What is it? The Washington State Cougars (4-3), riding a three-game winning streak but coming off a disconcerting week that saw coach Nick Rolovich lose his job, plays their first game under interim boss Jake Dickert when they host a slumping opponent in the BYU Cougars (4-2).
Where is it? Gesa Field in Pullman.
When is it? Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
Where can I watch it? Fox Sports 1 will carry the broadcast.
Who is favored? BYU opened as the favorite, by one point.
How did they fare last week? WSU surged back from a 13-0 first-quarter deficit against Stanford to take an 11-point lead in the third quarter before the Cardinal went ahead again, midway through the fourth quarter. The Cougs scored on a 70-yard drive with 1:30 on the clock to prevail 34-31 in thrilling fashion – their fifth win in a row over Stanford. WSU’s players swarmed Rolovich and gave him a Gatorade shower to celebrate the coach’s finale at WSU. No. 19 BYU dropped out of the AP Top 25 after suffering a 38-24 loss at Baylor, which rushed for 303 yards and was ahead comfortably for most of the day.
Why WSU will win: The Cougars lost their head coach Monday because of his refusal to comply with a state COVID-19 vaccination mandate. They will be playing under an interim coach, and with a short-handed staff – four WSU assistants were also let go. But the players have begun to turn this bizarre situation into a rallying cry. They are imploring their fans to pack Gesa Field on Saturday. WSU is on a roll, and it’s not unusual for teams facing adverse situations to unite and play with spirit. BYU, meanwhile, is regressing, coming off back-to-back double-digit losses. The visiting Cougars have been turnover prone in the past two games (five) and ineffective in stopping the run. WSU ranks third in the nation with 16 takeaways. Although WSU’s offense is without its coach and play-caller, quarterback Jayden de Laura is talented enough to carry the torch. He’s playing the best ball of his career. De Laura leads the Pac-12 with 15 passing touchdowns, and in the past two games, he has thrown for 688 yards and six touchdowns against one interception on a 64.4% completion rate.
Why BYU will win: It is also distinctly possible that WSU’s coaching disorder leads to on-field disarray – on offense, especially. BYU already owns three Pac-12 wins this year. Its quarterback platoon between Jaren Hall and Baylor Romney has apparently ended, with the elusive, big-armed Hall being listed as the starter on BYU’s pregame notes package. BYU ranks 25th in the FBS in QB efficiency, so either option has been solid. Its offense, which has scored on 92% of red-zone trips, is exceedingly balanced, with running back Tyler Allgeier (670 yards) ranking in the top 25 in most national stat categories for rushing. The Cougars defeated Utah and Utah State by comfortable margins. Both of those teams topped an improved WSU team earlier this year.
What happened last time? The two Cougar teams have met four times, most recently in 2012, when host BYU breezed to a 30-6 win in Mike Leach’s WSU debut. The visiting Cougars, led by quarterback Jeff Tuel, were held to 224 yards of total offense. BYU’s backup quarterback, Taysom Hill, threw a touchdown on his first collegiate pass. BYU is 3-1 versus WSU all time. The most memorable meeting between the two programs came in the 1981 Holiday Bowl. QB Jim McMahon led BYU to a 38-36 victory in his final college game.
Things to know
1. WSU’s edge rushers have clearly become one of the Pac-12’s most disruptive groups. Over the past three weeks, the Coug edges have combined for eight sacks. Junior Brennan Jackson posted a sack in each of the three games, tallying two Oct. 2 at Cal. Stone pocketed a sack in wins against Stanford, Oregon State and Cal. On the Cardinal’s last-ditch drive Saturday, Stone dragged Stanford QB Tanner McKee down for a sack, then reserve edge Quinn Roff burst off the edge on the ensuing play for another. He stripped the ball away from McKee and Jackson recovered to ice the game. Stone ranks second in the Pac-12 in sacks (four) and tackles for loss (8.5). Jackson pulled in his second Pac-12 Defensive Lineman of the Week award Monday for his performance against Stanford. He earned the same award for his showing at Cal.
2. BYU’s roster features a pair of brothers from Spokane. Sophomore Clark Barrington is the Cougars’ starting left guard. He has played in 27 career college games since graduating from University High in 2016. He traveled to Uganda on a Latter-day Saints mission after graduation. His younger brother, Campbell, is a freshman offensive lineman who has not appeared in a game. He signed with BYU as part of the 2018 recruiting class before serving a church mission in Mexico.
3. Rolovich had the finest game of his QB career against BYU, throwing for 543 yards and eight touchdowns to lead Hawaii to a 72-25 win over the undefeated Cougars in 2001.
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