PULLMAN – Washington State’s defense won’t be playing at full health against a high-powered Oregon offense.
Throughout the week, it was uncertain whether the Cougs’ starting strong safety and one of their top cornerbacks would be available for the team’s Pac-12 opener Saturday at home versus the 15th-ranked Ducks. When WSU took the field at Gesa Field, safety Jordan Lee was not suited up. But corner Chau Smith-Wade will return after suffering an injury last weekend.
Lee missed the Cougs’ win over Colorado State last weekend due to an injury sustained during a Week 2 victory at Wisconsin. Smith-Wade went down with an injury in the second half of WSU’s 38-7 win over the Rams on Sept. 17 in Pullman. Cougars coach Jake Dickert said earlier this week that he was “hopeful” the two would return, but “it’s not a definite.”
Lee, a senior Nevada transfer, showed impressive tackling abilities in his first two games as a Cougar, totaling nine tackles and two stops in the backfield. Smith-Wade is in the midst of a breakout season after holding down the No. 3 CB role for the Cougars last season. The first-year starter, a sophomore, has allowed just eight receptions this year. He is the Pac-12’s top-graded cornerback, according to Pro Football Focus’ performance metrics.
WSU is also playing without Christian Mejia, a senior defensive tackle who rotates into the lineup frequently. But it wasn’t an injury that kept Mejia off the field. His wife, Lajoie, went into labor this weekend, a school spokesman confirmed.
Mejia made 11 tackles and had half a sack in the Cougars’ first three games while sharing reps with four other DTs. Redshirt freshman David Gusta earned his first-career start Saturday in place of Mejia.
Backup left tackle Fa’alili Fa’amoe wore street clothes and watched the game from the sideline.
Veteran slot receiver Renard Bell exited the lineup in the second half against CSU, but returned for Saturday’s game against the Ducks and made catches of 24 and 15 yards on WSU’s first drive to spark a scoring possession.
Middle linebacker Travion Brown returned after missing the Cougars’ last game with an injury sustained against Wisconsin. Brown made two impressive tackles in the red zone on Oregon’s first possession to force a short field goal.
Standout Duck linebacker Justin Flowe and rotational running back Byron Cardwell have been limited because of injuries this season, but both returned to the Oregon lineup Saturday.
Gesa Field is playing host to a maxed-out crowd for the first time since 2019.
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