Oct 14, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; Oregon Ducks quarterback Bo Nix (10) looks to pass the ball during the first half against the Washington Huskies at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

No. 9 Oregon seeks better execution vs. Washington St.

Washington State and No. 9 Oregon will both try to rebound from difficult losses when they meet in Eugene, Ore., on Saturday afternoon.

Which defeat was more devastating remains to be seen.

The Ducks fell 36-33 at then-No. 7 Washington last Saturday as Camden Lewis’ last-second, 43-yard field-goal attempt sailed just wide of the right upright.

Meanwhile, Washington State was blown out 44-6 by Arizona the same day in Pullman, Wash. It was the second consecutive defeat for the Cougars (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12), who dropped out of the Top 25 after being ranked No. 13 before a 25-17 loss at UCLA on Oct. 7.

Oregon coach Dan Lanning’s play-calling came into question after the Ducks (5-1, 2-1) thrice failed to convert on fourth-and-3, twice in the red zone and once near midfield with 2:11 left in the game. The Huskies needed just two plays to score the go-ahead touchdown, as Heisman Trophy hopeful Michael Penix Jr. threw an 18-yard scoring strike to Rome Odunze.

“At the end of the day, they made a couple of more plays than we did,” Lanning said. “We made some decisions we probably could have made differently throughout that game, but our guys battled to the end (and) I thought they showed some resiliency.

“This game’s 100 percent on me. I don’t think you guys have to look anywhere else but me.”

Oregon quarterback Bo Nix, whose Heisman hopes took a shot in the showdown with Penix, defended his coach and teammates in the wake of the defeat.

“A lot of people, they want to see how we respond, and I’m excited for that,” said Nix, who produced 337 yards and two touchdowns on 33-of-44 passing against the Huskies. “I think that’s the challenge that I can’t wait for, and this group is going to be able to write its own story, write its own journey. And I think if it was easy, everybody would do it.

“If there was no failures, then everybody would be playing football, you know? So, I think that’s part of it. You win and lose. You go out there and play your best. You go out there and enjoy the process. Even though I hated the outcome of (Saturday), it was one heck of a football game that I loved playing.”

The Cougars scored on their opening drive against Arizona, their homecoming opponent, but failed to score again.

Quarterback Cameron Ward was 22 of 30 for 192 yards with one interception and a lost fumble. The Cougars gained just 35 yards on 22 rushing attempts.

“I think the biggest thing is we gotta get back to getting the ball out decisively — and quickly,” Washington State coach Jake Dickert said. “I think you see a little bit of hesitation in Cam (Ward) sometimes. But like I said, coverage-wise, we did get what we expected to get. So make the correct play.”

Last year in Pullman, the Cougars had a 12-point lead with just under seven minutes remaining before Oregon scored three consecutive touchdowns for a 44-41 victory.

–Field Level Media

Washington State Cougars defensive back Sam Lockett III (0) recovers a fumble by Wisconsin Badgers tight end Clay Cundiff (not pictured) against Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Chimere Dike (13) and Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Jake Ratzlaff (25) late in the fourth quarter during their football game Saturday, September 10, 2022, at Camp Randall in Madison, Wis.

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Washington State looks to continue trends vs. Colorado State

Washington State and Colorado State are going in different directions starting off the season under new coaches heading into Saturday’s game at Pullman, Wash.

The Cougars, in Jake Dickert’s first full season as permanent coach after he led the program on an interim basis for the latter half of 2021, are coming off a 17-14 win last week at then-No. 19 Wisconsin.

Washington State’s Cam Ward went 17 of 28 for 200 yards with two interceptions in the upset victory, which earned the Cougars (2-0) votes in the AP Top 25.

Colorado State lost to Middle Tennessee State 34-19 at home to drop to 0-2 under Jay Norvell, who was hired away from Nevada after last season. The Rams are suddenly trying to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2010.

Norvell said he called meetings with some of his players Monday after the turbulent start of the season, which launched with a 51-7 loss at Michigan.

“I think we still have a ways to go in understanding the type of preparation you have to have,” Norvell said. “Good football teams all over the country, they come back and watch film, they’re getting with their coaches, they’re spending extra time, really sinking their teeth into the game plan.

