Dickert earns first win

Cougs pull off upset win, were 17-point underdogs against Arizona State



The WSU offensive line prepares to battle the BYU defensive line during a game on Oct. 23, 2021, at Martin Stadium.

TOM ABBOTT, Evergreen sports editor

The Cougs (5-4, 4-2) pulled off the upset win against Arizona State (5-3, 3-2) this weekend, leaving Sun Devil territory victorious 34-21.

The WSU defense was the key for the Cougar victory, forcing five turnovers in the game and containing Arizona State quarterback Jayden Daniels. Arizona State has not allowed more than four turnovers since the 2010 season.

“He’s an elite-level player and he’s an NFL player,” WSU interim head coach Jake Dickert said about Daniels. 

On just the second play of the game, WSU’s Justus Rogers ripped the ball from Arizona State’s DeaMonte Trayanum and Amir Mujahid recovered the ball for the Cougs. The Cougs were unable to convert on fourth down in Sun Devils territory, giving the Arizona State offense the chance to right their wrongs made on the first drive of the game. 

On the first play of Arizona State’s second drive, the WSU defense again forced a fumble. This time, WSU free safety Daniel Isom ripped the ball from Arizona State’s Bryan Thompson and Rogers recovered the ball for the Cougs. Rogers was part of both early fumbles in the game. 

“Justus Rogers is one of those guys that just stays the course,” Dickert said. “He gives this team everything he has.”

WSU quarterback Jayden de Laura did not let this chance to score go to waste, powering the ball into the endzone from 1 yard out and giving the Cougars the first points of the game, 7-0.

The defensive unit continued to excel on the next drive, with sophomore defensive back Chau Smith-Wade catching his first career interception and giving de Laura and the offense another chance to score. 

After missing last week’s game against BYU, running back Deon McIntosh seemed to be 100 percent healthy, opening the drive with an 18-yard run up the middle. De Laura helped move the chains downfield with a 30-yard pass to Calvin Jackson Jr. A 28-yard pass from de Laura to Travell Harris put the Cougs in the endzone for the second time, furthering their lead 14-0 and still in the first quarter. 

The Cougars extended their lead further with a 1-yard rushing touchdown from McIntosh in the second quarter. Another made extra-point from Dean Janikowski added seven to the WSU lead, 21-0. 

“I think Deon gives us an edge. He gives us some physicality,” Dickert said. “It’s such a great compliment to Max [Borghi] and his speed and it’s just fun to watch him.”

Now on defense again, WSU’s Derrick Langford Jr. forced the third fumble of the game, picked up by Ron Stone Jr. 

De Laura again capitalized on WSU’s defensive success, completing another touchdown pass to bring the lead to 28-0. De Laura connected with Jackson Jr. downfield for the 45-yard touchdown reception and the longest play given up this year by Arizona State’s defense.

On this play, Jackson Jr. surpassed his previous career-high yards in a single game. He would finish the game with 139 receiving yards.

Arizona State answered back with their first scoring drive of the game, ending their drive in the endzone on a 12-yard pass from Daniels to LV Bunkley-Shelton to make the score 7-28. De Laura then took a knee to end the half. 

WSU has a history of allowing opponents to come back in the second half, but that was not the case in this game. Both the WSU and Arizona State defensive units combined for a scoreless third quarter and forced five consecutive punts. 

“I thought the third quarter was the moment in the game where things could’ve slipped either way,” Dickert said. “We did a good job of getting off the field on third down on defense.”

Cougar defensive back Jaylen Watson caught an interception to end the third quarter, giving the Cougs their fifth turnover of the game. Janikowski then kicked a field goal to bring WSU’s lead to 31-7. Janikowski kicked another field goal later in the fourth quarter, adding three points to the Cougar lead.

Led by Daniels, the Arizona State offense tried to make a comeback in the fourth quarter with two touchdowns but fell short as time ran out, 34-21. 

The win over Arizona State is Dickert’s first win as WSU’s head coach. 

“I think we won this game because we played harder,” Dickert said. “That’s an immensely talented Arizona State team that our guys were really excited to play and compete with.”

Next up for the Cougs is a bye week followed by a trip to Eugene, Oregon, to face the No. 7-ranked and Pac-12 conference leader Oregon Ducks.