Cougs ready for homecoming weekend

WSU hosts surging Oregon State in return to Martin Staidum



WSU wide receiver Calvin Jackson Jr. (8) catches a pass during a college football game against the USC Trojans on Sept. 18 in Martin Stadium.

TOM ABBOTT, Evergreen sports editor

The Cougars (2-3) begin a three-game homestand at 1 pm this Saturday against the Oregon State Beavers (4-1) in Martin Stadium following victories for both teams last weekend.

For the first time this season, the Cougs got a win away from the Palouse, beating California 21-6. The Beavers won by a mere three points against the Washington Huskies 27-24, thanks to a field goal as time ran out from kicker Everett Hayes.

After the win last weekend, the Beavers are now the top-ranked team in the Pac-12 North division. The Beavers are on a four-game win streak having not lost a game since week one against Purdue. Two weekends ago, the Beavers stunned USC in Los Angeles, winning 45-27. WSU was not as successful against USC earlier this season, losing 45-14.

On average, the Beavers are scoring an impressive 36 points per game, the highest average in the Pac-12. The Beavers have also found success on defense this year, catching nine interceptions.

As of Monday, ESPN’s Football Power Index gives WSU about a 30 percent chance of winning. At this point, WSU is used to being the underdog, projected to lose the past three weeks in a row.

“I think [Beavers’ head] Coach [Jonathan] Smith deserves a ton of credit,” WSU head coach Nick Rolovich said. “I think they’re really seeing the fruits of their labor and consistency.”

The Oregon State Beavers execute a balanced style of offense, able to gain yards when the ball is in running back B.J. Baylor’s arms as well as when the ball flies from sophomore quarterback Chance Nolan.

“It’s not a team where you can say, ‘oh there’s the weakness,’” Rolovich said. “They play hard and I think all qualities lead to why they’re winning football games.”

Against the Huskies last weekend, the Beavers preferred to keep the ball on the ground. Nolan had a season-low seven completions and only 15 total pass attempts. Baylor rushed 20 times, totaling 111 yards and two touchdowns.

So far this year, Baylor has an impressive 81 carries for a total of 533 yards and nine touchdowns. Baylor is a large reason why the Beavers have the number one rushing offense in the Pac-12. As a team, the Beavers are averaging 229.2 yards per game.

“Pretty impressive lateral movement by the young man [Baylor],” Rolovich said. “They run unafraid.”

WSU’s defensive line last weekend seemed to constantly be in the Cal backfield, causing seven tackles for a loss of yardage. This weekend against Oregon State, the defense will have to find ways into the backfield once more so that Nolan will be less comfortable in the pocket. Getting into the backfield will also help the Cougs stop the dangerous run game of Baylor by crowding possible running lanes.

“It’s a perfect challenge that I think this team needs to see if we can compete with one of the best,” Rolovich said.

WSU quarterback Jayden de Laura will be back to 100 percent healthy this weekend, opening the offensive playbook to quarterback options and dual-threat capabilities.

De Laura will likely continue to target wide receiver Calvin Jackson Jr. this weekend. Jackson Jr. is coming off a two-touchdown game last weekend and the number one play on SportCenter’s Top 10 segment for his second touchdown. Jackson Jr. has 334 yards and three touchdowns for the Cougar offense this season.

Last year, WSU beat Oregon State 38-28. De Laura and the Cougs hope to repeat that outcome with a win on homecoming weekend.

The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Network with kickoff set for 1 p.m.