RENO, Nev. – It seems like it’s been a long time since Washington State fans first met Will Derting, and, in fact, a check of the calendar reveals that’s true.
It’s been 1,106 days since the linebacker from Okanogan, Wash., played his first game, and what a memorable game that was.
“Three interceptions, one for a touchdown,” recalled head coach Bill Doba, who on Aug. 31, 2002, was serving as Derting’s position coach and defensive coordinator.
That breakout game, the first of Derting’s redshirt freshman year, came against Nevada in WSU’s inaugural game at Qwest Field in Seattle. And it’s all these days later that Derting, playing the second game of his senior season, will see the Wolf Pack again, this time in Reno when the Cougars play Nevada at 7 tonight.
Now playing middle linebacker for a second season, not the outside spot he occupied as a freshman, Derting appears to be getting closer to the form that allowed his breakout three years ago. A dislocated wrist derailed Derting in his junior year, but 11 tackles last week – and even a notable improvement from the first half to the second half – all suggest that the senior could be poised for another big day against the Wolf Pack.
“We’ll see. God, that was years ago,” Derting said, thinking back to his first collegiate game. “It doesn’t even seem like … it just came out of the woodwork, you know? I don’t remember a lot of it. Everything was going so fast.
“(But) I remember the touchdown. I remember just being on my guy and the quarterback just kept throwing me the ball. It was like, ‘All right.’ And then I ran that one all the way back. I was tired after that. Coach Doba had to take me out.”
That touchdown came on a 98-yard interception return, still the longest in WSU history. This time around, Nevada will try to avoid Derting with a new look on offense that should still feature lots of short passes.
The Wolf Pack are also trying to rebound from a poor defensive effort in 2004, though that will be difficult given the loss of starters J.J. Milan at outside linebacker and Paul Pratt at cornerback to injuries.
Even though Nevada is sporting a new coaching staff since last seeing WSU, plus a host of new starters on the field, there’s no doubt the home team tonight will keep close watch on the Cougars’ man in the middle.
And the chances of Derting getting three more interceptions?
“I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said. “If I get one, I’ll be happy.”
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.