Cam Ward looks more comfortable in new coordinator’s offense

Crimson beats Gray 42-14 in the 2023 WSU Spring Game



WSU quarterback Cameron Ward throws a pass during the WSU football spring game, Saturday, April 22, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

TREVOR JUNT, Evergreen deputy sports editor

Crimson quarterback Cam Ward diced up the Gray defense with a succession of passes, including multiple down the seam exposing the linebackers, safeties and slot cornerbacks along with other deep passes on the outside near the numbers.

Four receivers had more than 60 yards receiving: DT Sheffield with three receptions for 121 yards and a touchdown, Cole Pruett caught five balls for 84 yards, Josh Kelly had three grabs for 82 yards and Cooper Mathers had two receptions for 60 yards.

WSU wide receiver DT Sheffield celebrates with his team after scoring a touchdown during the WSU football spring game, Saturday, April 22, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

The Crimson and Gray Spring Game took place Saturday. Crimson won in demanding fashion 42-14.

Crimson was a team made up of the first-string offense and the second-string defense, while Gray was made up of the first-string defense and the second-string offense.

A note for this game is that even though the first-string defense was on Gray, they subbed out their top players either after the first drive or the end of the first quarter.

RJ Stone and Brennan Jackson served mostly as coaches during this game. The starting safeties, Jaden Hicks and Sam Lockett III subbed out after a couple of drives and the rest of the secondary was out of the game by the end of the first quarter.

WSU edge Ron Stone Jr. smiles during the WSU football spring game, Saturday, April 22, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

The starters on both sides were out of the game when the second half started.

The star of the game was the first-string offense, Cam Ward, who was explosive at quarterback. He completed 12 passes in 16 attempts for 259 yards and one touchdown.

WSU QB Cam Ward attempts to make a throw outside the pocket in first quarter of Spring Game, April 22.

Head coach Jake Dickert credited Ward for his play and said he was the player that stood out the most to him during the game.

The wide receiver transfers were important to the success of Crimson, including Sheffield, a junior college transfer from Northwest Mississippi Community College. Sheffield caught his first pass from Ward for a 63-yard touchdown. He then caught a pass in the second quarter for 51 yards down the seam for a huge gain.

Dickert said that the success was a combination of all spring practices and workouts.

“It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work, I thought our guys went out there and I thought the challenge was to hit the accelerator as we finished off spring. I think we did that, I think you saw the explosiveness we can have on offense,” Dickert said. “The execution was clean. Everyone got to play, they deserve it and they poured their heart into it. It was a great day.”

This was Ben Arbuckle’s, the new offensive coordinator’s, first “game” with the team. It was a massive success for him and the new Cougars offense. The team was able to be successful on middle passes, explosive plays and even had success rushing the ball. Crimson, the starting offense, had a total of 10 explosive plays, eight of those being passes. Seven of the passes were 25+ yards.

“I think it’s our new mentality, great things happen when you throw the ball down the field. We continually be able to show that. I love what continued to happen after the catch too,” Dickert said. “I think we got some guys that can catch it, can take the top off and can make something happen with the ball in their hands.”

There’s a notable difference between last fall’s Cam Ward and the Cam Ward that showed up to this year’s spring Crimson and Gray game. The entire time during his post-game interview, players were coming behind him and goofing off trying to distract him. He is more comfortable with the team and the bigger stage of WSU.

Djouvensky Schlenbaker scores the first TD of the 2023 WSU Spring Game, April 22.

He said that he noticed the difference in the chemistry and the comradery. The high flying throws deep and middle gain offense that Arbuckle has implemented made Ward look like he did during his terrific season at Incarnate Word.

“I’m very comfortable compared to last spring. From coach Morris leaving, me having to step outside my comfort zone, coach Dickert keeping me accountable. The leadership qualities that I need to inherit going into this season. [Dickert] has been a big part of my success,” Ward said. “He’s been my right-hand man since I got here. He’s always told me what I needed to hear, not what I wanted to hear. He’s going to keep pushing me all the way down the road.”