"I think they already are motivated," Leach said. "We just have to worry about what we can do instead of trying to do too much."
He said that was the Cougars' biggest obstacle during Saturday's 46-7 loss at Arizona State.
"I think we had good effort, but it was frantic like over pursuing," Leach said. "Fighter pilots always say you want to be one inch out of control. We were about six inches." Leach, who still is seeking his first Pac-12 win, said the Apple Cup is a popular topic around campus. The Huskies (7-4 overall, 5-3 conference) have three consecutive wins in the series, their longest streak since their six consecutive victories from 1998 to 2003.
A win for WSU (2-9, 0-8) could be a "springboard" into the offseason, Leach said, but he believes the result will have little impact on recruiting.
"I don't think they typically isolate it into one thing," he said. "If they're doing that, they're doing it for the wrong reason. The majority of guys we're on research it. They want to be a part of turning things around here."
One of those player who could be competing in the Apple Cup for a final time is quarterback Jeff Tuel. The NCAA is reviewing his application for a fifth season of eligibility, but even if it is approved Tuel said he has not made a decision about whether he wants to play in 2013 for the Cougars. Tuel completed just 8 of 16 passes for 67 yards and an interception against the Sun Devils before he was replaced by sophomore Connor Halliday during the first half. Halliday completed 13 of 33 passes for 173 yards, one touchdown and a interception.
"One of his best qualities is he tries to make a lot happen," said Leach, referring to Halliday. "One of his worst qualities is he tries to make a lot happen."
He said he has not determined whether Tuel or Halliday will start against UW.
"They both have done some good things and both have a level of inconsistency," Leach said. "Some of that is probably my fault."
Despite the Cougars' struggles this season, Leach said he believes the program's foundation is stronger than the team's record suggests. He again noted that 15 freshmen have played this season.
"I think they're getting better all of the time," Leach said. "I think they've been courageous throughout the season with what they've done. If there's an inconsistency there, it comes with the youth."
"The game is sold out, so I think there will be plenty of excitement," he said.
That does not mean Leach does not have some Thanksgiving staples when he is around. He said his wife is a good cook, but he always handles one part of dinner preparation – the gravy.
"I put a lot of stuff into it," Leach said. "Once you understand the fact that you can't screw up gravy, the pressure is off. I always put tiger sauce in mine."
"I think he's just passionate football," he said. "He's a good, sharp coach."
"He's a nice guy," Leach said. "I've always liked him."