Sep 23, 2023; Pullman, Washington, USA; Oregon State Beavers quarterback DJ Uiagalelei (5) is stopped by Washington State Cougars defensive end Ron Stone Jr. (10) in the second half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Mountain West finalizes agreement with Oregon State, Washington State

The Mountain West Conference, Oregon State, Washington State and the Pac-12 have reached a football scheduling an agreement for the 2024 season.

The MWC announced the agreement on Friday.

Next season, the 12 Mountain West teams will play seven games against conference opponents plus one against either Oregon State or Washington State. The Beavers and Cougars were looking to fill out their schedules next season, when 10 schools leave the Pac-12 for other conferences.

“This is a unique and unprecedented opportunity for Oregon State and Washington State to play against highly competitive Mountain West football programs in 2024,” Mountain West commissioner Gloria Nevarez said in a news release. “The scheduling agreement will expand the Mountain West footprint and enhance our national brand, while providing our student-athletes with new opportunities, all in line with our strategic priorities. The scheduling agreement strengthens the league’s non-conference schedules, and we look forward to having Oregon State and Washington State be a part of the 2024 slate.”

The two remaining Pac-12 schools will not be eligible to play for the Mountain West championship, and results will not count toward the conference standings.

The Mountain West did not release any contract terms, but a report from Yahoo Sports this week said the conference would receive a fee of about $14 million for its part in the scheduling agreement.

At this time, the scheduling partnership applies only to football. Yahoo reported talks are in progress for a potential scheduling agreement for men’s and women’s basketball, and the two Pac-12 schools are discussing affiliate memberships with leagues for other sports.

The Mountain West consists of Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, San Jose State, UNLV, Utah State and Wyoming. Hawaii is a participant in football.

UNLV (9-3, 6-2 MWC) will host Boise State (7-5, 6-2) on Saturday in the Mountain West championship game.

–Field Level Media

Nov 18, 2023; Corvallis, Oregon, USA; Oregon State Beavers fans cheering during the fourth quarter against the Washington Huskies at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Craig Strobeck-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Washington State, Oregon State finalizing MWC alliance

Oregon State and Washington State are finalizing an agreement that would ally the two remaining teams of the Pac-12 conference with the Mountain West Conference for the 2024 football season, Yahoo Sports reported Tuesday.

The Mountain West would receive a fee of about $14 million under the one-year agreement, which has a renewal option for 2025, per the report. A formal announcement could be made this week.

Under the agreement, the Mountain West teams would play seven conference games, plus an eighth against either Oregon State or Washington State.

Oregon State and Washington State were left behind when the other 10 teams of the conference decided to leave the conference for the 2024 season.

The Mountain West consists of Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Fresno State, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, San Jose State, UNLV, Utah State and Wyoming. Hawaii is a participant in football.

Under the agreement, Oregon State and Washington State would not be eligible to play for the Mountain West title and they will play as “quasi-independents under the Pac-12 banner,” Yahoo reported.

At this time, the scheduling partnership would apply only to football. Talks are in progress for a potential scheduling agreement for men’s and women’s basketball, and the two Pac-12 schools are discussing affiliate memberships with leagues for other sports.

Oregon State finished the regular football season at 8-4 (5-4 Pac-12). Washington State began the season 4-0, which included a win over the Beavers, and concluded with a 5-7 (2-7) mark.

UNLV (9-3, 6-2 MWC) will host Boise State (7-5, 6-2) on Saturday in the Mountain West championship game.

–Field Level Media

Nov 18, 2023; Corvallis, Oregon, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) throws the ball during the first half against the Oregon State Beavers at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

No. 4 Washington insists focus is solely on Wazzu

After clinching a spot in the Pacific-12 Conference championship game with a 22-20 victory at then-No. 11 Oregon State last week, Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was asked whether the Huskies might overlook this week’s Apple Cup to focus on the title game.

Penix was incredulous.

“It’s the Apple Cup. What you mean? We can’t lose that,” Penix said. “That’s one of the biggest games for Husky Nation, with the whole tradition and everything. We’re not looking over that. We’re going to be ready for it.

“Yeah, man, it’s exciting to know we’ll be in the (Pac-12) championship. But there’s still work to be done. Like I said, man, if you’re not excited for the Apple Cup, then you’re in the wrong spot.”

