Things couldn’t have gone much better for Washington State on Saturday afternoon in Tucson, Arizona.
Not only did it defeat Arizona 31-20 on the Pac-12 Networks, it also dominated the battle between the Cougars’ defense and the school’s former quarterback, Jayden de Laura.
In many ways.
All of it was brought to you by former Oregon Ducks receiver (and three-sport athlete) Jordan Kent, whose dad Ernie once coached the WSU basketball team, and former USC and Pittsburgh quarterback Max Browne.
What they saw
• They broadcasting duo set up the main narrative in the open, highlighting Arizona’s offense led by de Laura against the new Palouse Posse, the Cougars defense that thrives on tackles for loss and turnovers.
“Jayden de Laura is a special quarterback,” Browne said before the game began. He doubled up before the Wildcats’ first possession, which came with them trailing 7-0 about 4 minutes in.
“I really think he’s the most underrated quarterback in college football,” Browne said just before de Laura was pressured into an incompletion, was sacked on the second and had a short completion on his third play.
And it never really got much better.
Oh, de Laura threw for 357 yards. He completed 28 of 46 passes. He ran for the Wildcats’ (4-7, 2-6) first touchdown and threw for the second. That all seems, at the least, OK.
But the negatives were OK for the Cougars as well.
“They’re bringing their defense every week,” Browne said of the Cougars in the open and he was right, especially this week. The mark of Jake Dickert’s defense is forcing mistakes. It forced just enough from de Laura.
Four interceptions – three by Gonzaga Prep graduates – that led to 10 points – including Derrick Lankford’s 35-yard pick-six. Six tackles for loss, including two sacks and more than a handful of pressures. And no big runs from de Laura.
A Wildcats offense that came in among Pac-12 leaders put up yards but not enough points. At least not when it mattered.
• Did you know de Laura starred at Washington State (7-4, 4-4) before leaving for the desert?
If you didn’t, you certainly were aware before the game was even a minute old.
Browne and Kent mentioned it right off the top and four more times early on. Heck, much of the preview featured de Laura throwing passes wearing crimson.
To their credit, after mentioning it six times, the duo left it alone.
• Browne mentioned early that de Laura needed to avoid letting his emotions get out of control. That was something de Laura was unable to do.
It doesn’t take any time for a hot-headed mistake to make the rounds of social media. And when it is a former player from one school playing his old teammates, it’s bound to be shared often.
Last year’s Pac-12 offensive freshman of the year found that out.
After a miscommunication on a possible second-quarter touchdown pass, de Laura headed not to the sideline directly, but sought out Dorian Singer. He pushed the sophomore receiver who had been the target of de Laura’s errant pass.
He became a different type of target.
The quarterback went facemask to facemask with Singer. Then, as coach Jeff Fisch tried to intervene, de Laura pushed Singer again.
That lit a fuse. Singer pushed back, three coaches, including Fisch, tried to stop the confrontation, but de Laura and Singer continued to shove each other before being separated.
“That’s not what you want to see,” Browne understated. “Things getting chippy on the sideline.”
Boom, Twitter blew up. The video made the rounds quickly. Cougars fans reveled in the flare-up. Arizona fans metaphorically shook their head. And the game went on.
Fisch must have been able to smooth it over, however, as Singer went on to lead the Wildcats in receptions with nine, including de Laura’s 47-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown.
What we saw
• Cam Ward seemed like an afterthought heading into this one. In fact, the only narrative revolved around his taking de Laura’s place for the Cougars as opposed to his leadership of the 2022 WSU offense.
Which is what Ward did in this one.
The numbers favored his predecessor – except one or two. Actually three. The first is yards rushing. Ward rushed eight times, some scrambles but some, like his 17-yard second-quarter touchdown run, designed plays.
“You worry so much what this run game can do and … the receivers spreading you out, but you can’t forget about Cam Ward’s mobility,” Browne said.
The run game was keyed by Nakia Watson again, as the running back picked up 56 yards on 15 carries. But it was Ward who led the way with 59 yards.
“We talk a lot about Jaden de Laura, and rightfully so, but Cam Ward, when he’s playing at a high level, he’s doing much of the same,” Browne said.
The other stats in which Ward had an edge?
No interceptions, which should come has no surprise as he has just seven and only one in the past six games.
The other was the final score.
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