Nov 19, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (9) waves to fans while walking to the locker room following a 54-7 victory against the Colorado Buffaloes at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 13 Washington, rival Washington State vie for Apple Cup

Washington State ended a seven-game skid in the Apple Cup last season and looks to upend the season of No. 13 Washington when the fierce rivals meet in Pac-12 play on Saturday night at Pullman, Wash.

The Huskies (9-2, 6-2 Pac-12) still have an outside chance of reaching the conference title game but a loss would end that pursuit.

Washington enters with a five-game winning streak but first-year coach Kalen DeBoer has noticed a coveted piece of hardware is missing.

“We definitely don’t have that trophy in our trophy case right now,” DeBoer said. “I know that it means a lot. It is one of those two games that all of Husky Nation circles each year and we are looking forward to having a great week. I think that we are playing for a lot of stuff, it is not just that trophy.”

DeBoer has set the school record for most victories by a first-year coach and he was rewarded Tuesday with a contract extension through the 2028 season. His salary for next season was increased by $1 million to $4.2 with annual $100,000 raises to follow.

A big part of Washington’s rise is due to the stellar season put together by Indiana transfer quarterback Michael Penix Jr.

Penix leads the nation with 3,869 passing yards, which ranks second in school history behind Cody Pickett’s 4,458 yards in 2002. Penix has tossed 26 touchdowns against six interceptions.

Penix passes praise around in the same manner as his 66.7 completion percentage.

“My season wouldn’t be possible without this team,” Penix said. “I don’t really talk about just myself in general. It’s always about this team because team success would definitely put light on individual success.”

“At the end of the day, no matter what you do as an individual, if your team isn’t winning it’s no good.”

Washington State (7-4, 4-4) has won three straight as it looks to beat the Huskies in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2007-08.

The Cougars have won just six of the past 23 Apple Cups but put on a dominating show last season when they won 40-13 in Seattle. Washington State intercepted four passes and held Washington to just 200 yards.

“I thought they played free,” Cougars coach Jake Dickert said of the impressive win. “I thought that’s a big thing in a rivalry game, in a perceived big moment. Guys got to go cut it loose and be themselves and have fun and understand it’s going to be a little chippy. … Enjoy the moment. Be present in it.”

This is the first Apple Cup for Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward, who has passed for 2,772 yards, 21 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season.

While he said he is eager to add his name to the list of quarterbacks who won the Apple Cup, he also insisted Saturday’s matchup isn’t any bigger than any other game.

“There is a lot of energy around the building,” Ward said. “For me specifically, it’s just another game. I try to approach each and every game the same. This game has a bigger tag and has bigger history behind it and we want to win it for Washington State and all the Cougs out there.”

Washington State ranks 23rd in scoring defense at 19.8 points per game with star linebacker Daiyan Henley (102 tackles, 12 for losses) leading the way.

–Field Level Media

Nov 19, 2022; Tucson, Arizona, USA; Washington State Cougars celebrate a touchdown against the Arizona Wildcats during the second half at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Washington State gives former QB Jayden de Laura, Arizona a hard time in win

Derrick Langford scored on a 35-yard interception return and Sam Lockett III picked off two passes as Washington State eliminated Arizona from bowl eligibility with a 31-20 victory Saturday in Tucson, Ariz.

The Cougars (7-4, 4-4 Pac-12) finished with four interceptions — all in the second half — as they won the showdown against former WSU quarterback Jayden de Laura. Arizona (4-7, 2-6) actually outgained Washington State 441-354, but much of that advantage came late in the game. The Wildcats didn’t reach the end zone until the fourth quarter after trailing 31-6.

Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward, whose transfer from Incarnate Word prompted de Laura to leave for Arizona, completed 25 of 36 passes for 193 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. His legs were key, too, as he carried eight times for 59 yards and a touchdown.

De Laura completed 28 of 46 passes for 357 yards and a touchdown to go along with the four interceptions. Dorian Singer caught nine passes for 176 yards, including a 47-yard TD with 1:16 to go.

The Cougars, who entered with the top-ranked scoring defense in the conference, led 21-6 at halftime and made the first big play of the second half when Lockett returned an interception 31 yards to the Arizona 19. WSU moved inside the 1-yard-line but settled for a 23-yard field goal with 4:45 left in the third quarter.

