Opponent Preview: Washington State Cougars

The players

In 2021, Washington State had their man in QB Jayden de Laura. That barely lasted an entire season and he left for Arizona. Finally, they took QB Cam Ward from University of Incarnate Word, an FCS program in San Antonio. His head coach Eric Morris also joined him, to join the staff as OC. Together they had put up prolific numbers in the FCS ranks, culminating in a 2021 season in which Ward threw for over 4,600 yards and 47 touchdowns. This season, he has amassed 2,772 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 8 interceptions, completing 64% of his passes.

Weighing in at 6-2 and 220 pounds, he combines size with agile movement and pocket awareness. He does a good job of keeping his gaze down and has all the arm talent in the world. He’s the type of quarterback who will either hit his first read in rhythm or have to use some creative creativity to beat the defense. Fortunately, he can make off-platform throws from different arm angles or launch a rocket downwards with a simple flick of his wrist. The downside to his game is that he can have some “WTF” moments and can be quite unpredictable. He’s an exciting playmaker, but the consistency isn’t there.

NCAA Soccer: Washington State in Arizona

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After a three-game losing streak in October in which the Cougars scored 14, 10 and 17 points, they roared back to win three in a row, with 52, 28 and 31 points. A big part of this is RB Nakia Waton’s return from injury that kick-started the attack. He has accumulated 51 rushes for 338 yards and 5 touchdowns, plus 101 receiving yards and a touchdown in that streak. This offense is similar to the Wisconsin transfer in both running and throwing.

When Ward pitches, he is looking for WR De’Zhaun Stribling, WR Donovan Ollie and WR Robert Ferrel. Stribling and Ollie are both big targets at 6-3, and Ferrel is 5-8 and mostly lines up. Stribling leads the team in catches (44), yards (544), and touchdowns (5) and gets the ball in several ways, and averages about 6.6 yards after the catch. Ollie targets the deepest of the three and is more of a possession receiver compared to Ferrel and Stribling.

The schedule

Under OC Eric Morris, Washington State wants to succeed and has done so at the same pace as Washington this season – 59% of the time. Unlike Washington, they don’t push the ball downfield as aggressively, and their yards-per-try counts are close to Cal in well-below-average territory. A major weakness for this offense was pass protection. Ward has been sacked on nearly 7% of his drop-backs, despite his ability to gain time with his legs.

The end

This could be a tough offense for Washington to slow down without forcing Cam Ward to foul. Nakia Watson is playing really well – even though it was against Stanford, Arizona and ASU – and Washington’s tackling has been inconsistent this year, suffice it to say. That is a match to watch.

Despite the tantalizing prospect that is Cam Ward, this is an offense that still only scores 27 points per game, and you’ll need to peer at some advanced stats to make that look that much better. The Huskies were embarrassed last season after 7 years of shutting down WSU offenses. Secondary this year was an adventure to say the least, so it’s up to the first seven to force Ward into killer mistakes. Go Dawgs.

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