PULLMAN – Senior nickel back Hunter Dale said after practice Friday the prospect of WSU setting a school-record for single-season victories is driving players and coaches. Dale said winning their 11th game has become somewhat of a rallying cry ahead of the Dec. 28 Alamo Bowl against Iowa State.
“I think that’s what everybody really wants – that school record,” Dale said. “I think that a lot of people right now are really just trying to not get distracted by that 11th win, but we also have a background in our minds that this is a big game. This could be the best time that Cougar football has ever seen.”
Dale echoed head coach Mike Leach’s sentiment that fewer offseason distractions surrounding the team have improved the Cougars’ bowl prep.
“In the past, there have been some distractions within the groups and positions and team,” he said. “I haven’t seen that at all this year. I’ve seen people focusing on the next game. Right now, we’re just focused on Iowa State and can’t wait to get to the next game.”
WSU encountered quite the mess prior to its 42-17 loss to Michigan State in the 2017 Holiday Bowl. Rumors surfaced that Leach had agreed in principle to become Tennessee’s next head coach, former defensive coordinator Alex Grinch was linked to an opening at Ohio State, wideouts Tavares Martin Jr. and Isaiah Johnson-Mack left the program and it was revealed WSU had covered up a broken left wrist Luke Falk sustained in September.
Dale said a quick return to bowl practices following the Apple Cup – WSU received less than two weeks rest last season – may have hindered the team’s performance against the Spartans as well.
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“I just think a bunch of people were footballed-out and kind of ready to get to the game,” he said. “They were so ready to get to the game that people weren’t focused on the actual bowl game itself. But I think there’s a different mindset this year going into (the Alamo Bowl.) We can have 11 wins now, a very big bowl game.”
See Dale’s full comments in the video above