Langford’s pick-six came on the next possession, and Lockett’s second interception came on a diving grab to stop a drive at the WSU 4. Armani Marsh made the final interception with 3:51 left in the game when he grabbed a tipped pass at the WSU 46.

Arizona failed to score in the first quarter for the first time this season and twice turned the ball over on downs in the first 19 minutes. Washington State went up 14-0 with 9:06 to go in the half when Ward kept on a run-pass option and scooted untouched for a 17-yard touchdown.

–Field Level Media

Nov 12, 2022; Pullman, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars running back Nakia Watson (25) carries the ball n for a score against Arizona State Sun Devils defensive back Jordan Clark (1) in the first half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Wazzu holds on to snuff Arizona St., 28-18

Nakia Watson rushed for 116 yards and three touchdowns, and host Washington State’s defense smothered Arizona State until late in the game in its 28-18 win Saturday in Pullman, Wash.

The Cougars (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) gained bowl eligibility with their sixth win.

Washington State quarterback Cam Ward completed 22 of 37 passes for 219 yards and one touchdown. The Cougars amassed 356 total yards to 333 for the Sun Devils, who didn’t reach triple digits until the midpoint of the third quarter.

Xazavian Valladay ran for 134 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries, but Arizona State (3-7, 2-5) had little passing to help him out until it was too late.

Quarterback Trenton Bourguet, who was making his third start after taking over for Emory Jones, completed just 3 of 10 passes for 26 yards, often under heavy pressure. Bourguet left with a leg injury late in the second quarter and was replaced by Jones, who went 15-of-23 passing for 186 yards and two touchdowns.

It was Valladay’s sixth 100-yard effort this season and the 20th of his career in 49 games. He added another 55 yards on six catches.

The Cougars took a lopsided 28-0 lead into halftime, but the Sun Devils tried to make it a game late in the third quarter. Jones connected with Jaylin Conyers for a 47-yard pass play to break the shutout with 51 seconds left in the quarter.

About midway through the fourth, Jones missed an open receiver in the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 7, but Valladay capped a four-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run with 4:10 left to play to make it 28-12.

The Sun Devils capitalized when the Cougars failed to convert a fourth-and-1 with just over two minutes left at the Arizona State 37. A 35-yard pass to Valladay set up a 9-yard scoring toss to Elijhah Badger to make it a 28-18 game.

Watson had a 22-yard burst late in the second quarter to set up his third touchdown, a career high, and the Cougars’ fourth of the day. He capped the 13-play, 75-yard drive with a 2-yard run, and Dean Janikowski’s second extra point made it 28-0.

Earlier, Watson scored from 2 yards out with 6:31 left in the first quarter, and again on a 5-yard rush with 7:43 left in the second. In between, Ward underhanded a pass, barely more than a handoff, to receiver Leyton Smithson as he went by on a sweep for a 2-yard score late in the first.

–Field Level Media

Nov 5, 2022; Stanford, California, USA; Washington State Cougars wide receiver Leyton Smithson (89) celebrates with wide receiver Tsion Nunnally (4) after scoring a touchdown against the Stanford Cardinal during the first quarter at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Nakia Watson helps Washington State trounce Stanford

Washington State scored following three fumbles in the first half and Nakia Watson rushed for 166 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in the Cougars’ 52-14 win Saturday over host Stanford in Pac-12 play.

The Cougars (5-4, 2-4 Pac-12) ended a three-game losing streak with the victory.

Stanford (3-6, 1-6) has lost two straight games after recently beating Notre Dame and Arizona State in consecutive weeks.

Washington State, which ran for a season-high 306 yards, scored touchdowns on their first three possessions to build a 21-7 lead before taking advantage of Stanford’s fumbling problems.

Jaden Hicks recovered a fumble by Stanford running back Ashton Daniels and returned it 17 yards for a touchdown to increase the lead to 28-7 with 8:06 left in the second quarter.

Stanford’s Elijah Higgins fumbled on a 22-yard pass play from Tanner McKee in the Cardinal’s next possession. Chau Smith-Wade recovered it at the Washington State 38-yard line.