“We’ve got some guys who have done that; we’ve got some guys who don’t understand that at all.”

Washington State showed it is in sync with Dickert his staff by topping Wisconsin at Madison, Wis., in front of 80,000 fans.

“We believed we could do it,” Dickert said. “This wasn’t some upset of a lifetime. … We just kept throwing things at them. You can never do just one thing against a good run team.

Washington State’s defense limited Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen to 98 yards rushing, just the second time in his last 11 games that was held below 100.

“I’m so proud of our run defense,” Dickert said. “To not give up a huge, explosive run — which is something their offense really depends on — is important.”

Now the Cougars will line up against a CSU offense that has managed 72 net yards rushing on 73 attempts this season – an 0.99-yard average that ranks 130th out of 131 in the nation. That stat is certainly influenced by Colorado State quarterbacks being sacked 16 times — the most in the nation, or about once for every two completed passes (36).

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Jake Dickert stands outside the locker room with wide receiver Calvin Jackson Jr. (8), running back Max Borghi (21) and linebacker Justus Rogers (37) before kickoff against the Washington Huskies at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

WSU to unveil QB Cam Ward vs. Vandals

Washington State coach Jake Dickert begins his first full season Saturday against visiting Idaho with a revamped Air Raid offense the Cougars hope is effective with new prolific quarterback Cameron Ward.

Ward joined the program from Incarnate Word, where he passed for 4,648 yards last season while completing 384 of 590 passes (65.1 percent) with 47 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

He replaces Jayden de Laura, the Pac-12’s offensive freshman of the year who is now the No. 1 quarterback and a team captain at conference rival Arizona.

“I’m a believer in Cam Ward,” said Dickert, who coached the last six games of 2021 on an interim basis after coach Nick Rolovich was terminated for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, which had been mandated for university employees.

“Cam has come in and earned the trust of this football team through repetitive action and hard work,” Dickert said. “He’s put in the hard work behind the scenes. I’m excited about what he’s going to do with the weapons that we have on offense.”

Dickert and first-year Idaho coach Jason Eck are longtime colleagues. In 2014 at Division II Minnesota State, Dickert was defensive coordinator and Eck offensive coordinator; and in 2016 both were on the South Dakota State staff.

Eck declined to name a QB1 at his weekly Monday news conference, using the word “or” to underscore his intention, while listing J’Bore Gibbs, CJ Jordan, and Gevani McCoy.

“There has definitely been some interest and suspense at that position, and honestly we’re going to dress four quarterbacks on Saturday,” he said. “We have confidence in all of them if they see the field.”

Whoever is at quarterback, Terez Traynor is the top returning receiver (50 receptions, 737 yards), and former JC transfer Jermaine Jackson showed himself as a versatile player during camp who will also return kicks.

“We want to see guys respond. We’ve got to win the one-on-ones if we get the matchups,” said Eck.

According to USA Today, Idaho receives $575,000 from Washington State for making the seven-mile drive across the state line. Next week, the Vandals will reportedly take in $1.3 million for their trip to Indiana.

–Field Level Media

Oct 23, 2021; Pullman, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach interim Jake Dickert reacts after a play during a game against the Brigham Young Cougars in the second half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. BYU won 21-19. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

WSU heads into Apple Cup vs. Washington with plenty at stake

After beating lowly Arizona last week, Washington State interim coach Jake Dickert said last Friday, “There’s still a lot to play for.”

He was alluding to the Apple Cup rivalry against Washington and the Cougars’ impending bowl game.

A day later, when Oregon lost, Dickert could add a potential Pac-12 North championship to the list of things his team could still accomplish.

With a WSU victory in Seattle on Friday, and an Oregon State win over Oregon on Saturday, the Cougars would tie for first place atop the division with the Ducks and Beavers. Washington State would hold the tiebreaker with a 4-1 record in divisional play and would advance to the Pac-12 title game in Las Vegas on Dec. 3.

That would be quite an achievement considering coach Nick Rolovich was fired last month for not following the state’s COVID-19 mandate.

“They never quit on themselves,” Dickert said of the players. “After everything happened with the coaching change, the captains came together and said, ‘We will change the momentum. We will move forward, and we will keep pressing.’

