The Washington State Cougars came away with an ugly 24-17 victory over the Idaho Vandals. It was far from a solid performance, and shockingly, the struggles came from the offense.
After all the offseason fanfare about the offense, the Cougars opened the game with fumbles on two straight possessions; first by Nakia Watson and the second by Donovan Ollie. The Vandals returned the latter for a touchdown, and held a 10-0 lead within the first 12 minutes of the game.
Eventually, Cameron Ward and Washington State offense got things together. They tied the game at 10 at halftime, and built a lead as large as 14 points. However, they could never break the game open because of all the self-inflicted wounds and mistakes.
In total, Washington State fumbled the ball three times. They missed two out of three field goal attempts, including a 23-yarder that would have made it 27-17 with less than a minute left. Head Coach Jake Dickert acknowledged his squad needs to play better, but he liked seeing his team fight through its struggles.
The Cougars’ defense constantly saved the day. It only allowed the Vandals to convert four out of 17 third down conversion attempts and stopped them on fourth down twice. Also, they forced Gevani McCoy into two interceptions; including the game-clinching one by Daiyan Henley with 12 seconds left in the game. Dickert was well-aware that the defense won them the game.
On the flip side, Cameron Ward played well in his Cougars debut. He completed 25 of 40 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns. He struggled to connect with his receivers down the field as he didn’t complete a pass longer than 19 yards. However, he showed a lot of poise, composure, and patience while the rest of the offense struggled and made frustrating mistakes.
The Cougars’ offense also featured a new running back in Nakia Watson. He ran the ball effectively. He rushed for 117 yards on 18 carries, and caught two passes for 17 yards. Unfortunately, he also fumbled the ball. However, backup running back Jaylen Jenkins did as well.
All in all, a win is a win. However, Washington State can get away with self-inflicted woes against teams like Idaho. That won’t be the case when the quality of competition ramps up, and it’ll ramp up quickly. Dickert needs to clean up plenty of team issues before the September 10 tilt against the Wisconsin Badgers.