Like most college football coaches, Mike Leach wants to be balanced on offense.
However, his definition of that achievement is a bit different than most.
“There’s nothing balanced about 50 percent run, 50 percent pass because that’s 50 percent stupid,” Leach said Monday. “Now what is balanced is when you have five skilled positions, if all five of them are contributing to the offensive effort in a somewhat equal fashion, then that’s balanced.
“But this notion that if you hand it to one guy 50 percent of the time and then you throw it to a combination of two guys the other 50 percent then you’re really balanced and you proudly pat yourself on the back and tell yourself that, and people have been doing that for decades, well, then you’re delusional. That’s how I look at it.”
Leach’s teams are known for their aerial attacks and have thrown for at least 4,600 yards in all but his first season in 2012.
First-year Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith, who faced the Cougars the last four years as the offensive coordinator at Washington, said Leach’s attack isn’t complicated, but not easy to stop or slow down.
“I don’t think they run a lot of different plays or patterns,” he said. “They do a ton of adjustment in the route when they’re running it and at the line of scrimmage. It’s impressive to watch. When that thing is going now, the precision, the accuracy, it’s not all deep passes.
“… The thing is tough to stop when they stay in rhythm. I think it’s important for us to continue to change up our looks, sometimes blitz, sometimes not. Change up the coverages to try and keep them guessing.”
The Cougars enter Saturday’s game at Oregon State averaging 410.4 yards per game through the air with Gardner Minshew having already thrown for 1,992 yards in his first season at quarterback.
Washington State has seven players with at least 18 receptions.
“That’s what we’re looking for,” Leach said. “We want contributions from all of our positions.”
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Meanwhile, the Cougars have run for a mere 331 net yards, an average of 66.2 yards per game.
“I don’t care about that,” Leach said. “Passing yards have a funny way of spending just as well as rushing yards do. I want all the positions to touch.”
Smith said that just because they don’t emphasize the traditional run game doesn’t mean the Cougars aren’t successful in that aspect.
“They’re just really effective the way they use the backs, not just handing it to them but also running some routes,” Smith said. “And those backs, they do a good job in protection because it’s not just five guys blocking the whole time, you’ll see them pick up blitzes, too.”
Oregon State defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar said the quarterback has the final decision on whether the play is a run or pass.
"From what I understand is every play is called in as a pass play and then if they get the certain look that they like they’ll check to a run," he said. "... The intelligence of it is they’re going to take whatever you give them."
It's not as if Leach is opposed to running. He said the wishbone is one of his favorite offenses and that his pass attack is similar in approach but just different in execution.
He said the wishbone is meant to attack sideline to sideline, which is what the Cougars try to do through the pass game.
“The wishbone, which I think is a great offense, there’s nothing 50 percent run about the wishbone,” he said. “Everybody touched the ball and that is why it is one of the best offenses ever devised.”
Smith said Leach has done a good job recruiting the right players to fit into his system.
“They know the type of player they’re looking for and you can look at their recruiting classes and they’re pretty consistent on that type of player,” he said.