Washington State Cougars linebacker Daiyan Henley (1) intercepts a pass intended for Idaho Vandals wide receiver Jermaine Jackson (1) in the final moments of the second half of a college football game on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. WSU won the game 24-17. (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
PULLMAN – The latest installment of the Battle of the Palouse may have been a showing for what will be a dominant Washington State defense. It could be a statement that Jason Eck will lead Idaho back to Big Sky prominence.
If you’re a Cougar fan there’s one thing it wasn’t – impressive.
The Cougars opened their 2022 season with a 24-17 win over the rival Vandals at Gesa Field on Saturday. Jake Dickert took the field for the first time since being promoted from interim coach and WSU’s first two possessions resulted in fumbles.
Idaho returned one of those for a touchdown and jumped out to a 10-0 lead. It hadn’t scored more than six points in the previous two meetings between the two schools.
The newly unveiled “Coug Raid” offense with transfer quarterback Cameron Ward didn’t look the part of the one that put up points with ease under Mike Leach. WSU’s next two drives went three-and-out. Then a missed field goal.
Late in the second quarter the Cougars put together a successful drive, easing down the field for 80 yards over nine plays in 3:13 minutes.
All the while the WSU defense kept them in contention. A 42-yard heave removed and Idaho managed 57 yards in the first half. It tallied three sacks and intercepted Vandals QB Gevani McCoy to set up a 34-yard field goal by Dean Janikowski to tie the game at 10 points before halftime.
With Idaho unable to gain much on offense, the Cougars would surly put the Vandals away in the second half, right?
The Cougars scored on their first possession of the half, but then went punt-punt-fumble to give the Vandals the ball at midfield trailing 17-10. WSU’s defense came up again as Armani Marsh sacked McCoy for a 14 yard loss on a fourth down attempt.
Though a series of quick passes and screens freshman running back Jaylen Jenkins scored his first career touchdown on an 8-yard pass into the flat. But, Idaho came right back as the Cougars defense warped into a prevent shell and abandoned the blitz pressure that had been effective for most of the game.
The Vandals scored on a 23-yard pass from McCoy to Jordan Dwyer with just over six minutes left.
The Cougars offense did its part to put the game away this time, bleeding 5:04 off the clock on 11 plays and setting up Janikowski for a chip-shot 23-yard attempt from the left hash. He missed wide left.
Back into a prevent defense, Idaho marched down the field with under a minute remaining, until Daiyan Henley finally came away with an interception at the Cougars two-yard-line.
The end result was a win, but against an Football Championship Subdivision foe, Dickert and the Cougars won’t be happy with the way they played.
WSU has plenty of work to do before a Week 2 meeting with the Badgers in Madison, Wisconsin next Saturday.
15:00 – WSU 0, Idaho 0: The Jake Dickert and Jason Eck eras are officially underway for the Cougars and Vandals. WSU receives the opening kick and start on their own 25 after a fair catch.
13:19 – WSU 0, Idaho 0: Freshman running back Jenkins fumbles on his first collegiate carry, which is recovered by Idaho at the Vandals’ 27.
11:19 – WSU 0, Idaho 0: The Cougars defense swarms Idaho on three straight plays, forcing a 3-and-out and allowing zero yards. Cougars get the ball back quickly after the turnover.
11:11 – Idaho 7, WSU 0: Donovan Ollie fumbles a bubble screen and Marcus Harris takes it for six. Two quick turnovers for the Cougars put them in an early hole.
3:28 – Idaho 10, WSU 0: The Vandals convert a fourth-and-5 from near midfield with a 42-yard pass from McCoy to Jackson, but have to settle for a field goal after a false start on first down sets them back.
Racardo Chavez’s 27-yard kick is good.
00:00 – Idaho 10, WSU 0: The Vandals pick up another fourth down conversion to their own 42 yard line. Idaho takes advantage of WSU mistakes in the first quarter and convert in high-risk situations.
10:39 – Idaho 10, WSU 0: Dean Janikowski’s 51-yard field goal attempt is no good. Cougars have 117 yards of total offense, but are 1 of 5 on third down conversions.
3:13 – Idaho 10, WSU 7: Cameron Ward completes a 3-yard touchdown to 7th-year receiver Renard Bell to get on the board.
The Cougars finish off the 9-play 80-yard drive for its first points of the game. They’re outgaining Idaho 197-87.
2:15 – Idaho 10, WSU 7: Gevani McCoy’s pass is intercepted by Chau Smith-Wade at the Idaho 45, where the Cougars take over with a chance to take the lead before halftime.
