WSU becomes bowl-eligible with win over ASU

WSU easily beat ASU 28-18



WSU running back Nakia Watson runs downfield during an NCAA football game against Arizona State, Nov. 12.

TREVOR JUNT, Evergreen deputy sports editor

WSU is going bowling. They have won six games and have made themselves bowl-eligible for the seventh straight full season.

WSU overcame Arizona State University 28-18 in sub-freezing conditions.

The Cougars looked deadly in the first half as they scored four touchdowns and kept ASU at bay.

The Air Raid system is long gone. When WSU head coach Jake Dickert came in and brought offensive coordinator Eric Morris with him, Dickert claimed they would be adopting the “Coug Raid.” Compared to the start of the season, it has changed quite a bit.

WSU has much more of a focus on running the ball. Nakia Watson led the team carrying the ball 20 times for a gain of 116 yards and three touchdowns. Jaylen Jenkins was second on the team with seven rushes for 43 yards. As a whole, the team had 35 carries.

WSU running back Nakia Watson runs downfield during an NCAA football game against Arizona State, Nov. 12.

This is coming a week after they rushed for 300 yards. The offense has moved from being a pass-heavy team to being more balanced.

Dickert gave credit to the situation and said that running the ball sets the team up for better opportunities. Consistently running the ball and committing to that idea causes them to be better at rushing. He also gave credit to Watson for playing well and being committed.

“There’s sometimes where you want to lean on those guys and his physicality, his mindset. He’s been a warrior, he’s wanting to get back and prove it. I think he’s had one heck of a season, let’s not just talk about the last two games. You know, Nakia has far exceeded expectations in the run game, in the pass game, in the protection game. He calms down our offense when he’s out there,” Dickert said.

Cam Ward threw 22/37 for 219 yards and one touchdown on a touch-pass to Leyton Smithson.

WSU offensive lineman Konner Gomness snaps the ball to quarterback Cameron Ward during an NCAA football game against Arizona State, Nov. 12.

ASU had difficulty on the offensive side of the ball, so much so that they benched their quarterback Trenton Bourguet in favor of transfer Emory Jones. Jones had much more success in the second half against WSU.

Xazavian Valladay carried the ball 21 times for 134 yards for one touchdown, he also led his team in receiving with 6 catches for 55 yards.

The WSU defense is probably the best in the Pac-12. They played incredibly for most of the regulation. The defense only allowed a total of 65 yards and shut out ASU in the first half.

WSU linebacker Daiyan Henley rushes Arizona State quarterback Trenton Bourguet during an NCAA football game, Nov. 12.

They eventually allowed a few scores and more yards, but much of it took place during “garbage time” when WSU was just trying to get out of the game. They were running out the clock and seemed to take their foot off the gas.

The defense had a total of four sacks, six tackles for a loss and an interception.

Chau Smith-Wade intercepted an errant throw by Bourguet. Daiyan Henley led the team with 10 total tackles, one tackle for a loss and one pass defended. Brennan Jackson had five tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble.

WSU linebacker Daiyan Henley lunges for Arizona State running back Xazavian Valladay during an NCAA football game, Nov. 12.

The Cougs winning enough games to qualify for bowl games is important to the entire team, especially the seniors. Jackson discussed the feeling of going bowling with the team.

“It’s fantastic because every single team is a new team, so just having an extra game with these guys, my brothers this year. It’s a phenomenal feeling. You make so many connections in a football locker room and you know, not everyone’s going to be around every single year you’re here. But being able to get an extra 10 to 15 practices or just 10 to 15 days with these guys and really connect is all you want,” Jackson said.

WSU running back Nakia Watson stares down Arizona State linebacker Will Shaffer after scoring a touchdown during an NCAA football game, Nov. 12.

WSU will prepare to face Arizona at 11 a.m. on Saturday at Arizona Field in Tucson, Arizona.