The Battle of the Palouse returns

WSU football opens season vs. Idaho 6:30 Saturday at Gesa Field



WSU quarterback Cameron Ward takes a snap during the 2022 Spring Game, April 23, at Martin Stadium.

TREVOR JUNT, Evergreen deputy sports editor

The Battle of the Palouse is back after a hiatus of almost six years.

This rivalry has lasted for over 128 years since they first kicked off in 1894. In the 92 times that WSU and Idaho have played since then, WSU has won 72 of those games, according to WSU Athletics.

WSU kickoffs their season at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday against the University of Idaho at Gesa Field at Martin Stadium.

Both WSU and Idaho’s head coaches will begin their first season as full-time head coaches. Jake Dickert took the reins of WSU’s program after being an interim head coach last season.

Jason Eck is coaching Idaho after a very successful run as an assistant coach. He won the FCS Assistant Coach of the Year in 2019 for South Dakota State. He helped lead South Dakota State to three semifinal appearances in four seasons and a national championship game in 2021. 

Dickert and Eck share the home state of Wisconsin and grew up about 200 miles away from each other, Dickert in Oconto and Eck in La Crosse. They have also coached together twice, at South Dakota State and Minnesota State.

When Dickert was asked about coaching against his former co-worker, he perked up.

“First thing I did when Jason got the job, I called him and I said how ironic is this that we’re going to be out there on the first game. I said, ‘let’s do this every year.’  He said, ‘easy, maybe every other year,'” Dickert said after practice on Tuesday.

ESPN gives WSU above a 95% chance to win this game.

With a new offensive coordinator Eric Morris and transfer quarterback Cam Ward, the offense is looking to lay down the law on Idaho. Ward led the FCS in touchdowns last season with 47 and was third in passing yards with 4,648 yards.

WSU is looking to attack with their new “Coug Raid” system, which is an air raid with the addition of a tight end. Ward is used to opponents like Idaho and will try to capitalize on the opportunity he has laid out in front of him.

Idaho was near last in the FCS in turnovers in 2021 when they gave up 21. WSU was tied for fifth in the FBS last season taking the ball away 29 times.

The Cougs have had a long training camp, but have gelled together as a cohesive team.

“Just a lot of anticipation around the building, just a lot of excitement around the building,” Ward said after practice on Wednesday. “[We are] ready for 6:30 kickoff, ready to go to pregame warm-ups, get ready, get locked in, get ready to play.”