Catching up with a Cougar: Washington State's Gabe Marks talks Mike Leach, Halloween and the Pac-12
He plays for the most interesting man in college football, is one of the premier wideouts in the Pac-12 and doesn't like Halloween. Meet Washington State junior receiver Gabe Marks, whose Cougars sit at 5–2. After a shocking opening loss to Portland State, Wazzu has won five of its last six, including victories over Oregon and Arizona. Now the Cougars are set to host Stanford in one of the most anticipated games of the Leach Era, on Saturday night, in the 10:30 p.m. ET time slot known for #Pac12AfterDark.
Before the Cougars and the Cardinal clash, Marks caught up with Campus Rush.
Campus Rush: What's the feeling like around campus right now, with the team having a 5–2 record and the school abuzz leading up to the Stanford game?
Gabe Marks: It's good for people to be happy and have pride in their school. The kids are really excited about the game, but they have a game on their own. Getting through Halloween week in Pullman, that's a battle. If they can make it to the game, it'll be good. Around here, Halloween is the most anticipated time of the year. People dress up the whole week. It's less of a sprint, more of a marathon in Pullman.
CR: What's the weirdest costume you've seen on campus?
GM: I don't think those (answers) are good for this interview. Just think of 19- or 20-year-olds, and it's cold and people don't care. Take what you want from that.
CR: What was your favorite Halloween costume as a kid?
GM: I don't remember having a favorite Halloween costume. It's not really my thing, walking around trick-or-treating and sweating in a hot costume, not being able to see in front of you in the dark with that mask on, makeup running down your face cause you're running all over, taking strangers' candy. Not really my style.
CR: You were so close to getting College GameDay on campus this week before the show went to Temple. What's it like to see the Wazzu flag flying in the background every Saturday?
GM: You would think College GameDay would have a little more loyalty to us considering all we time we've flown that flag behind them. … I take a lot of pride in seeing it (on TV). It's a good thing.
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
CR: What's the weirdest thing you've ever heard Mike Leach say?
GM: He says a lot of weird things. He talks about random stuff … me and him have a lot of miscellaneous conversations to pass the time in practice, usually just shooting the, uh, you know … I'm always prepared to be surprised (by what he says), but I haven't been lately. I'm pretty well-versed in his speaking strategies. But I'm sure there are a lot of wide-eyed freshmen.
CR: Have you read any of his books?
GM: Absolutely not. I've got enough books to read for school.
CR: Do you think Leach is as random in his books as he is in his conversations?
GM: I hope not, that'd be a tough read, going off on tangents. (Finding that) in a book, I'd probably close it pretty fast. In person, he's one of the most interesting guys. I'm sure his books are more of a straightforward and intellectual route.
CR: Let's say you're hosting a running back recruit on a visit. What's your pitch, considering Wazzu's offense throws the ball approximately 100 times a game?
GM: You know, I've been trying to figure out that pitch for a long time. But now more than any year I've been here, our running backs are actually getting a lot more carries and are a lot more explosive. So, if they came there'd be a lot of open lanes because guys are gonna be dropping off. You can average 10 yards a carry, catch 60 balls a year, be a little dual-threat guy. I've been working on this pitch for a while.
CR: When you were being recruited, did you consider the system and how many times Leach's offense throws the ball?
GM: I grew up watching the Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree teams at Texas Tech, when they were racking up all those yards. Right when I got the (Washington State) offer, I knew I was in.
CR: You've been quoted as saying, "You don't say no to Mike Leach." What do you mean by that?
GM: He's the man. Mike Leach is the man. Everyone wants to be friends with Leach, and I get to hang out with him every day. Other people, they just want five minutes, and I get to spend every day around him.
CR: You lead the Pac-12 in receptions per game (8.1) and are second in receiving yards per game (102.4). Do you have a favorite game you've played in?
GM: The last win we had (45–42 over Arizona) was pretty cool. I'm pretty excited about—
GM: Oh hey, coach. Did you get a haircut?
Mike Leach (in background): I did, do you like it? Are you getting one?
GM: Nah. Do I need one?
ML: No, you look good, you look good.
GM: O.K., wait, what was I saying? Oh yeah. Last week was cool, because I scored more touchdowns (four) than I ever have in my life.
CR: I know you played some scout-team quarterback last season while you were redshirting. Do you ever lobby for Leach to put you in a game at that position?
GM: I'm always putting my bid in to get a couple snaps. I was pretty dominant on scout team, but coaches make the decisions, so I've gotta keep pushing for it. I think I could dominate. I'd throw lots of 5- to 10-yard passes, some screens and zone reads. Hey, it's the Pac-12. Anything is possible.
CR: How did your redshirt year make you a better player?
GM: I redeveloped that childlike love for the game. It took out the business part of playing in the Pac-12, having the pressure of every week. I was able to just have fun. Just getting back to the basics, that's reenergized me for this year.
CR: Other than you, who is the most dangerous Washington State receiver?
GM: Dom Williams. Dom's the man. He's really explosive, he's averaged (15.3) yards a catch in his career. He's really our big vertical guy, but he does a lot of the dirty work, too. We work well together.
CR: Describe the Pac-12 in five words or less.
GM: Dog eat dog. We're all eating each other up, we're not gonna make it out alive. It's crazy out here.