While the Saturday game in Seattle will be the last meeting between the rivals as members of the Pac-12 — No. 4 Washington is among four conference schools leaving for the Big Ten next season — it was announced earlier in the week that the Apple Cup will continue, as the schools agreed to a five-year deal to continue playing.

“We should never have to get to this point where we have to schedule out-of-conference games (against Washington),” Washington State coach Jake Dickert said. “I understand both sides of the reaction. I do. But when I step back, and I look at a 360-degree view, we’ve been playing for over 100 years, and that needs to continue.

“I think any time you have an issue that people have an emotional reaction to, that means they’re bought into it, whatever side of the coin you’re on, right? I see it both ways. I do. But at the end of the day, we’re playing for the Apple Cup. That means something to every person that wears the Coug, every man that has been in our locker room, it’s very important to him. So everyone tunes in to watch the game.”

The Huskies (11-0, 8-0 Pac-12), who moved up to No. 4 in the College Football Playoff rankings this week, are paced by Heisman hopeful Penix, who leads the nation with 3,695 passing yards. Rome Odunze ranks fifth nationally with 1,206 receiving yards, and Dillon Johnson, who is hopeful to play after sustaining a foot injury last week, has rushed for 879 yards and scored 11 TDs.

The Cougars (5-6, 2-6) snapped a six-game losing streak with a 56-14 victory against visiting Colorado last week. Washington State would become bowl eligible with a victory against Washington.

Cameron Ward threw for 288 yards and accounted for four touchdowns vs. the Buffaloes, and Brennan Jackson returned fumbles 48 and 78 yards for scores. Nakia Watson ran for a season-high 47 yards on eight carries.

“He was (almost) an 800-yard running back last season and we haven’t been able to get him to that point for a variety of different reasons,” Dickert said of Watson. “To see him go out on Senior Night and perform the way we always felt like he was capable of playing is important. You would love to see that more, and I want to see that again this week because we’re going to need it.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 17, 2023; Pullman, Washington, USA; Colorado Buffaloes running back Sy'veon Wilkerson (36) stiff arms Washington State Cougars linebacker Taariq Al-Uqdah (18) in the first half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Wazzu thrashes Colorado, ends Buffaloes’ bowl hopes

Cameron Ward ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more while defensive lineman Brennan Jackson returned two fumbles for touchdowns as Washington State embarrassed Colorado 56-14 on Friday in Pullman, Wash.

Ward completed 18 of 30 passes for 288 yards to lead the Cougars (5-6, 2-6 Pac-12). Josh Kelly caught six passes for 130 yards for Washington State, which must win at No. 5 Washington next week to reach six wins and gain bowl eligibility.

Colorado (4-7, 1-7) lost for the seventh time in eight games and won’t appear in a bowl in coach Deion Sanders’ first season. The Buffaloes lost starting quarterback Shedeur Sanders to an arm injury in the second quarter when he was hit hard trying to corral a botched snap. He was 6 of 10 for 86 yards and a 45-yard touchdown pass to Travis Hunter before leaving the game.

Colorado used two other quarterbacks after Sanders’ departure, but they couldn’t move the offense, either. The Cougars held the Buffaloes to 255 total yards and recorded five sacks.

Lincoln Victor scored on a 15-yard run just over six minutes into the game to get Washington State on the board. Jackson picked up a Sanders fumble at the 5:14 mark and rumbled 40 yards for a 14-0 lead.

After Sanders and Hunter connected for their score, Leyton Smithson made it 21-7 Cougars by slaloming through Colorado’s kickoff coverage for a 98-yard touchdown return.

Ward turned the game into a blowout in the second quarter. After finding Nakia Watson for a 23-yard scoring strike, Ward added touchdown runs of 1 and 2 yards in the final four minutes for an insurmountable 42-7 lead entering halftime.

In the third quarter, Ward hit Kyle Williams on a go route behind Hunter for a 34-yard scoring strike. Jackson’s 74-yard scoop and score pushed the lead to a 56-7 cushion with 5:23 remaining in the third.

The Buffaloes tacked on a final touchdown in the fourth quarter on Sy’veon Wilkerson’s 1-yard run.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Stanford, California, USA; A view of the Pac-12 logo on the field as Stanford Cardinal wide receiver David Kasemervisz (80) warms up before the game against the UCLA Bruins at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Washington court issues stay regarding control of Pac-12

The court ruling putting Washington State and Oregon State in control of the Pac-12 Conference was blocked Thursday when the Washington State Supreme Court issued a temporary stay.