The Cougars drove for a touchdown in 11 plays, culminating on Cameron Ward’s 9-yard pass to Donovan Ollie on a fourth-and-3 play with 2:09 left in the second quarter.

Three plays into Stanford’s next possession, Benjamin Yurosek fumbled while making a 12-yard reception.

Daiyan Henley recovered the ball for Washington State, which took over at the Stanford 41 after Henley’s 11-yard return.

Watson followed with a touchdown run on the next play, increasing Washington State’s lead to 42-7 with 59 seconds left in the half.

Stanford opened the second half with a 74-yard, seven-play drive ending with Ashton Daniels’ 2-yard run.

The Cardinal could not build momentum after that possession, following with two consecutive three-and-out possessions and a turnover on downs.

With the game in hand, Ward was replaced at the start of the fourth quarter by backup John Mateer.

Ward completed 16 of 32 pass attempts for 176 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Mateer engineered a touchdown drive on his first series, finishing with a 27-yard pass to Orion Peters with 11:17 left.

McKee passed for 236 yards while completing 23 of 40 attempts with no touchdowns or interceptions.

The Cardinal rushed for 71 yards on 28 carries and were outgained 514 to 337.

–Field Level Media

Oct 1, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA;  USC Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) recovers a fumbled snap and runs for a first down against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the first half at United Airlines Field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

No. 6 USC welcomes test from Washington State

No. 6 Southern California looks to match its best start since 2006 when it welcomes Pac-12 counterpart Washington State to Los Angeles on Saturday.

The Trojans (5-0, 3-0 Pac-12) remained perfect in the Lincoln Riley era – at least, in terms of record – with a 42-25 defeat of sputtering Arizona State last week.

USC did have a minor first-time blemish last week under Riley: Quarterback Caleb Williams threw an interception for the first Trojans turnover of 2022.

It hardly impacted USC’s FBS-best plus-14 turnover margin through five games, and the outlook for the Trojans continuing to dominate in that department is favorable for Week 6.

Washington State (4-1, 1-1) is minus-4 in turnover margin for the season. The Cougars finished on the negative side of the turnover battle in each of their first two Pac-12 games, losing two turnovers while gaining one in a 44-41 loss to Oregon on Sept. 24; and giving away a pair without a takeaway last week vs. Cal.

The lack of turnovers generated against Cal did not seem to hurt the Washington State defense. The Cougars held the Golden Bears to just 31 net rushing yards on 24 carries, a byproduct of Washington State’s four sacks in the 28-9 win.

Quarterback Cameron Ward, whose 289 passing yards per game edge USC’s Williams and his 280.4 yards a contest for third-most in the Pac-12, surpassed 300 yards in each of Washington State’s last two outings.

Ward operates out of a variation of the air-raid offense akin to USC’s, overseen by coordinator Eric Morris. Morris played at wide receiver at Texas Tech coinciding with Riley’s tenure as a Red Raiders assistant coach – including Riley’s stint as wide-receivers coach from 2007-09.

Morris became a Texas Tech assistant and eventually offensive coordinator, in that time developing his own nuances to the scheme. Riley praised Morris’ approach, particularly in maximizing Ward’s potential.

“(Morris has) done a good job of marrying it to what the quarterback does well,” Riley said. “He’s obviously been able to have some continuity with this guy, and you see that Eric’s a smart enough coach (that) he’s got an understanding of what his guy can do well.”

That “continuity” mirrors USC’s own situation with Riley and Williams. Shortly after Riley accepted the Trojans’ coaching vacancy and left Oklahoma, Williams followed.

Likewise, Morris worked as head coach of FCS Incarnate Word, leading the Cardinals to their first-ever playoff appearance last season. Ward won the Jerry Rice Award as the top FCS freshman in the spring 2021 campaign and was a contender for the FCS equivalent of the Heisman Trophy – the Walter Payton Award – last season.

Ward’s 718 combined passing yards over the past two weeks suggest the quarterback is finding his groove, but cutting back on interceptions with seven in five games is a must – particularly against USC.

The Trojans’ 12 interceptions lead the nation, and nine different players have picks. Mekhi Blackmon, Max Williams and Calen Bullock set the pace with two each.

