The Washington State Cougars are on the verge of bowl eligibility. With a victory Saturday over Utah, the Cougars could go to a bowl game for the first time since 2003. But they need to figure out a way to win a conference game at home. WSU center Elliott Bosch took a few minutes this week to catch up with the Pac-12 blog about the state of the Cougars, their bowl aspirations and what he’ll take away from playing for Mike Leach.
You guys are one game away from bowl eligibility. Was that a team goal? Or was it one of those situations where if it happens, it happens?
Elliott Bosch: I think it was in the back of everyone’s mind. But at the same time, one thing we preached in camp was just play every week and win every week and don’t give ourselves a ceiling.
What would a bowl game mean? Not just for the seniors, but for the program, the fans and the school?
EB: It would be huge. It’s been a decade since we’ve gone. To be part of the group that gets it back and sets the standard for the program for upcoming years would be big.
If you guys get there, is that a tip of the cap to all the guys who came before and never got the chance? I recall a conversation with Travis Long, and he mentioned all he wanted to do was get to a bowl game.
EB: We couldn’t have done it without guys like Travis Long. Even though he’s gone, he still left his mark on the program. He’s still remembered for all the good things he did for us. We couldn’t have done it without all of those guys who came before.
Last year, you were worst in the league in sacks allowed. Significant improvement this year. What’s been the difference?
EB: I think we’re a little more experienced as a group. We grew up. The biggest thing is we bought in as a group and worked our tails off. We didn’t want to be that group again – the reason this thing wouldn’t go. As a group, we made that decision that we were going to be better and we weren’t going to be the reason.
What about as a team? Is there something different from a mentality standpoint? Or is it just another year in the system?
EB: Part of it is another year in the system and everyone knowing their job and what is expected. But we’ve also grown up a lot as a team. We’re not as mentally fragile. When bad stuff happened last year, it put us in the tank. Bad stuff is still happening this year but we’re able to come back from it and not let it affect us and not let it determine the outcome of a game.
You guys are a bit of an anomaly in the fact that all three of your conference wins have come on the road and you have no conference wins at home. Normally it’s the other way around. What are you guys doing on the road that you aren’t doing at home?
EB: I don’t know. I don’t really have an answer to that. It is an anomaly. We do take a lot of pride playing at home. It just hasn’t gone our way this year and it has gone our way on the road. I think we play good on the road and I think we’re good at just focusing on ourselves as a team and not the atmosphere and getting bug-eyed. We’d like to play better at home. It means something to play well at home.
EB: Definitely. Every week he gets better in every aspect. Each week he learns more. He’s preparing better. I think it was big for him to be the guy. He’s one of those guys who needs to know it’s his responsibility and he needs to prepare as the leader rather than not knowing each week what his role is.
What have you seen from Utah on film?
EB: Last year they gave us problems, but we’re trying not to focus on last year. I know they are a tough group and they play hard and they go out and do their job. We’re going to have to play great and match their effort and their intensity.
What’s next for you? A run at the NFL?
EB: I don’t really know. I’ve always taken a realistic stance on it. If I have an opportunity, I’ll take it. But I don’t want to be the guy chasing a dream that’s not there. And I’m not the stereotypical NFL offensive lineman size-wise (6-4, 280). We’ll see. I don’t know.
In your time there, what’s the lesson you take away from working with Mike Leach?
EB: You learn stuff from him every day. But the one big thing is he demands excellence out of his players and he shows you that you have more in you than you think you do and he’s able to get that out of people. In every aspect. In school, off the field, in all aspects of life. I think that’s the one thing I’m going to take away.