Cougs host Cal for Homecoming

WSU hosts Cal at 2:30 p.m. Saturday



WSU quarterback Cameron Ward dives for the pylon during an NCAA college football game against Oregon, Sep. 24.

TREVOR JUNT, Evergreen deputy sports editor

Welcome home Cougs. You will always find your way back home.

This weekend will be the homecoming game for WSU as they face California at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday in Gesa Field at Martin Stadium.

WSU is coming off one of its most heartbreaking losses in recent history. The loss to Oregon stings more for the Cougs as they had a two-score lead with about four minutes left in the game and let it slip through their fingers. At one point, WSU actually had a 99.8% win probability.

The Cougars have moved past their loss and are looking forward now to their game against Cal.

Head coach Jake Dickert, spoke on how good Cal is and how tough the Pac-12 is as a whole.

“I think that Cal is a much-improved team, but this is a good league top to bottom. And I think that’s an important distinction of whatever perception is out there. I mean, this is a great league and you gotta bring your A-game each and every week,” Dickert said. “I think the Pac-12 is really strong top to bottom. So, we’re excited to see how this plays out. We’re [WSU and Cal] both in that same boat of really wanting to win and this will be a big Pac-12 football game on Saturday.”

WSU and Cal have had similar seasons. They have averaged the same number of points per game at 30, have averaged the same number of points allowed per game at 20.5 and are both 3-1 with losses against tough opponents.

Cal has had the upper hand in their past matchups as WSU’s overall record against them is 29-48-5.

Cal has had a relatively easy schedule, but in their loss against Notre Dame two weeks ago, they were fighting the Irish off well. Notre Dame needed an offensive explosion in the fourth quarter to pull out the win and were successful in doing so, beating Cal 24-17.

Last week they played Arizona and beat them handedly 49-31. Jaydn Ott, Cal’s freshman running back, was able to gain 274 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries including the longest run of 73 yards to the endzone on their first drive of the game. Ott has been averaging around 115 yards per game this season and is far-and-away the most important piece on their offense.

This is a strength-on-strength matchup as Cal’s best output is their running game and getting on the shoulders of their running back Ott. But WSU’s best output is their front seven. The defensive line and linebackers, including stars like Brennan Jackson and Daiyan Henley, are able to shut down the running game.

“He’s a fantastic player, I think he is a true freshman doing some great stuff over there. You know, it’s gonna be very important to contain him, not let him get his stride early in the game, start to get some [tackles for loss] on him, get him kind of rattled as well,” Jackson said. “It’s gonna be important to kind of shut that down early in the game, we can’t let him get comfortable.”

This group was able to shut down one of the best running backs in college football, Braelon Allen, a few weeks ago when they played Wisconsin as they held him to less than 100 yards on 21 carries.

They have 14 sacks on the season, but coming in an odd way, seven against Idaho and seven against Colorado State but zero in both games against Wisconsin and Oregon. WSU will need to get pressure on the quarterback against Cal in order to secure the win.

ESPN gives WSU a 54% chance of beating Cal, looking for it to be a close matchup as WSU is only favored by 3.5 points.

WSU will face Cal at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday in Gesa Field at Martin Stadium. The game will be broadcast by the Pac-12 Network.