0:06 – Idaho 10, WSU 10: Dean Janikowski converts a 34-yard field goal attempt to tie the game before halftime.
Fumbles on consecutive drives wouldn’t be the way coach Jake Dickert envisioned his non-interim debut to go.
Idaho scooped and scored early in the first quarter and stood stout on defense to take an early 10-point lead and go into halftime tied at 10 with Washington State in the first Battle of the Palouse since 2016.
Transfer quarterback Cameron Ward settled in the second quarter to lead a 9-play 80-yard scoring drive, where he completed his first touchdown pass at Gesa Field – a 3-yarder to 7th-year senior Renard Bell.
Ward finished the half 16 of 24 for 154 yards and a touchdown, as the Cougars out-gained the Vandals 229-87.
Yet, the Vandals and new head coach Jason Eck aren’t shying away from the spotlight. Idaho has two fourth down conversions and 18:09 minutes of possession to WSU’s 11:51.
Idaho will receive the second half kickoff.
10:46 – Idaho 10, WSU 10: Gevani McCoy’s fourth down pass is batted down by David Gusta and the Cougars will take over on their own 42.
Vandals are now 2 of 4 on fourth down conversions.
12:55 – WSU 17, Idaho 10: Cameron Ward fakes a toss right and finds De’Zhaun Stribling on a wheel route for a 13-yard touchdown.
The Cougars convert on 3rd-and-8 and have converted 4 of their last 5 third down attempts. The score punctuated an 8-play 58-yard drive that took 2:29 off the clock.
1:29 – WSU 17, Idaho 10: Cameron Ward’s third down pass is past the outstretched arms of Donovan Ollie and the Cougars will settle for a punt.
Both teams have traded four consecutive punts, as the heavy-favorite Cougars have been unable to pull away from their border rivals.
14:48 – WSU 17, Idaho 10: The Vandals force another fumble, their third of the game. This time Nakia Watson coughs it up at the Cougars’ 47 and its recovered by Fa’avae Fa’Avae.
11:40 – WSU 17, Idaho 10: Former Gonzaga Prep defensive back Armani Marsh comes flying off the edge on a blitz to sack Gevani McCoy for a loss of 14 on fourth-and-9 to the Idaho 39.
The Cougars defense has been the reason they’re still in the lead. They’ve allowed just 140 total yards, have six sacks and 10 tackles for loss.
10:33 – WSU 24, Idaho 10: Running back Jaylen Jenkins catches a flat out and scurries between two Vandals defenders to score an 8-yard touchdown from Cameron Ward.
Cougars utilized screens and quick passes to get their pass catchers into space and score on a 5-play 39-yard drive that took 1:07 off the clock.
6:05 – WSU 24, Idaho 17: The Vandals come up with their best drive of the game, carving the Cougars defense and scoring a 23-yard touchdown pass from Gevani McCoy to Jordan Dwyer.
Idaho marched 75 yards down the field in eight plays and took 4:28 minutes.
0:12 – WSU 24, Idaho 17: Daiyan Henley intercepts Gevani McCoy’s pass at the two yard line and the Cougars are going to survive.
PULLMAN – The Washington State Cougars and Idaho Vandals kick off their 2022 football seasons reigniting a historic and lopsided rivalry under first-year head coaches.
The Cougars are ranked No. 7 in the Pac-12 preseason poll under Jake Dickert, who took over as interim coach last year after Nick Rolovich was fired for refusing to comply with the state’s vaccine policy.
Dickert, along with new quarterback Cameron Ward and offensive coordinator Eric Morris from Incarnate Word, has high hopes for the 2022 season after securing an Apple Cup win and Sun Bowl berth last year.
The Vandals are ranked No. 9 in the Big Sky preseason poll under Jason Eck, who comes from South Dakota State where he was the Jackrabbits offensive coordinator for three years.
Idaho has struggled since returning to the Football Championship Subdivision in 2018, managing a 15-25 record and never finishing above fifth in the Big Sky.
The Cougars are 28-point favorites according to vegasinsider.com.
Players to watch
The Cougars and Vandals have met 91 times since the first Battle of the Palouse on Nov. 18, 1894 – the inaugural football season for the Washington Agricultural College – where the Cougars won 10-0 in Moscow. That year WSU played two games and lost to Spokane High School 18-0 on Nov. 18.
The Cougars have dominated the Battle of the Palouse rivalry, holding a 72-16-3 record over the Vandals. Saturday’s meeting will be the first since 2016 where WSU won 56-6.
Idaho last beat WSU in back-to-back seasons in 1999 and 2000. Since 1966 WSU is 23-2.
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