Thursday, December 08, 2022
25.0°F

Cougs look to win down the stretch

by IAN BIVONA
Sports Reporter | November 3, 2022 3:32 PM

PULLMAN – Beginning the season 4-1, the Washington State Cougars have dropped their previous three games and now are forced to scratch and claw their way to a second-straight bowl-eligible season.

“Everybody’s fighting for those last bowl eligibility spaces, and we’re one of them,” WSU Head Coach Jake Dickert said. “Stanford’s fighting their tail off, ASU, Arizona, that other school on the other side of the state – everyone wants those spots,” WSU head coach Jake Dickert said at a press conference Monday.

The Cougs are 4-4 after last Thursday’s 21-17 home loss to No. 14 Utah, a game where backup quarterback Bryson Barnes led the Utes to a win in Pullman. Down by 14 in the fourth quarter, WSU was able to put 10 points on the board with a seven-yard touchdown run by quarterback Cameron Ward and a 42-yard field goal but was unable to take the lead.

“We got to stop having negative plays,” Dickert said. “Penalties, holding calls, negative runs, negative screens. Utah out-physicaled us on the perimeter by a mile.”

Even against a middle-of-the-road Utah run defense the Cougars were only able to manage 42 rush yards on 19 carries. The performance follows 23 rushing yards against Oregon State on Oct. 15 and is the fifth game with under 100 rushing yards this season. Dickert said that there has been an emphasis on establishing the run.

“Really it depends on game flow, but right now it’s not enough,” Dickert said. “We’re not establishing the run enough… Some of it is called runs and we throw RPOs. There’s a lot that goes into that, but we really want to up that number so people have to come down and respect us running the football.”

During the three-game losing streak, the defense had given opportunities to the offense to keep WSU in games. The Cougar defense’s 20.8 points allowed per game tops the Pac-12 this season, though they have only forced 11 turnovers in eight games this season.

“I think we have the capabilities to be dominant and win some games (defensively),” Dickert said. “We haven’t been able to generate the takeaways, I mean you look at the in-conference stats, I think we only have three in those five games.”

WSU’s three losses have all come against AP Top 25 teams, facing off against No. 7 USC and No. 12 Utah. Oregon State later cracked the top 25 this week.

“These last three weeks have been tough, we lost to some pretty good teams,” defensive lineman Amir Mujahid said. “Our mindset going in is really just 1-0 each and every day.”

To begin the final third of the season, WSU travels to Stanford for a matchup with the 3-5 Cardinal.

“When you look at Stanford’s offense you think of all these big bodies and fullbacks, that’s no more,” Dickert said. “That’s not what they do anymore. You’re gonna watch this Stanford team and it is a completely different deal.”

The Coug offense will look to get back on schedule against a Stanford defense that has allowed 34.3 points per game against Pac-12 teams.

“We just have to play our game,” guard Christian Hilborn said. “Just got to stay in front of the chains, that’s been a big emphasis. Having positive plays, can’t get negative plays. Positive plays are definitely a big thing we need to work on.”

Of WSU’s four remaining opponents, only one team has a winning record – the rival Washington Huskies, which the Cougars will host on Nov. 26.

“We have four amazing opportunities against four teams – they want the same things we do,” Dickert said. “Stanford’s fighting their tail off to extend their season. There’s two dogs and one piece of meat out there on Saturday. We gotta go take it.”

Kickoff against Stanford is at 12:30 p.m.

“Opportunity is everything in life, it is,” Dickert said. “The moment you don’t have opportunities, that’s when sometimes you really get tested. This team has an opportunity.”

Ian Bivona may be reached at ibivona@columbiabasinherald.com.

photo

AP PHOTO/YOUNG KWAK

WSU Quarterback Cameron Ward drops back to pass against Utah on Oct. 27. The Cougar offense has struggled to put points on the board during their three-game losing streak.

photo

AP PHOTO/YOUNG KWAK

The Washington State rushing attack has struggled in its previous two games, rushing for 23 yards against Oregon State and 42 yards against Utah.

Recent Headlines