Cougars wide receiver Renard Bell said extending gains and “just not taking what the route gives” would be critical to the Washington State offense, echoing the sentiment of Cougars head coach Jake Dickert.

“We also need explosive plays off 7-yard throws, and guys making people miss, and explosive plays off of the screen game. It isn’t just throwing deep,” Dickert said. “We’re going to need some guys to make some plays down the field to win this football game.”

Washington State seeks its first win over USC since 2017, when the Cougars ended the Trojans’ best start in seven years with a 30-27 decision at Pullman, Wash.

–Field Level Media

Sep 24, 2022; Pullman, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars running back Nakia Watson (25) carries the ball against the Oregon Ducks in the first half at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Bo Nix rallies No. 15 Oregon to 44-41 win over Wazzu

Bo Nix threw for 428 yards and three touchdowns as No. 15 Oregon rallied for a 44-41 victory against host Washington State in the Pac-12 Conference opener for both teams Saturday afternoon in Pullman, Wash.

The Ducks (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) scored 29 fourth-quarter points — including 22 in a late span of 2:47 — to take their first lead.

Oregon trailed 34-22 when Nix, who finished 33-of-44 passing, threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Cam McCormick with 3:48 left.

The Ducks’ defense held WSU (3-1, 0-1) to a three-and-out and Nix hit Troy Franklin on a 50-yard scoring strike with 1:21 left to give Oregon a 37-34 advantage.

The Ducks’ Mase Funa intercepted a Cameron Ward pass and returned it 27 yards for a score with 1:01 left to clinch the victory.

Ward was 37-of-48 passing for 375 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for a score. He threw a 15-yard TD pass to De’Zhaun Stribling and a 1-yarder to Robert Ferrel. The latter, with 6:42 left, gave WSU a 34-22 lead.

The Cougars’ Nakia Watson scored on a 1-yard run with one second left for the final margin.

Linebacker Francisco Mauigoa returned an interception 95 yards in the first half, giving the Cougars a 17-9 lead at the intermission.

Nix hit Kris Hutson for a 55-yard gain on the first play from scrimmage in the second half and two plays later threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Bucky Irving. A two-point conversion pass failed when Franklin was stopped just short of the goal line by Mauigoa, leaving the Cougars with a 17-15 lead.

Dean Janikowski kicked a 38-yard field goal and Ward hit Stribling with a 15-yard scoring strike later in the third to extend Wazzu’s lead to 27-15.

Oregon’s Jordan James scored on a 1-yard plunge on the first play of the fourth quarter to pull the Ducks within 27-22.

The Ducks had a 624-416 edge in total yardage.

–Field Level Media

Washington State Cougars defensive back Sam Lockett III (0) recovers a fumble by Wisconsin Badgers tight end Clay Cundiff (not pictured) against Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Chimere Dike (13) and Wisconsin Badgers linebacker Jake Ratzlaff (25) late in the fourth quarter during their football game Saturday, September 10, 2022, at Camp Randall in Madison, Wis.

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Washington State looks to continue trends vs. Colorado State

Washington State and Colorado State are going in different directions starting off the season under new coaches heading into Saturday’s game at Pullman, Wash.

The Cougars, in Jake Dickert’s first full season as permanent coach after he led the program on an interim basis for the latter half of 2021, are coming off a 17-14 win last week at then-No. 19 Wisconsin.

Washington State’s Cam Ward went 17 of 28 for 200 yards with two interceptions in the upset victory, which earned the Cougars (2-0) votes in the AP Top 25.

Colorado State lost to Middle Tennessee State 34-19 at home to drop to 0-2 under Jay Norvell, who was hired away from Nevada after last season. The Rams are suddenly trying to avoid their first 0-3 start since 2010.

Norvell said he called meetings with some of his players Monday after the turbulent start of the season, which launched with a 51-7 loss at Michigan.

“I think we still have a ways to go in understanding the type of preparation you have to have,” Norvell said. “Good football teams all over the country, they come back and watch film, they’re getting with their coaches, they’re spending extra time, really sinking their teeth into the game plan.

“We’ve got some guys who have done that; we’ve got some guys who don’t understand that at all.”

Washington State showed it is in sync with Dickert his staff by topping Wisconsin at Madison, Wis., in front of 80,000 fans.

