Any look at the Washington State coaching staff and special teams has to start with Mike Leach.
Mike Leach is one of the most interesting coaches in the Pac-12. After all, how many football coaches have written books about historical figures like Geronimo? What other Pac-12 Coach gives out dating advice or talks about sturgeon fishing?
Yeah, when Mike Leach speaks you NEVER know what will come out of his mouth.
But, despite being a colorful figure, he has also been a successful coach. At Texas Tech, he went 84-43 and took the Red Raiders to a bowl game in each of his ten seasons. He hasn't been as successful at Washington State, going 12-25 in his first three seasons, but, this season, he already has the Cougars bowl-eligible at 6-3 as they head into the Rose Bowl today.
Leach does not have an offensive coordinator, instead, opting to serve as the top offensive coach himself. Leach is known for running the Air Raid offense he developed while working with Hal Mumme at Valdosta State and Kentucky in the 90s. It is essentially the same offense that Cal employs as Sonny Dykes served as Leach's offensive coordinator at Texas Tech before becoming a head coach himself.
Defensively, the Cougars are lead by their first-year defensive coordinator Alex Grinch. Grinch came to Wazzu from Missouri where he coached the secondary. This is Grinch's first year as a defensive coordinator. Grinch's defense will run a 3-3-5 and has been a weak spot for the Cougars who are ranked 83rd in total defense this season.
Washington State is only the second Pac-12 team UCLA has played this year with a dedicated special teams coach in Eric Mele. This is Mele's first full year as Special Teams Coordinator for WSU after he was named the interim Special Teams Coordinator during the final two months of last season.
Kicking duties will be handled by redshirt sophomore Erik Powell. Powell has made 14 of 18 field goal attempts this season with a long of 47 yards and he is a perfect 39 for 39 on PATs. He is averaging 56 yards per kickoff and has had 17 touchbacks on 60 kickoffs.
The Cougar punter is Zach Charme who is averaging 39.8 yards per punt and his long is 62 yards. He has run the ball once for -4 yards, but it isn't clear if that was a bad snap or an unsuccessful fake.
WR Gabe Marks will return punts for the Cougars. Marks has returned 11 punts for 106 yards with a long of 30. Tavares Martin Jr. is the primary kick returner for Wazzu, having returned 17 of 25 kick returns. He is averaging 24.4 yards per return with a long of 51 yards.
Keys To The Game
1, Keep Luke Falk in check. Much like the Bruins held Cal's Jared Goff in check, UCLA must keep Falk from having a big game.
2. Establish the run to free up the pass. UCLA needs a well-balanced offensive attack. Josh Rosen will be able to use his big receivers to attack the Cougar secondary, but the Bruins also need to run the ball effectively.
3. Get Ka'imi the record via PATs. To do this, UCLA needs to put the ball in the end zone. While he only needs one to tie and two to break John Lee's record, if Ka'imi blows through it with 5 or 6 PATs the Bruins will be in a good position to win the game.
And that wraps up our look at the Washington State coaching staff, special teams and the keys to victory for UCLA.