In the first game of the Nick Rolovich era in Pullman, the Washington State Cougars knocked off the Oregon State Beavers 38-28. Last year, this matchup saw a combined 107 points with the Cougars just barely edging out the Beavers. This year, however, you could truly see it was a new era under a new coaching staff for the Cougars. It was a game that many Washington State fans will find quite refreshing after the last few years.
Rolovich Era Begins For Washington State
The New Run And Shoot Offense
The last few years under Mike Leach saw this team throwing the ball a lot more than the vast majority of their Pac-12 counterparts. During Leach’s run, the Cougars were averaging a little over 55 pass attempts per game. The offense threw the ball just 33 times this week. Similarly, during the Leach era, Washington State averaged just above 21 rushing attempts per game. This weekend, they ran it 30 times. It made for a much more balanced offense that looked much more effective as a result. The new more balanced attack looked incredibly dangerous moving forward and could be a potential threat in the Pac-12 this season.
The Missing Players
With a heavier emphasis on running than in the past, there was an obvious missing piece. Max Borghi was named an All-Pac-12 First Team player in the preseason. However, Borghi did not make the trip to Corvallis. Meanwhile, redshirt senior Deon McIntosh ran for 144 yards and a TD in the absence. Borghi was also not the only player who missed the game. In his postgame press conference, Coach Rolovich stated that there were “32 guys unavailable right now.” Rolovich chose to not go into details as to whether anything was Covid-related, who was unavailable, or if there were any major injuries. He continued on to say that if “a couple bad things had happened this week” he was not sure if they would have been able to play this game.
The True Freshman Quarterback
Jayden de Laura made his college debut with a splash. The true freshman is from Saint Louis High School in Honolulu, Hawaii. Saint Louis High School was also the alma mater of Tua Tagovailoa, Marcus Mariota, and Timmy Chang. De Laura’s debut shows promise that his name might one day join the trio when talking about some of the greatest Hawaiian quarterbacks of all time.
The quarterback threw the ball 33 times, completing 18 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. There were some things to work on, like running with the ball held low, but overall, it is all you could hope for from a true freshman making their debut with no summer practices. In addition to his throws, de Laura also ran for a touchdown in the game.
During Leach’s time in Pullman, the Cougars averaged 30.5 points allowed against FBS opponents. This week at the half, the Cougars had only allowed 7 points in the first two quarters. While 28 seems like just a minor improvement, a closer look says otherwise. Fourteen of those points were scored with the Cougars up three scores with less than 10 minutes left. It was essentially garbage time, although it made the game a bit more stressful for Washington State fans. Overall, the defensive looked more cohesive during the whole game and appeared to be stronger than they have been in previous years.
This was the first time the Cougars won their conference opener since 2017. It is also the seventh straight win against the Beavers for Washington State. This game looked like a whole new Cougars team on both sides of the ball. This is even more impressive considering the short time they had to get everything into place.
Jayden de Laura certainly looked like a true freshman at times. However, he also looked like a legitimate Power Five quarterback at other times. Cleaning up the little things could make de Laura a threat to defenses around the Pac-12.
The rushing attack could also be very beneficial to the Cougars this season and McIntosh and de Laura continue to run well. If Washington State gets Borghi back in the coming weeks, that makes this team even more dangerous.
Next weekend will provide the first major test of the season for Rolovich and Washington State. The Cougars will host their first game of the season as the #11 Oregon Ducks come to town. Oregon is coming off of a 35-14 win over the Stanford Cardinal and will be looking to keep things going as a playoff hopeful, as they head to Martin Stadium.