Arrow-right Camera
Subscribe now

WSU edges Brennan Jackson and Ron Stone Jr. shine, like they always have in Apple Cup loss to UW

Washington State defensive ends Ron Stone Jr. and Brennan Jackson react during the second half of Saturday’s Pac-12 game at Husky Stadium in Seattle.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

SEATTLE – The dap sounded like someone dropped a popper firework in the hallway. It came from Ron Stone Jr. and Brennan Jackson, Washington State’s edge rushers, the duo that had to share a moment between their media conferences Saturday night after their group’s loss to No. 4 Washington.

As Jackson exited and Stone entered, the two gave a quick embrace. Jackson took his hand off the ice pack under his jacket to high-five Stone.

If it seemed like a poetic moment, maybe it was. In their final game in crimson and gray, Jackson and Stone went out as they built their careers, wrecking the game in the backfield and swinging momentum by generating pressure.

Jackson finished with one sack. Stone finished with enough pressures to force Michael Penix Jr. into several untimely misses.

“That was our game plan, was to make him uncomfortable back there,” Jackson said. “I think throughout the game, he felt our presence more and more and more, and then those passes were a little off target, off the marks. And obviously, he’s a great player, so it was important that we had to get him rattled.”

Washington State’s success or failure, at least on defense, always hinged on Jackson and Stone’s outings. If they could get pressure, they could relieve some pressure on their secondary, which had its hands full with some of the country’s best receivers. If not, they were setting their defense up for a long day, letting Penix sit back and dice up the Cougars.

The former unfolded, not because Jackson and Stone sacked Penix a bunch, but because they made him think about the possibility. It started as early the second quarter, when on a third-down play, Jackson and Stone squeezed the pocket, forcing Penix to throw off his back foot and sail one over the head of receiver Germie Bernard.

Penix’s final numbers were 18-for-33 passing for 204 yards, two scores and one interception. This was just the second time all season he’s connected on 54% or fewer of his throws. He also carded a quarterback rating of 52.5, his second lowest of the season.

His lowest mark was a 33.6 figure in his team’s win over Arizona State last month, when the Sun Devils bothered him enough in the pass-rushing department to prompt some costly misfires. The Cougars took that game plan and made it theirs.

“We didn’t change anything just for these tackles,” Stone said of UW’s offensive line, which had permitted just seven sacks headed into this matchup. “We knew they were gonna be good, but we knew we were also very good players as well. So we just attacked them like we usually do.”

Then there was the roughing the passer penalty against Stone, a critical call. It came on UW’s final drive. With a minute to play, the Huskies facing a first-and-10 from the WSU 42, Penix dropped back and completed a short pass to running back Dillon Johnson over the middle.

Officials called a roughing the passer penalty on Stone, who they ruled hit Penix a beat too late, a 15-yard foul that moved UW up to the WSU 27. Six plays later, the Huskies walked it off with a field goal.

“I think it’s a (poor) call at the wrong time. I do,” WSU coach Jake Dickert said. “And I gotta see it (on tape). But live and in color, I don’t quite know if it warranted that, but I gotta see what it says.”

“If thought it was gonna be roughing the passer, I obviously wouldn’t have hit him,” Stone said. “I know the situation of the game. I pride myself in being a bit of a savvy player. I have no control over the call. Maybe looking back, I don’t do it. Maybe looking back, if it happened again, I probably do it again.

“I think that was the situation that it was in, and I didn’t think it was late hit, but obviously I’m not the one with the flag in my hand. I think it was bad call, but I was also involved with it.”

This is the kind of thoughtfulness fans have come to expect from Stone and Jackson, who might be remembered for their personalities as much as their performances. They might not feel entirely satisfied with the ones they submitted Saturday night. But their club might have fared much worse without them.