“They’re all categorically denied,” Leach said. “There’s no truth to that at all.
“I don’t even know what it is. Nothing is specified.”
Leach then was asked about halftime of the Nov. 3 loss at Utah where Wilson claimed coaches physically and verbally abused players.
“Just typical locker room stuff,” he said. “Nothing inappropriate happened there.”
Wilson also walked out of a Nov. 4 workout. Leach said that occurred about 20 minutes into the session. Wilson subsequently was suspended from the program and crafted a letter he released to several media outlets hours before Saturday’s 44-36 loss against UCLA that explained his “resignation” from the team. Leach noted that a reporter in the room, who was perched on top of the library, witnessed the Nov. 4 workout.
“I’ve got an eye witness,” he said. “We don’t have anything to hide.”
Leach agreed with the assertion that his dismissal in 2009 from Texas Tech in the aftermath of allegedly mistreating wide receiver Adam James makes him a target for disgruntled players with an agenda.
“I think that’s obviously the case,” he said.
As far as the Cougars (2-8 overall, 0-7 conference) are concerned, Leach said he felt they did a “great job of ignoring the distractions.” WSU trailed 37-7 at halftime, but were a successful onside kick away in the final minute from having an opportunity to send the game into overtime.
“I thought we gave our best effort,” Leach said. “Now we have to sharpen it up a bit.”
He said the special teams problems that marred the first half, which included a pair of blocked field goals and punts, were simple. In three cases, he said a player was either blown over or missed a block. The other was the result of a poor snap.
“We talked about effort more than plays,” said Leach, referring to the postgame discussed. “We wanted to reinforce that.”
Without Wilson, who leads the team in receptions (52), yards (813) and touchdowns (five), Leach said he was happy with how the other receivers performed. Sophomore Bobby Ratliff had five receptions for a career-high 128 yards, while redshirt freshman Dominique Williams had 108 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches.
“I mentioned something about addition by subtraction,” said Leach, referring to his postgame quote. “Clearly that’s the case.”
Leach generally declines to name a starting quarterback and did not specifically say that senior Jeff Tuel, who left with an injury during the first quarter, will start. Tuel completed 11 of 14 passes for 127 yards. He was replaced by sophomore Connor Halliday, who completed 26 of 43 passes for 330 yards, five touchdowns and an interception. Leach praised the play of both and Tuel in particular. The latter is expected to be ready to play at noon Saturday at Arizona State (TV: Pac-12 Networks).
“He’s a tough guy and an example for everyone,” Leach said.
Whether it is Tuel or Halliday at quarterback, they will be seeking their first win at Arizona State (5-5, 3-4) since 2001. Halliday threw for 494 yards last year to help WSU snap a seven-game losing streak in the series with a 37-27 win at Martin Stadium. Similar to last year, ASU has struggled during the second half of the season. The Sun Devils have lost four consecutive games and a loss against WSU might again cost them a shot at a bowl with just one contest, at Arizona, remaining.
“They’re kind of like us,” Leach said. “They play in spurts.”
But he said winning at ASU won’t be easy. He noted that the Sun Devils are strong defensively and three of their last four losses have come against ranked opponents.
“I think their level of competition changed a bit,” Leach said. “They’re still explosive and a really good team.”
Leach was asked about the Texas Tech fans who traveled to Pullman to see his team play Saturday. He guided the Red Raiders to a 84-43 record and 10 bowl appearances in as many seasons with the program.
“I appreciate that,” Leach said. “We had fantastic fans. That whole place was great other than three [administrators].”
True freshman running back Teondray Caldwell returned after missing two games with an undisclosed injury to rush for 62 yards on 10 carries. Leach said his team did a good job of taking advantage of what the defense provided, and praised Tuel and Halliday for recognizing that.