- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 10, 2014

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) - Washington State coach Mike Leach thinks the Cougars’ 0-2 start this season is partially tied to a lack of focus during games.

“I think we need to make sure we’re sharper on their focus,” Leach said. “Right now we’re a team that practices well, lifts well, trains well. We don’t play very well.”

Washington State (0-2) hosts Portland State (1-1) of the FCS on Saturday in the team’s first game of the season in Pullman.

Leach hinted that the Cougars likely won’t be getting too much positive reinforcement in practice this week.

“I think sometimes it’s more troubling where it’s all positive noise,” Leach said. “We’re at a point where we really can’t accept that.”

Leach blamed himself and the rest of the coaching staff for this year’s offensive and defensive woes. But he cautioned players not to read too much into that.

“This notion that everybody’s let off the hook, well you’d be sadly mistaken if you thought that was the case,” Leach said. “You’re one entity. Players and coaches aren’t separated. I think we’ve coached about as well as they’ve played.”

Washington State played good offense in a season-opening 41-38 loss to Rutgers in Seattle. Then the defense looked good in last weekend’s 24-13 loss at Nevada.

The goal is to get both units playing together, Leach said.

“If we can get the Rutgers offense and the Nevada defense playing together, we are going to be very good,” said Washington State linebacker Jeremiah Allison. “We will try to figure out what exactly we need to do to get over this hump.”

Washington State has lost four straight games dating to last season. Part of the blame for that goes to a decade-long culture of losing at WSU, Leach said.

“There is nobody on our team that has won in college football, and so we have to take that step and that’s why it’s so important that we’re strong internally,” Leach said. “There are no players on the team that have won.”

The Cougars remain a young team, with plenty of underclassmen and walk-ons seeing playing time. They have already had 12 players make their first career start this season.

“We’re younger than nearly everyone we’ve played,” Leach said.

That includes the rapidly improving offensive line that protects quarterback Connor Halliday, the nation’s leading passer. The line is made up of walk-ons and first-year players.

“We don’t want to get down on ourselves and squander the entire season,” said offensive lineman Joe Dahl. “We have to be confident.”

NOTES: Leach said that last year’s leading receiver, Gabe Marks, is likely to redshirt this year. So is Brett Bartolone, who played a lot two years ago as a freshman but little since because of injuries … The game against No. 2 Oregon on Sept. 20 has been set for a 7:30 p.m. start time. … Saturday’s game will be the first chance for many fans to see the new football operations building that dominates one end zone of Martin Stadium. The building consolidates all football activities in one place.

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