Add dropped passes to the growing list of problems riddling the Washington State football program.
Numerous throws careened off the hands of Jeff Tuel’s intended targets in Saturday’s 31-17 loss to Cal — the most critical when Gino Simone let a sure touchdown pass fall through his hands in the second quarter.
When asked about his struggling position group Monday, coach Mike Leach blasted a unit partly responsible for the Cougars’ 2-5 (0-4 Pac-12) start. His solution to fixing the problem sounded like something from a Halloween movie.
Based on his remarks, safety Casey Locker will play the role of deranged killer this week in practice.
“I think he’s physical. I think he’s tough,” Leach said of his redshirt and cousin of the former Washington star. “As a matter of fact I may have him hammer on some of our receivers. For example, we’ll throw them a ball and just as the ball’s ready to get there we’ll have Casey Locker slaughter them. I haven’t ruled that out.”
Whether sincere or sarcastic, one thing was clear from Leach’s stream-of-consciousness commentary– he isn’t happy with his wideouts.
“Hell no they’re not tough,” he said when asked if the position group’s mentality meets his standards.
The recurring lapses in focus accounted for WSU’s red zone struggles Saturday, according to Leach. The Cougars scored two touchdowns despite entering the red zone four times against Cal.
“We need to get touchdowns,” he said. “If you hit a couple guys in the face with the football you’d think they’d catch it.”
“It flies through the air and you catch it or you don’t,” Leach rambled on. “We typically do in practice and then all of a sudden our fragile little receivers are going to go into the end zone and get frightened. So all of a sudden they can’t catch the ball and that’s crazy.”
After the rant, the head man credited one freshman wide receiver with an ability to respond.
“(Brett Bartolone) may be tougher than the rest of them,” he said. “At least last game he certainly was. He did get after it last game and made some great plays, scored two touchdowns and certainly is ahead of his time as a freshman.”
Bartolone had seven catches for 44 yards Saturday.
TUEL PRACTICING WITH FIRST UNIT — Jeff Tuel apparently did enough to supplant Connor Halliday as starting quarterback by going 30-for-53 for 320 yards and two touchdowns against Cal. Leach said Tuel will enter the bye week as a member of the first team offense.
Halliday, meanwhile, went 4-for-10 for 64 yards and two interceptions against the Golden Bears before Leach pulled him for the second consecutive week.
“It’s almost like if you could clone each of them (into one player) you’d be in business,” Leach said.