The latest decision came after the University of Washington, representing the 10 universities that will exit the conference at the start of the next school year, sought to block the Tuesday ruling made by Whitman County (Wash.) Superior Court Judge Gary Libey.

The emergency stay blocks the two remaining schools from having the only votes on league matters.

According to ESPN, the sides were asked to submit briefs on the case by Nov. 28 and replies by Dec. 8.

Representatives for Oregon State and Washington State wrote in a joint statement, “The departing schools are only delaying the inevitable because the superior court clearly got it right: Under the bylaws, the Conference’s future must be decided by the schools that stay, not those that are leaving.”

After the Superior Court ruling on Tuesday, CBS Sports reported that Oregon State and Washington State intend to compete as a two-team football league next year, though the schools were in contact with representatives of the Mountain West Conference, Sun Belt Conference, American Athletic Conference, Conference USA and Mid-American Conference in the search for games in 2024.

Southern California, UCLA, Washington and Oregon are set to join the Big Ten next season, while Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado and Utah will head to the Big 12. Cal and Stanford will move to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Stanford, California, USA; A view of the Pac-12 logo on the field as Stanford Cardinal wide receiver David Kasemervisz (80) warms up before the game against the UCLA Bruins at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Court grants Oregon St., Wazzu control of Pac-12

Oregon State and Washington State earned a legal victory on Tuesday that gives them control of what remains of the Pac-12 Conference.

Whitman County (Wash.) Superior Court Judge Gary Libey granted the schools’ request for a preliminary injunction that strips representatives of the conference’s other 10 schools — all of whom are leaving for other conferences next season — of votes on the Pac-12 board.

Libey said he made his ruling, after a 2 1/2-hour hearing, based on the fact that Oregon State and Washington State could experience “irreparable harm” if the exiting universities would remain in control of the Pac-12’s assets.

“Voting will be by the remaining two board members, but this is not a shutout,” Libey said, according to The Athletic. “The preliminary injunction will be modified or whatever you want to call it to make sure that the other 10 schools are still treated in a fair, open manner. Nobody is going to take advantage of somebody else. If that starts to happen, I’ll either hear about it here or somebody down the street will. I do not believe that the two plaintiffs here, the two members of the board that are left, will do anything directly to harm the other 10 members.”

Washington State president Kirk Schulz and athletic director Pat Chun said in a joint statement, in part, “It has always been our view that the future of the Pac-12 should be determined by the remaining members, not by those schools that are leaving the conference.”

Oregon State president Jayathi Murthy and athletic director Scott Barnes added in a statement, “We look forward to charting a path forward for the Pac-12 that is in the best interest of the Conference and student-athletes. Our intentions are to make reasonable business decisions going forward while continuing to seek collaboration and consultation with the departing universities.”

The schools departing the Pac-12 — Washington, Oregon, Cal, Stanford, Arizona State, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Southern California and UCLA — responded in a statement: “We are disappointed with the decision and are immediately seeking review in the Washington Supreme Court and requesting to put on hold implementation of this decision. As members of the Pac-12, participating in ongoing and scheduled competitions, we are members of the board under the Pac-12 bylaws.

“We have the right to the revenue earned by our schools during the 2023-2024 academic year, which is necessary in order to operate our athletics programs and to provide mental and physical health services, academic support, and other support programs for our student-athletes.”

According to CBS Sports, Oregon State and Washington State plan to compete as a two-team football league next year, though the two schools have contacted representatives of the Mountain West Conference, Sun Belt Conference, American Athletic Conference, Conference USA and Mid-American Conference as they seek games for 2024.

–Field Level Media

Colorado Buffaloes head coach Deion Sanders before the game against the Arizona Wildcats at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado, Washington St. racing to escape nosedive

Back in September, a primetime matchup between Colorado and Washington State would have been off the charts.

The Buffaloes, under first-year coach Deion Sanders, won their first three games of the season and were ranked 18th in the Top 25.

The Cougars opened with four straight victories and reached No. 13.

Those good times are long gone and Friday night in Pullman, Wash., the Buffaloes and Cougars meet to see who can escape the Pacific-12 Conference cellar.

Colorado (4-6 overall, 1-6 Pac-12) has lost four games in a row and six of seven, the lone victory in that span a 27-24 decision against Arizona State.

Washington State (4-6, 1-6) has dropped six in a row.