“We believed we could do it,” Dickert said. “This wasn’t some upset of a lifetime. … We just kept throwing things at them. You can never do just one thing against a good run team.

Washington State’s defense limited Wisconsin’s Braelon Allen to 98 yards rushing, just the second time in his last 11 games that was held below 100.

“I’m so proud of our run defense,” Dickert said. “To not give up a huge, explosive run — which is something their offense really depends on — is important.”

Now the Cougars will line up against a CSU offense that has managed 72 net yards rushing on 73 attempts this season – an 0.99-yard average that ranks 130th out of 131 in the nation. That stat is certainly influenced by Colorado State quarterbacks being sacked 16 times — the most in the nation, or about once for every two completed passes (36).

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2022; Madison, Wisconsin, USA;  Washington State Cougars running back Nakia Watson (25) rushes with the football during the second quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Nakia Watson leads Washington State over No. 19 Wisconsin

Transfer Nakia Watson came back to haunt his former team, scoring two touchdowns to lead visiting Washington State to a 17-14 non-conference upset of No. 19 Wisconsin on Saturday in Madison, Wis.

Watson, who played the previous two seasons at Wisconsin, scored on a 2-yard run and a 31-yard pass for the Cougars (2-0).

Washington State erased a 14-7 halftime deficit with a field goal and touchdown for a 17-14 lead entering the final quarter.

Renard Bell returned the second half kickoff 73 yards for the Cougars, who settled for a 26-yard field goal by Dean Janikowski. Washington State had fourth-and-1 at the Wisconsin 4, but then were called for a false start.

Cameron Ward put the Cougars up 17-14 with a 31-yard scoring pass to Watson. Washington State caught a huge break when Jay Shaw intercepted Ward, but fumbled on the return, giving the Cougars the ball back on their own 47.

On second down from the 31, Ward evaded a sack and hit Watson out of the backfield with a swing pass to the left. Cornerback Kamo’I Latu missed the open field tackle at the 30, giving Watson a clear path to the left corner.

Wisconsin’s Vito Calvaruso missed a 43-yard field goal attempt on the first play of the fourth quarter. He missed a 50-yarder in the first quarter.

The Badgers had third-and-6 at the Washington State 9 with just over 6 ½ minutes left. Christian Mejia picked off Graham Mertz, but fumbled on the return and Wisconsin recovered. Two plays later, Clay Cundiff fumbled on a 24-yard completion over the middle and the Cougars recovered at the Wisconsin 12 with 5:14 remaining. Washington State then ran out the clock.

Ward completed 17 of 28 passes for 200 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Watson finished with 34 yards rushing on 11 carries. Mertz completed 18 of 31 for 227 yards with two scores and one pick. Braelon Allen ran for 98 yards on 21 carries for Wisconsin (1-1).

After a scoreless first quarter, the Cougars got on the board when Watson capped a 53-yard drive with a 2-yard run.

Wisconsin responded with a six-play 65-yard scoring drive, tying it on Mertz’s 17-yard scoring toss to Cundiff.

The Badgers put together a 45-yard touchdown march late in the first half, capped by a 10-yard touchdown pass to Cundiff.

— Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars head coach Jake Dickert stands outside the locker room with wide receiver Calvin Jackson Jr. (8), running back Max Borghi (21) and linebacker Justus Rogers (37) before kickoff against the Washington Huskies at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

WSU to unveil QB Cam Ward vs. Vandals

Washington State coach Jake Dickert begins his first full season Saturday against visiting Idaho with a revamped Air Raid offense the Cougars hope is effective with new prolific quarterback Cameron Ward.

Ward joined the program from Incarnate Word, where he passed for 4,648 yards last season while completing 384 of 590 passes (65.1 percent) with 47 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

He replaces Jayden de Laura, the Pac-12’s offensive freshman of the year who is now the No. 1 quarterback and a team captain at conference rival Arizona.

“I’m a believer in Cam Ward,” said Dickert, who coached the last six games of 2021 on an interim basis after coach Nick Rolovich was terminated for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine, which had been mandated for university employees.

“Cam has come in and earned the trust of this football team through repetitive action and hard work,” Dickert said. “He’s put in the hard work behind the scenes. I’m excited about what he’s going to do with the weapons that we have on offense.”

