Don’t take your eyes off…
The country doesn’t know much about Jayden de Laura, but football fans everywhere have probably heard of a few of the quarterbacks who came from his high school, Saint Louis, in Honolulu. Jason Gesser, Darnell Arceneaux, Timmy Chang, Jeremiah Masoli, Marcus Mariota, Tua Tagovailoa and Chevan Cordeiro all came through the Crusaders’ pipeline, mastering the run-and-shoot offense Nick Rolovich has brought to Pullman. Like them, de Laura has a certain amount of moxie to his game, and he may the best runner the Cougars have had at the position in almost two decades. Maybe it’s a good omen that Drew Bledsoe, the first freshman quarterback in school history to get a start, beat the Beavers 55-24 in 1990.
When Washington State has the ball…
Rolovich is debuting the run-and-shoot, which has more than a few similarities to the Air Raid offense Washington State fans have become so accustomed to. But it’ll be different in some ways, too. The wide receivers have the ability to adjust their routes mid-play – a strategy that’s used to keep the defense guessing. The quarterback will be used as a runner, not necessarily to the degree he would in an offense like the triple-option, but Rolovich’s offense provides more tuck-and-run opportunities than Leach’s. The running back will be utilized in more of a traditional role, and less as a pass-catcher, while offensive linemen will revert to tighter splits than they were accustomed to in the Air Raid.
When Oregon State has the ball…
There’s some new and some old for the Beavers. Expect heavy doses of Jermar Jefferson, who has gashed the Cougars for 270 yards and six rushing touchdowns in two games. Jefferson is a ground-and-pound back, so the degree of progress of WSU’s rushing defense – which has been heavily prioritized by new defensive coordinator Jake Dickert – should be apparent in the first game. Oregon State, like WSU, may have to go through growing pains with a new starting quarterback, but Tristan Gebbia, who’s replacing Jake Luton, was once the country’s ninth-rated pro- style quarterback and spent one season at Nebraska before transferring to OSU.
Did you know?
It’s been 94 years since the Cougars played a seven-game schedule, going 6-1 in 1926, and Saturday’s game marks the latest regular season start since Nov. 26, 1918, when WSU beat Gonzaga 20-6. Rolovich has an opportunity to become the first WSU coach to win his debut since Bill Doba in 2003 (25-0 against Idaho in Seattle) and the first to win a debut on the road since Warren Powers in 1977 (19-10 at No. 15 Nebraska).
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