Both teams came close to snapping out of their downturns last week but couldn’t eject the continued nosedive.

The Buffaloes took a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter at home before losing 34-31 to Arizona.

“We’re so close is what I told the team, but yet so far,” Sanders said. “We just simply, truly don’t know how to win yet and it’s not for lack of effort, not for lack of coaching with the staff and the support staff. … Everybody around is doing a phenomenal job. We just can’t get over that hump.”

Quarterback Shedeur Sanders, the coach’s son, was 22 of 35 for 262 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a score.

Despite being banged up often while being sacked 48 times this season, the younger Sanders has thrown for 3,144 yards and 26 touchdowns, just shy of Sefo Liufau’s school records of 3,200 yards and 28 TDs set in 2014.

But he seems more focused on helping the Buffaloes win their final two regular-season games to become bowl eligible.

“You can’t go in a dark tunnel when you’re having a season like this because nothing will ever be perfect in life,” said Sanders, who was 23-3 as the starting QB at Jackson State before transferring to Colorado. “So you’ve got to take the good, you’ve got to take the bad. So that’s what I take from all this … is just keep being consistent, keep playing the game, keep doing my job, keep doing everything we could do to be able to have success.”

The Cougars nearly rallied from an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter against host California on Saturday, but kicker Dean Janikowski missed a 48-yard field-goal attempt with 50 seconds remaining in a 42-39 defeat.

“Saturday was just another snapshot into our season and the past six games,” Cougars coach Jake Dickert said. “We haven’t won the ball battle, the turnover margin. When you don’t do that, it’s hard to win games in this league. … It’s a conglomerate of things. Unfortunately, finding different ways to lose is very frustrating. We’re still working on getting that corrected.”

WSU quarterback Cameron Ward threw for 358 yards and three touchdowns but lost three fumbles – two of which were returned for scores.

“I feel like I’ve grown in ball security, especially these two years once I first got here to Washington State,” Ward said, “but it showed up again (Saturday) that it’s something that I gotta continuously work on. Any time you put your team in a situation like I did, it’s hard to fight out of, and we did. We did end up doing that. But we didn’t execute enough plays as a whole to win this game.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 11, 2023; Berkeley, California, USA; California Golden Bears running back Jaydn Ott (1) rushes for a touchdown against the Washington State Cougars during the second quarter at California Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Cal snaps four-game skid, edges Washington State

California snapped a four-game losing streak when Washington State kicker Dean Janikowski missed a 48-yard field goal with 50 seconds left that could have tied the game, helping the Golden Bears post a 42-39 victory on Saturday at Berkeley, Calif.

California (4-6, 2-5 Pac-12) almost blew an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter.

Washington State (4-6, 1-6) and the Golden Bears must win their last two games be eligible for a bowl.

The Cougars have lost six straight games.

Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward got the Cougars into field-goal position, to the Cal 31-yard line, after completing a 16-yard pass to Josh Kelly.

After an incomplete pass, setting up fourth down, Janikowski missed the 48-yarder wide left. He failed on a 42-yard attempt earlier in the fourth quarter.

Washington State used its three timeouts to force California to punt with 28 seconds left.

The Cougars got the ball to their 47 after two pass plays.

Ward’s Hail Mary attempt at the end was intercepted at the goal line by Cade Uluave, who had a 51-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the first quarter.

Ward attempted a career-high 60 pass attempts and completed 35 of them for 358 yards. He threw three touchdown passes and was intercepted once.

With 9:26 remaining, Ward fumbled while being sacked and Nohl Williams returned the ball 52 yards for a touchdown, increasing California’s lead to 42-24.

Ward then led the Cougars 70 yards in seven plays on a touchdown-scoring drive that took only 1:49 left in the clock.

His 21-yard scoring strike to Kelly and subsequent successful 2-point conversion pass to Djouvensky Schlenbaker with 7:33 remaining cut the lead to 42-32.

California running back Jaydn Ott fumbled on the ensuing possession and Washington State’s Sam Lockett III recovered it at the California 37 with 6:38 remaining.

A 20-yard pass from Ward to Lincoln Victor set up a 5-yard scoring connection between Ward and Schlenbaker with 5:23 left to cut the lead to 42-39.

California had a three-and-out possession, forcing it to punt to Washington State with 3:42 remaining.

Janikowski’s missed field goal came at the end of the possession.

