Game location: Martin Stadium- Pullman, WA
Game time/channel: 3:30 PM ET/FS1
Spread: -4.5 (BYU)
Head coach: VACANT
That has been the story of the week around college football. Former head coach Nick Rolovich was dismissed, along with four of his assistants, for failing to comply with the state of Washington’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for state employees. Rolovich is reportedly suing the school over his termination. This will be Washington State’s first game without Rolovich roaming the sidelines.
Taking over as interim coach is defensive coordinator Jake Dickert. This is his second season as defensive coordinator in Pullman, as he arrived with Rolovich ahead of the 2020 season. Previously, Dickert was the defensive coordinator for Wyoming.
2021 Season Thus Far
Before the firing of Rolovich rocked the campus, the Cougars were on a three-game winning streak.
WAZZU started out 1-3, being upset at home by Utah State top open the year and losing to USC and Utah. Then things started to turn around as they defeated Cal on the road, beginning their three-game winning streak that also included Oregon State and Stanford.
Against Stanford, the Cougars were down 13-0 in the first quarter. They battled back, thanks to two Stanford turnovers and three touchdown passes from quarterback Jayden de Laura. They took the lead late in the fourth quarter on a touchdown run by running back Max Borghi. The defense stood tall and stopped a last-minute comeback attempt by the Cardinal, sealing the big home win.
The Cougars currently sit in third place in the PAC-12 North division, behind Oregon and Oregon State. They still control their own destiny within the division.
2021 Team Rankings
Scoring offense: 87th
Total offense: 84th
Passing yards: 42nd
Rushing yards: 114th
Scoring defense: 71st
Total defense: 81st
Pass yards allowed: 86th
Rush yards allowed: 81st
Penalty yards: 57th
Other notable stat- Giveaways per game
Washington State ranks 102nd in giveaways per game. BYU needs to take advantage of the Cougars’ knack for turning the ball over. WAZZU has had at least one turnover in every game except their win against Stanford, even against Portland State.
Biggest Strength- Pass offense
Jayden de Laura took over after Tennessee-transfer Jarrett Guarantano went down with an injury. WAZZU has not looked back, as de Laura has impressed, tossing for at least three touchdowns in four of his six games this year. In wins against Oregon State and Stanford, he tossed for a combined 688 yards and six touchdowns.
He is 17th in the country with 15 touchdown passes.
Two Washington State receivers have amassed over 400 receiving yards thus far. Calvin Jackson Jr. leads the way with 476 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 12.9 yards per reception. Just behind him is Travell Harris at 465 yards.
Biggest Weakness- Pass defense
Washington State, as usual, lives and dies by the pass, both on offense and defense. In a losing effort, Stanford quarterback Tanner McKee completed 71.9 percent of his passes for 273 yards against WAZZU.
Earlier in the season, USC quarterback Jaxson Dart passed for 391 yards and four touchdowns as the Trojans destroyed the Cougars in Pullman 45-14.
Jaren Hall and BYU should be able to move the ball through the air, especially with weapons like Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua at receiver.
Best Player- Max Borghi, RB
Borgi was a preseason First Team All-PAC 12 selection. That looks to be validated as he is WAZZU’s current leading rusher at 421 yards with five rushing touchdowns. He is a do-everything kind of running back, who can do damage in the passing game as well. This year, he has six catches for 54 yards.
In 2019, he accumulated a whopping 1,414 yards from scrimmage, including 817 rushing yards and 597 yards through the air.
He will be everywhere on Saturday. BYU’s defense needs to always account for where No. 21 in red is at all times.
How BYU Can Win
Obviously, BYU needs to avoid turnovers. BYU lost three fumbles against Boise State and another crucial one against Baylor. On the road against a PAC 12 opponent, BYU needs to take care of the ball.
BYU’s formula for winning any football game is being physical in the trenches and wearing teams down with the likes of Tyler Allgeier. In the last two games, BYU has been beaten at their own game. The big question will be whether or not the Cougars remedied the nagging issues in the trenches on both sides of the ball. If they have, it looks like they should be able to run on WAZZU, who ranks 81st in rushing yards allowed per game and 98th in yards per carry allowed.
At this point, it’s a matter of coaching and preparation.