Dickert and first-year Idaho coach Jason Eck are longtime colleagues. In 2014 at Division II Minnesota State, Dickert was defensive coordinator and Eck offensive coordinator; and in 2016 both were on the South Dakota State staff.

Eck declined to name a QB1 at his weekly Monday news conference, using the word “or” to underscore his intention, while listing J’Bore Gibbs, CJ Jordan, and Gevani McCoy.

“There has definitely been some interest and suspense at that position, and honestly we’re going to dress four quarterbacks on Saturday,” he said. “We have confidence in all of them if they see the field.”

Whoever is at quarterback, Terez Traynor is the top returning receiver (50 receptions, 737 yards), and former JC transfer Jermaine Jackson showed himself as a versatile player during camp who will also return kicks.

“We want to see guys respond. We’ve got to win the one-on-ones if we get the matchups,” said Eck.

According to USA Today, Idaho receives $575,000 from Washington State for making the seven-mile drive across the state line. Next week, the Vandals will reportedly take in $1.3 million for their trip to Indiana.

–Field Level Media

Nov 26, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Washington State Cougars running back Deon McIntosh (3) and Washington Huskies linebacker Carson Bruener (42) during the first quarter at Alaska Airlines Field at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Miami faces uncertain road to meet Wazzu in Sun Bowl

It appears the Miami Hurricanes won’t get to take part in most of the Sun Bowl’s pregame trappings — if they even make it to El Paso, Texas, at all.

A COVID-19 outbreak, with more than 10 players reportedly testing positive, cast a doubt on whether the Hurricanes (7-5) would be able to meet Washington State (7-5) on New Year’s Eve in one of college football’s oldest bowl games.

The Hurricanes were scheduled to travel to El Paso this weekend, but now they might make the trip as late as Dec. 30, Sun Bowl chairman John Folmer told the Miami Herald.

“We’re not looking for anyone else to play but Miami. The people in El Paso are buying tickets because of Miami. People in El Paso follow Miami,” Folmer said.

“If the game was (the week before Christmas), we wouldn’t have them. We told them we’d wait until whenever they could get here, and they responded by saying, ‘We’re going to do the best we can to make it happen, and we’ll arrive when we can, even if it’s one day before the game.”‘

The Hurricanes will be led by interim coach Jess Simpson, even though Mario Cristobal has already been hired to replace the fired Manny Diaz.

Miami has won five of its past six games, scoring 31 or more points in each of the victories.

Freshman quarterback Tyler Van Dyke averaged 365.6 passing yards and threw for 20 touchdowns and just three interceptions in those six games, earning the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Newcomer of the Year award.

“I told myself I was just going to go out there and start playing with confidence,” Van Dyke said. “My teammates have supported me and helped me the rest of the way. I’m very grateful for that.”

Leading receiver Charleston Rambo (79 catches for 1,172 yards and seven touchdowns) has opted out of the bowl game to prepare for the NFL draft, as has defensive tackle Jon Ford.

The same can be said for Washington State’s leading rusher, Max Borghi (880 yards and 12 touchdowns), right tackle Abraham Lucas and cornerback Jaylen Watson.

“We had a lot of conversations about it, and we obviously wish them the best of luck, and we support them,” Cougars coach Jake Dickert said. “Everyone has their own individual situations.”

Deon McIntosh, a Miami-area native, is expected to get most of the carries in Borghi’s absence.

The Cougars could be missing two other members of their offensive line, as left tackle Liam Ryan has been dealing with an unspecified injury and right guard Cade Beresford transferred to Boise State.

Washington State won six of their last eight regular-season games, including snapping a seven-game losing streak in the Apple Cup with a 40-13 victory against rival Washington. Borghi rushed for 129 yards and two touchdowns in that game.

Dickert became the interim coach after Nick Rolovich was dismissed Oct. 18 for failing to comply with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s mandate that all state employees be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Dickert was named the permanent coach the day after the Apple Cup.

The Cougars and Hurricanes have met once before, in the 2015 Sun Bowl. Washington State built an early lead and held on to win 20-14 as the fourth quarter was played in blizzard-like conditions.

–Field Level Media