Ott rushed for 167 yards on 27 carries to lead a California offense that mustered 327 total yards.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils running back Cameron Skattebo (4) breaks a table attempt by Washington Huskies safety Makell Esteen (24) while rushing during the fourth quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Arizona St. leans on rushing attack to down Washington St.

DeCarlos Brooks had three rushing touchdowns to headline a strong performance on the ground that carried Arizona State to a 38-27 victory over Washington State on Saturday night in Tempe, Ariz.

The Sun Devils (2-6, 1-4 Pac-12) rushed for 239 yards on 39 carries as a team to give first-year coach Kenny Dillingham his first conference victory. Cam Skattebo led the rushing attack with 121 yards and a TD on 11 carries, while Brooks went for 67 yards on 11 touches.

Meanwhile, the Cougars (4-4, 1-4), who have lost four consecutive games, tallied 88 yards on 21 carries against the Sun Devils.

Washington State scored on the first drive of the game, going 75 yards in 15 plays, with Cameron Ward finding the end zone on a 3-yard quarterback keeper. But Arizona State’s offense continuously put pressure on the Cougars’ defense after that.

The hosts proceeded to score on five of their next six possessions.

The Sun Devils had a lengthy opening drive of their own — going 75 yards in 10 plays — capping it with a 13-yard rushing TD from Brooks.

Brooks’ second touchdown gave Arizona State a 14-7 lead with 7:14 left in the second quarter.

The game was tied at 21 with 42 seconds remaining in the first half after Ward completed a 9-yard touchdown pass to Lincoln Victor.

Arizona State quarterback Trenton Bourguet then drove the Sun Devils into field-goal range, and Dario Longhetto made a 51-yard field goal as time expired to put Arizona State ahead 24-21 at halftime.

Bourguet completed 19 of 26 passes for 274 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

Arizona State opened the second half with a 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive that took 6:34. It ended when Elijhah Badger rushed for a 6-yard touchdown that put the Sun Devils ahead 31-21.

Brooks scored his third touchdown and Washington State was held to two field goals of 31 and 34 yards by Dean Janikowski in the second half.

Ward completed 35 of 50 passes for 315 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.

–Field Level Media

Oct 21, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils running back Cameron Skattebo (4) rushes for a touchdown against the Washington Huskies during the second quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Washington State, Arizona State move on from heartbreaks

Washington State and Arizona State are both coming off competitive losses last week on the road against two of the Pac-12’s best teams, Oregon and Washington, respectively.

The struggling teams will meet on Saturday in Tempe, Ariz.

The Cougars (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) fell 38-24 to the then-No. 9 Ducks after trailing by only a touchdown until 3:56 remained in the third quarter.

The Sun Devils (1-6, 0-4) took the No. 5 Huskies down to the final minutes before succumbing 15-7.

Arizona State coach Kenny Dillingham’s program remains competitive despite being on a one-year, self-imposed bowl ban for alleged recruiting violations under previous coach Herm Edwards.

“We’re building the right culture here,” Dillingham said. “We can see how close we are in year one, through all of this, all the banged up, all the negative, we’re this close.”

Washington State and Arizona State have significant injury issues with linemen.

The Sun Devils are so thin on the offensive line, especially with their field-goal unit, that Dillingham put out a call to students to possibly join the team.

“I don’t know if there are big bodies at ASU who just go there that want to play (special teams) for us,” Dillingham said. “If you weigh 330 pounds, and I mean it, reach out to our team.”

The lack of healthy offensive linemen forced Dillingham to try a passing play on fourth-and-3 at the Washington 12-yard line instead of kicking a field goal to lengthen a 7-6 lead in the fourth quarter.

The ensuing play was an 89-yard interception return for a touchdown that put Washington ahead 12-7 with 8:11 to go.

Washington State will be without starting edge rushers Quinn Roff and Raam Stevenson for the Saturday game.

Cougars coach Jake Dickert said Roff is out after experiencing a “medical emergency” and that Stevenson is “nicked up.”

Dickert is leery of defending 5-foot-10, 225-pound Arizona State running back Cam Skattebo, who has rushed for 413 yards and six touchdowns on 104 carries.

“Skattebo is as physical as it gets — downhill,” Dickert said. “They’re physical, downhill, run behind their pads, and he’s getting everything extra, and you’re not going to bring them down just with one guy.”

–Field Level Media