“I told them, ‘Do it for you guys, do it for the bond you formed in the locker room and do it for what you guys have accomplished here.’”

Moreover, the way the Cougars’ players have responded under Dickert’s leadership has led to growing sentiment that WSU would be hard-pressed not to remove the “interim” tag from his title, particularly if they beat the Huskies. Washington State is 2-2 under Dickert, with the two losses coming to BYU and Oregon (a combined 18-4 this season).

One accomplishment that has eluded these Cougars is a victory in the Apple Cup. They have lost seven straight games in the series, all by double digits, and have not won in Seattle since 2007.

“I want to win this game so bad,” said sixth-year WSU linebacker Jahad Woods, “not only for the teammates that I have now and the coaches I have now, but for my teammates that didn’t win it these past five years that I’ve been a part of playing in the Apple Cup.

“It’s something that’s super important to me and I’m not going to take this week lightly.”

The Huskies (4-7, 3-5) have failed to qualify for a bowl game for the first time since 2009 and coach Jimmy Lake was fired.

So, it’s a pair of interim coaches leading their teams into the 113th meeting of the cross-state rivals (Washington holds a 74-32-6 edge).

Bob Gregory, in his eighth season on the Huskies’ staff, leads Washington as head coach for the third game, having come close against Arizona State and Colorado, but falling by one late possession each time.

He is familiar with both sides of the rivalry, having played linebacker at WSU (1984-86).

“We’re all mercenaries anyway as coaches,” Gregory said when asked about his allegiance. “Whoever pays us and puts food on our table for our kids, that’s who we’re rooting for.”

Gregory was also asked about the plan for heralded freshman quarterback Sam Huard, who could still retain his redshirt even if he played Friday against the Cougars. Might Huard start?

“I could (tell you) but I’d have to kill you,” Gregory joked. “So, no. I’m not going to divulge … no injuries, no quarterback updates.”

–Field Level Media

Oct 16, 2021; Pullman, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Nick Rolovich celebrates after a game against the Stanford Cardinal at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. The Cougars won 34-31. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Washington State fires Nick Rolovich for refusing vaccine mandate

Washington State coach Nick Rolovich was terminated for cause Friday for a refusing to become vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to multiple reports.

Rolovich, 42, had filed a request for a religious exemption to the mandate that all employees in the state become vaccinated by Oct. 19, and Monday his request — reviewed anonymously — was denied, reported first by the Oregonian.

Rolovich was the only major college head coach known to refuse to become vaccinated, and university president Kirk Schulz, a career scientist, had been supportive of Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate issued months ago.

Several of Rolovich’s assistant coaches were also unvaccinated and were also expected to be terminated. The Cougars, 4-3 this season, were 5-6 during Rolovich’s 1 1/2 seasons as WSU’s coach. Defensive coordinator Jake Dickert was expected to be named interim coach.

“It certainly skews the perception of our message,” Schulz told The New York Times last week. “At most universities, people pay attention to what the university president, the football coach, the basketball coach and the athletic director have to say — that’s just the reality. People look at them for leadership because they’re highly visible and highly compensated. It doesn’t help when you have people who are contrary to the direction we’re going.”

Inslee announced last week that more than 90% of Washington state government workers have been verified as fully vaccinated. Rolovich was the state’s highest-paid employee at $3.2 million a year.

Washington State won its third consecutive game Saturday and the players gave their coach a Gatorade shower in celebration, obviously aware that it might be his final game.

–Field Level Media

Oct 2, 2021; Corvallis, Oregon, USA; Oregon State Beavers running back B.J. Baylor (4) runs the ball past Washington Huskies defensive back Alex Cook (5) during the second half at Reser Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Oregon State ‘ain’t done yet,’ visits Wazzu next

After beating USC on the road for the first time since 1960 two weeks ago, Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith told his team, “We ain’t done yet.”

That prophecy didn’t take long to come to fruition.

By defeating visiting Washington 27-24 last weekend on a 24-yard field goal by Everett Hayes as time expired, Smith was able to double-down on his statement as the Beavers took sole possession of first place in the Pacific-12 Conference’s North Division for the first time. The conference split into two divisions 11 years ago.

