WSU looks to bounce back against Portland State

Pair of winless teams face off in Martin Stadium

WSU+students+cheer+on+the+Cougars+against+the+Utah+State+Aggies+on+Sept.+4+at+Martin+Stadium+in+Pullman.

ISABELLA DA SILVA

WSU students cheer on the Cougars against the Utah State Aggies on Sept. 4 at Martin Stadium in Pullman.

AARIK LONG, Evergreen sports editor

Following last weekend’s loss to Utah State, WSU gets set to host FCS opponent Portland State this weekend in Martin Stadium. The Cougs come in with a 95.4 percent chance to win, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index

Historically, WSU has a 2-1 record against the Vikings. But that one loss came in the most recent meeting, a 24-17 Vikings victory to open the 2015 season.

Both teams will enter the game with a 0-1 record. Portland State’s opener against Hawaii finished with the Rainbow Warriors picking up a 49-35 win at home. Hawaii led 35-7 at the half before a strong second half almost made it a game for the Vikings.

The Vikings ran a very pass-heavy attack against the Rainbow Warriors. Senior quarterback Davis Alexander threw the ball 47 times, gaining 400 yards through the air and finding the end zone three times. 

“The quarterback is somebody who when you watch him on film, he is exciting,” WSU Head Coach Nick Rolovich said. “He is in control. He plays with confidence. They’ve got some good players.”

The Vikings had a pair of receivers eclipse the century mark of receiving yards against Hawaii. Junior Beau Kelly and freshman Darien Chase finished with 132 yards and 105 yards, respectively.

On the bright side for WSU, Portland State was sloppy with the ball against Hawaii. Alexander threw two interceptions and fumbled it once, while freshman running back Jalynnee McGee fumbled it once. 

A looseness with the ball could play heavily into the Cougars’ favor, as the stingy defense in Pullman would want to capitalize and take the ball back or WSU. 

Defensively, Portland State runs a very unique defense that could cause issues for an offense that is still settling into a complex offensive system.

“I think the best way to describe them is uniquely disruptive,” Rolovich said. “It’s not something a lot of people run. They have a very good idea of what they are doing. The players play hard.”

Just like how their offense gave the ball up four times, the Portland State defense was able to snag the ball away from Hawaii four times of their own. WSU will have to be clinical with the way they move the ball around to maintain possession and keep the ball moving. 

On the offensive side of the ball, there could be a few changes from week one for the Cougars. On Monday, Rolovich said the status of center Brian Greene and quarterback Jarrett Guarantano were still up in the air. Both players exited the game against Utah State and did not return to action.

Similarly, safety Daniel Isom’s status at this time is unknown following an injury early in the home opener. 

“I know that they aren’t looking like they are season-ending injuries,” Rolovich said of the three players.

Even if Guarantano, who was the starter for the season opener, is able to play on Saturday, there is a good chance Jayden de Laura could be the starter.

“I think I would lead towards Jayden with all things considered,” Rolovich said. “I think Jayden came in, to his credit, with maybe a more mature mindset. I think he handled the decision when we told him very well.”

After practice on Wednesday, Rolovich doubled down on this idea.

I plan on going with Jayden,Rolovich said. I was thoroughly impressed with the growth that young man has gone through.

De Laura completed 12 of 22 passes on Saturday for 155 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. Despite the decent performance from the quarterback, do not expect Saturday to be all about the aerial attack. 

Many complained about the lack of touches for running back Max Borghi in Saturday’s loss. That could change this week as the Vikings gave up 268 yards on 48 attempts last week, an average of 5.6 yards per carry. 

The Cougars very well could try to take advantage of this and give the three-headed monster of Borghi, Deon McIntosh and Nakia Watson a chance to run wild against the Vikings’ defense.

All in all, this is a game that WSU should win comfortably. So was last week, though. College football is exciting because of its uncertainty, and this game could bring that same element of surprise.

The Cougars will kick off at 3 p.m. Saturday at Martin Stadium. The game will be live on the Pac-12 Network as well.