouraging news during this morning's presser - Devin Lucien was back at practice, in a non-contact role. Devin has tweeted that he'll be back for the Southern Cal game; Mora loves his enthusiasm and positive mindset, but is trying not to get ahead of the doctors actually clearing him to play by next Saturday.
He also briefly revisited the fake Goforth twitter - specifically his reaction in yesterday's presser, in which he admits that he may have overreacted a bit - as far as saying that the person responsible should be locked up (transcribed quotes via the insideucla blog).
These guys, I feel like they’re my kids. When someone attacks your kids, you get angry. Obviously, I overreacted. Obviously, I don’t want the guy to go to jail. It made good headlines I guess, but I looked at it and I go, ‘You’re just an idiot.’ I’m good for something stupid said every once in a while.
Later on in the presser, Mora also noted how he had regrettably overreacted and gone over the line in reaction to player miscues in his past while coaching the Seahawks - the Olindo Mare incident being one. That was in response to being asked about the last few days surrounding Washington State's football program; a postgame presser in which Coach Leach threw his lines in front of the media, followed by one of the top Cougar players reportedly leaving the team.
... I have (talked like that before). This is me, this has nothing to do with Coach Leach. This guy, he’s won more games than I could even imagine right now. He’s done so many more things than I’ve done, so I would never be critical. I just know that I did it twice with Seattle. I regretted it. That wasn’t my style. I stepped out of character and I regretted and it hurt me and it hurt other people. But that was me. Totally different situation.
Coach Mora talked a bit about how the program is doing its best to make each road experience as consistent for the players as possible. The goal is to have the only noticeable difference between trips being the length of bus ride from airport to the team hotel. He also shared his experience traveling to Pullman as a player at the U of Washington - flying in a formation of commuter prop planes because they could not get the typical charter jet into the regional airport.
Before he began to address today's practice, Coach Mora came out firing. Here is the entire transcript:
Good morning. I just want to address one thing and that's the false twitter stuff going on there that someone attributed to Randall Goforth. It is absolutely 100% not Randall. I've talked to Lane Kiffin. He's talked to his guys. I've talked to my guys. It's a total non-issue. Some knucklehead's out there trying to stir it up So it's been shut down. Randall was in tutoring session when this idiot was tweeting. It's ridiculous. The power of the social media is amazing and when it's used for negative, in a negative way it's sickening. So that's it
(Media - Chris Foster: How do you really feel about it?)
I think it's a frickin' joke that somebody would do that. I think you're the lowest form of lifeform if you would portray yourself as a young man, an 18 year old young man trying to do his best. Trying to stir it up like that. Attributing comments to him that aren't his. I think he ought to go to jail. That's how I feel. I think you're a scumbag.
(Media: what do you think would be an appropriate sentence?)
Bring his ass out here.
(Media: You'll put him to work?)
We won't put him to work. He won't make it very far with this team.
(Media - Foster: I think you're limiting your chances of him actually showing up)
Yeah, because he's a coward That's what cowards do, cowards hide behind print.
(Media - Foster: Print? Excuse me?)
That's what Twitter is, right? It's print.
(Media - Foster: Maybe be a little clearer on that , please)
You know what I meant
(Foster laughing: I know)
Yeah, I challenge that guy to come on out here. Whoever he is. He won't though. He's a coward. Or a girl, whoever it is.
I was pretty surprised at how strongly Mora felt about this and how strong his comments were relating to the person/s behind this. I kind of thought Mora would like this to just go away, and he still probably would, but it's clear he wanted to make sure he took up for his freshman player, and that he had the absolute last words to put this subject to an end. After watching this, I am very happy with how Mora addressed this, and I pity the fool who started this mess.
I also enjoyed Foster's sudden "Wha?" moment when Mora said that cowards hide behind print. I think the exchange shows that Foster and Mora have a pretty good relationship so far, and it's been reflected in a lot less snark from the LAT's daily coverage.
The media and Mora moved on to actual football stuff at this point, but Mora wasn't in a particularly joking mood at this point. When a reporter prefaced her question by noting Washington State wasn't showing much, Mora disagreed, pointing out that WSU is improving every week, complimenting their coach and QB, and and calling their defense, especially against Oregon, impressive. It's obvious that Mora is working to keep the focus on this Saturday, and not the one after.
Mora also brushed off comments about the Bruins' current ranking with this beauty:
Rankings don't matter now. Rankings matter at the end of the year.
Coach Mora has his head screwed on right. I trust he will get this message across to the players. I also trust that, while we can be proud of the progress we have made to this point, the fans will understand why we aren't celebrating anything just yet.