Cougars beat Idaho 24-17 in gritty Battle of the Palouse

Dickert-led defense dominates Vandals, keep Cougs in game



WSU wide receiver De’Zhaun Stribling (88) scores a touchdown during an NCAA football match against Idaho, Sep. 3, at Martin Stadium.

TREVOR JUNT, Evergreen deputy sports editor

PULLMAN – WSU football opened its season on Saturday with the Battle of the Palouse and defeated Idaho in a tight game, 24-17.

The Battle of the Palouse was truly a battle, from start to finish.

WSU has played Idaho 92 times in 128 years. They have been dominant in this matchup finishing 72-17-3. The Cougs have won ten-straight games within the past 21 years including a 56-6 victory in 2016, according to WSU Athletics.

The WSU football team runs onto the field before an NCAA football match against Idaho, Sep. 3, at Martin Stadium.

The Cougars did not start the game with their tails on fire, in fact, quite the opposite happened, Idaho took an early lead on a couple of fumbles by the Cougs.

WSU’s first five possessions went – fumble, fumble recovery touchdown, three-and-out (punt), three-and-out (punt) and missed field goal.

They did not score a single point until 3:06 was left in the half. At the beginning of the game, the “Coug Raid” offense looked very stale and unable to move the ball. The new offensive coordinator Eric Morris was not very successful in trying to create steam for his offense.

New Coug quarterback Cam Ward looked fine in the game, he finished his day going 25-40, 215 yards and 3 touchdowns. There were a couple of times in which Ward was able to extend the play and scramble, which he is known for, he was just barely unable to connect on some big plays. He also took 3 sacks as part of the scrambling.

The Coug defense was able to play well against Idaho and truly kept WSU in the game. They only allowed one touchdown in the entire game. The front seven of the defense really stood out.

The talent pool was hard to miss when looking at the WSU defensive line versus the Idaho offensive line.

RJ Stone, Jaden Hicks, Brennan Jackson, Armani Marsh, and Daiyan Henley all ended with one sack. Travion Brown ended with a half sack and Andrew Edson with one and a half.

WSU ended up with seven total sacks which resulted in a loss of 37 total yards.

WSU edge rusher Ron Stone Jr. hits Idaho quarterback Gevani McCoy during an NCAA football match, Sep. 3, at Martin Stadium.

Nevada transfer Henley was integral to the gritty win. He was all over the field, in the backfield, roaming sideline-to-sideline and in coverage. His day ended with eight total tackles, one sack, three tackles for loss and one game-sealing interception.


For Idaho, quarterback Gevani McCoy finished the game throwing 21/32, 212 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Idaho quarterback Gevani McCoy (4) outruns WSU edge rusher Brennan Jackson (80) during an NCAA football match, Sep. 3, at Martin Stadium.

Even though the Vandals ran the ball 34 times and tried to milk the clock, they were unsuccessful in running the ball against WSU and the aforementioned front seven. They ended the day with a total of 62 rushing yards, the longest carry being 16-yards by the leading rusher for Idaho, Anthony Woods who finished with 50 rushing yards.

Slot receiver Jermaine Jackson was able to expose some of the WSU cornerbacks as he had a huge day with a couple of long plays. One catch down the sideline for 42 yards when he snagged the ball right over Romeo Langford Jr. and the other for 35 when he climbed the ladder and leaped over Marsh. Jackson had six receptions for 113 yards.

Idaho killed WSU on time of possession with a difference of 13 minutes. Idaho finished with 36:25 in total time of possession and WSU with 23:25.

If you just viewed the stats and the box score, one would not think this game was close. WSU had more rushing yards 143 to 62, more passing yards 215 to 212, had two more offensive touchdowns and three fewer penalties. They led Idaho in total yards 358 to 274.

Mainly, it was WSU’s offensive mistakes that kept this game close for the Vandals.

The WSU special teams unit lines up for an extra point during an NCAA football match against Idaho, Sep. 3, at Martin Stadium.

Although it was a game of mistakes, it was Jake Dickert’s first game as the full-time head coach and the first game for much of the coaching staff and some of the key players.

In the press conference after the game, Dickert was upbeat.

“We’re going to respond to this. And we won the game. Guys, we won the game, we won the game. I understand all these questions, we won the game. We’ll learn from every part of this,” Dickert said. “We want to execute better, we can play better, and we know that we’ll realize that. But we won the game, and that was the one mission coming in.”

WSU looks forward to playing the currently 18-ranked Wisconsin Badgers at 12:30 p.m. PST on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin.