PULLMAN – Washington State’s situation at quarterback has turned into a guessing game.
There are three possibilities this weekend, according to Cougars coach Nick Rolovich.
If he’s healthy, Jayden de Laura will presumably be WSU’s first choice.
The dynamic sophomore is apparently still recovering from a leg injury sustained in the second quarter of the Cougs’ 45-14 loss to USC on Saturday.
In de Laura’s stead, grad transfer Jarrett Guarantano and junior Cammon Cooper have been splitting the first-team reps at practices this week.
“Camm and Jarrett have kind of been taking the majority of them,” Rolovich said Wednesday after a session at Gesa Field. “We’ll see what Jayden does.”
So, it’ll be anybody’s guess who starts at QB when WSU faces Pac-12 foe Utah on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. in Salt Lake City.
Take your pick.
De Laura, the returning starter from Hawaii, has shown immense progress this season in his command of the run-and-shoot offense and ability to inspire his teammates.
Guarantano, a 32-game starter at Tennessee over the past four years, is seeking a bounce-back.
Cooper is looking for a breakout after mostly living in obscurity on WSU’s sideline for three seasons.
It was somewhat surprising that Rolovich did not mention sophomore walk-on Victor Gabalis. The second-year coach opted to trot out Gabalis, rather than the other two – more experienced – reserves, in the second half against the Trojans, after de Laura’s injury.
Guarantano came out on top in the preseason QB competition, but hasn’t had a chance to show his full range of capabilities – he suffered an unspecified injury on a sack early in the second quarter of the Cougs’ Week 1 loss to Utah State.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder, who’s more of a pro-style signal-caller than de Laura, completed 8 of 13 passes for 56 yards and has not appeared since.
Guarantano didn’t play in the USC game despite being suited up. He probably could have been used in an emergency situation, Rolovich said, but hadn’t taken many “meaningful reps” at practices last week.
Cooper, a big-armed lefty with some sneaky athleticism, has never made a college start. He entered in relief roles in two games last season and completed 14 of 19 passes for 121 yards – Cooper replaced the injured de Laura in the fourth quarter of the Cougars’ 45-28 loss to Utah.
This season, the former four-star recruit out of Lehi, Utah – just south of Salt Lake – handed the ball off a few times in Week 1, then went 4 of 5 for 44 yards and threw an interception during a meaningless late possession vs. USC.
De Laura’s injury seemed to occur on WSU’s final play of the first half against the Trojans, when he was dragged down hard, knees first, after scrambling for a yard.
After the intermission, he had a brace on his left leg and was walking gingerly.
He appeared on three second-half plays, firing three passes well off target before being sidelined for good.
The pep vanished from the Cougs’ offense, which didn’t gain a yard in the third quarter while USC piled up 28 points and sailed ahead comfortably.
Aside from the QB position, Rolovich said the Cougars are “probably as healthy as we’ve been since we lined up on the first play (against) Utah State.”
Starting center Brian Greene, who suffered an injury early in Week 1, should make his return vs. Utah, Rolovich said.
Sophomore Konner Gomness has been starting in his place for a veteran offensive line that is tied for second to last in the conference with seven sacks allowed. Rolovich said the group is steadily improving as it grows more comfortable with reading and adjusting to the many unique configurations that opposing defenses dial up to combat the run-and-shoot.
Against a sound Utes defense, the pressure will be on a WSU offense that flopped in the second half last season at Utah and is now coming off a similar collapse.
The Cougs led 28-7 at halftime in their 2020 meeting with the Utes, then surrendered 38 unanswered points. USC outscored WSU 38-0 in the second half last weekend as well.
Under Rolovich, the Cougars have squandered double-digit leads in four losses.
“You gotta dam up the energy,” Rolovich said. “It’s happened a few times, where I need to start with myself and change how I do things, whether it’s in practice or those situations.
“I think there’s a feeling in a couple of those games. … You could feel the energy (shifting). It’s something I gotta be able to stop and get it going the right way.”
Arby’s sponsors Borghi
Fans have been imploring WSU to feed running back Max Borghi this year.
One fast-food chain complied.
The WSU star is one of four inaugural members of the “Arby’s RBs” program, which sponsors Division I running backs.
Borghi was featured alongside Ohio State’s TreVeyon Henderson, Auburn’s Shaun Shivers and Notre Dame’s Kyren Williams on a social media video posted Wednesday. Borghi sported a “10-gallon hat” – which serves as the Arby’s logo – and a hoodie plastered with roast beef graphics.
The senior from Colorado is making the most of name, image and likeness (NIL) opportunities. He partnered with Cameo in July and announced the opening of a merchandise shop earlier this week. Borghi apparel can be purchased at MaxBorghiShop.com.
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