PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Washington State coach Mike Leach will continue to rely on younger players when his slumping team hosts California on Saturday night.
Leach says the Cougars (2-4, 0-3 Pac-12) have lost all three of their league games in part because they lack senior leadership.
Last weekend, the Cougars wasted a sterling defensive performance in losing 19-6 at No. 10 Oregon State. It was the second game this season in which the Cougars failed to score a touchdown.
"The Oregon State game offensively was a disaster," Leach said. "We need to learn from it and never let it happen again."
One consequence is that Leach has been replacing veteran starters with younger players. The Cougars have played 15 freshmen this season. Only 13 seniors remain on the roster, with four likely to start Saturday.
"We haven't had strength from the senior class, so we have turned to younger guys," Leach said.
Leach said some veterans have displayed "an empty corpse quality."
"It's not pleasant to say, but it's a fact and that's why it is necessary for us to have the youth movement we have," Leach said. "We've gotten a higher effort level out of them."
The changes include replacing senior Jeff Tuel as starting quarterback with Connor Halliday.
Halliday threw three interceptions in the loss to Oregon State, but also plays with the fire that Leach seeks.
"We are at the point in the season where we have to invest reps in somebody," Leach said of the quarterback situation.
Defensive tackle Tony Pole said the Cougars will look to build this week on their best defensive showing of the season.
"Our defense played with a lot of passion," Pole said. "We are getting better each week."
California (2-4, 1-2) is coming off a surprising 43-17 win over UCLA, and is seeking to prove that win was no fluke.