With a victory Saturday against Washington State (2-3, 1-2 Pac-12) in Pullman, Wash., the Beavers (4-1, 2-0) might even find themselves ranked for the first time since 2013.

“I think it adds to the belief,” Smith said of beating USC and Washington. “I think we’re a confident group that understands how hard it is to win. We’re mature and experienced enough to know we’ve got a long ways to go.

“Each win just sets you up for bigger games as the season goes.”

The Beavers defeated the Huskies despite passing for just 48 yards. B.J. Baylor rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns.

Oregon State has already beaten USC and Washington in the same season for the first time since 2006, and now aims for its first sweep of the Washington schools since 2011.

The Cougars are coming off a 21-6 victory at California as Jayden de Laura completed 25 of 41 passes for 219 yards and three TDs. Washington State limited the Golden Bears to 273 yards of total offense.

“It’s the perfect challenge that I think this team needs to see if we can compete with one of the best,” Washington State coach Nick Rolovich said of facing the Beavers. “Coming off a win, it felt like we took a step, mindset-wise.

“Now, knowing you have a good team coming in, if the defense can play with that kind of effort and tackle the way they did, the defense should have a lot of confidence.”

Washington State has won the past seven meetings with the Beavers, including a 38-28 decision in the opener of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, Rolovich’s Cougars debut.

OSU also lost to Rolovich’s Hawaii team in 2019, 31-28 in Honolulu.

–Field Level Media

Jul 27, 2021; Hollywood, CA, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Nick Rolovich speaks with the media during the Pac-12 football Media Day at the W Hollywood. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Unvaccinated WSU coach Nick Rolovich ‘not against vaccinations’

Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich made a virtual appearance at Pac-12 media days on Tuesday, barred from the in-person gathering based on his decision not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Rolovich said he has the support of Washington State’s administration even as the state’s governor chided the coach for not having accurate information before making his decision.

“I’m not against vaccinations, and I wholeheartedly support those who choose to get vaccinated, including our players,” Rolovich said. “I urge everyone to consider being vaccinated.”

He has not disclosed why he has chosen to remain unvaccinated.

Washington State’s football team will hit the 85 percent vaccination level this week, according to athletic director Pat Chun, who did not directly address a recent statement from the university president that stated: “Washington State University expects all students, faculty, staff and volunteers to be fully vaccinated before the start of the fall semester. As the state’s land-grant research university, WSU has an obligation to serve the public good and promote the health and safety of its communities. The science clearly shows that the COVID-19 vaccine nearly eliminates the chances of death or serious illness related to a COVID-19 infection and is a critical element in protecting public health locally and worldwide.”

Washington State has an exemption policy in place, which is the loophole Rolovich utilized. He was the only Pac-12 head coach not available at the media days gathering in Los Angeles.

The 42-year-old Rolovich, hired to replace opinionated and pointed coach Mike Leach after his departure for Mississippi State, said he understands questions about whether he can effectively lead the team without being vaccinated. But Rolovich said that is not a concern he shares, adding he will follow all policies “for the unvaccinated.”

Pac-12 commissioner George Kliavkoff said he doesn’t expect a vaccine mandate to enter the equation. Chun said the university continues to “educate” all employees and students on the known facts of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Nick and I fully knew the second this went public, it was going to create a certain level of passion because of the issue that’s at play here,” Chun said. “Nick made a decision, we’re going to manage it and we’re going to go forward.”

Rolovich has been very active in the community and continues to support small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, running back Max Borghi said, offering a different perspective than some of the initial reaction to the decision.

“During the pandemic, he was helping small businesses,” said Borghi, representing the Cougars on Tuesday in L.A. “If a place was going to go out of business, he’d go buy 140 meals for the team from there. He’s truly a good guy, and he truly cares.”

Rolovich said he’s sensitive to becoming a distraction this season but appreciates the school supporting his right to make the decision.

“I don’t mean to cause any heartache to this university or to this athletic department or this state,” Rolovich said. “We do have an open line of communication.”

The Cougars are scheduled to host Utah State on Sept. 4 in the season opener.

–Field Level Media