1. What has the fanbase been like towards Nick Rolovich this season before and after his firing?
CC: Rolovich’s stance has certainly caused a pretty large schism to form between fans who supported him and those that didn’t. Personally, I was most miffed by the fact that Rolovich at least ostensibly had to know that we were always going to get to the point where the vaccine would be required or he’d lose his job. His constant refusal to clarify his stance on it or speak about the topic further was equally maddening. In the intervening days since his dismissal, Rolovich certainly still has his most ardent supporters who have withdrawn donations over his firing or are publicly supporting a potential lawsuit against the university, but my feeling is most of the people who most strongly supported him will gradually return to their full throated fandom of WSU. It didn’t help Rolovich that his “cache” so to speak of built up goodwill was extremely thin, be it right or wrong that a coach can get more of it by winning, so he was largely without a leg to stand on once everything went down, especially after we learned his exemption request had been flatly denied by the HR committee that blindly reviewed it.
2. How have the players responded since Rolovich’s firing? Will the team be able to properly prep for BYU?
The players were certainly disappointed, and they had every right to be. The super seniors in this class have dealt with an incredible amount of pain in their time at WSU, including the death of two teammates, the departure of their previous coach and now the firing of this one. Rolovich seemed to be very well liked by his players so any anger or frustration is totally understandable, especially when this happened as a result of something completely out of their control. But, they seem to have rallied around one another and interim coach Jake Dickert (starting QB Jayden de Laura’s statement on Twitter even said they know no one is bigger than the program) and they appear to be ready to move forward and try to get bowl eligible, something not too many folks thought was possible prior to the season starting. Whether they can prep properly remains to be seen. The school indicated they’d be hiring some assistants to replace the four along with Rolovich that were fired but that’s yet to happen. Most of the defensive staff is still in place and one of the co-offensive coordinators, Brian Smith, is also still around.I’m worried more about that side of the ball with half their coaching staff missing, frankly. We know they’ll be amped up to play ... but that doesn’t always equal playing well.
3. What are Wazzu’s biggest strengths?
Their passing game. The leaps and bounds Jayden de Laura has made just in the last few weeks as the quarterback have ben frankly astounding. He’s not nearly as reckless with the football, he’s connecting on deep passes and he avoids pressure better than any quarterback I’ve seen at WSU maybe besides Gardner Minshew. If he can get the ball to his receivers in space, they are extremely talented at picking up an additional 5-10 yards. Max Borghi also anchors the rushing attack with Deon McIntosh likely out with an injury and he returned to WSU for this season despite whispers of a decent NFL Draft grade. Defensively, the edge rushers on this team have also followed a similar “get way better seemingly out of nowhere” path. Ron Stone Jr. continues to be robbed of weekly conference honors by his own teammate, Brennan Jackson and both will be disruptive in the BYU backfield.
4. Where does Wazzu struggle most?
Consistency. WSU had struggled to deal with in game adversity at all before the middle part of this season but they’re still maddeningly inconsistent on both sides of the ball at times. They let Stanford get up 13-0 ... then scored 20 straight ... then let Stanford retake the elad in the fourth quarter ... before driving quickly and scoring the game winning touchdown. They’re earning any “cardiac kids” nickname or variation thereof they might get.
5. What worries you most about BYU?
Mobile quarterbacks! This seems to be a bug-a-boo for the Cougs no matter who the coach is, what year it is, who’s in the White House, whatever. It’s as consistent as the tides: WSU will have trouble with quarterbacks that can move. Jaren Hall getting out in space scares the bejesus out of me because WSU’s defense is juuuuuuuuust undisciplined enough to chase after him and leave someone open. They’ve gotten much better at maintaining gap integrity and playing assignment football but a quarterback that can move will always be worrisome.
6. What’s your score prediction for this game?
Man, it’s just so hard to know what team is going to come out of that tunnel on Saturday. Can their anger and motivation help them pummel BYU? Can they respond well if BYU takes an early lead? This situation is so unlike anything we;ve ever seen before, I just frankly don’t know for sure. What I am going to bank on though is Jayden de Laura being the leader he appears to have become in just the last few weeks and he’s going to do his darndest to keep the team motivated and focused along with the interim staff. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say 31-21 Washington State.