The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Underappreciated Excellence; Coug backups shine

Second and third-team Cougs took advantage of opportunity
John Mateer dances around the Northern Colorado defense on long-running gain, Sept. 16.

Week three was a breeze for WSU football, securing a 64-21 win over the University of Northern Colorado. With the starters playing just the first half, the Cougar reserves got their shot in the limelight and capitalized.

In total, 18 Cougs made their WSU debut. Among the reserves, a few stood out above the competition, WSU head coach Jake Dickert said.

“What stood out the most was our second offensive line, when we talked about the game [Monday] morning, they were our offensive players of the game,” Dickert said. “They created space, it wasn’t against a different defense than the ones were against, it was the same scheme. So it was an attitude, it was a mindset.”

Among the aforementioned offensive line, some standouts Dickert listed include sophomores Rodrick Tialavea, Devin Kylany, Brock Dieu and freshmen Ashton Tripp and Luke Roaten. Dickert also mentioned redshirt senior Christy Nkanu, who transferred to WSU from Southern Utah as a right tackle but filled in at right guard due to an injury.

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The standouts do not stop there. The backup running backs helped carry a previously lackluster Cougar run game. Redshirt freshman Djouvensky Schlenbaker had 41 yards on four carries, true freshman Leo Pulalasi had 39 yards on seven carries and sophomore Dylan Paine had 81 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

The touchdown was the first of Paine’s career, and a 52-yard run on the drive to set it up was the longest of his career. His work ethic behind the scenes is an example of what makes every Coug ready to go when their time comes.

“I remember him three years ago on scout team and when [Dickert] first got here and just his attitude, his energy, his toughness I think has really meant a lot to our football team,” Dickert said. “That’s what really makes a team, when a guy like that goes out there and busts his tail off and gets rewarded for it. He’s a walk-on in our program, but I’m telling you those are the guys that are really the glue of what we do.”

The reserve receivers also had a big day as sophomore Josh Meredith caught his first career touchdown and fellow sophomore Tsion Nunnally had a 62-yard catch and run for a touchdown. 

Their big day was in large part due to the performance of backup quarterback John Mateer. While Mateer has a role rushing the ball with the starting offense, this was truly his time to shine, Mateer said.

“They actually let me let loose today, which was a lot of fun. I was still questioning if I could play at this level you know, because I’ve only run the ball and thrown it three times before this game,” Mateer said. “Now I feel pretty confident. I’ve done some good things out on the field.”

Mateer led three touchdown drives in three attempts, racking up 138 passing yards and two touchdowns while completing seven of eight pass attempts. 

On the defensive side of the ball, things got a little bit sloppy, Dickert said. While there were some big plays, that unit had some issues with communication and has a lot to learn from. Still, the reps are invaluable.

“Fortunately though they got game experience because at some point, Reese [Sylvester] is gonna be out there and Taariq [Al-Uqdah] is gonna be out there and we need that experience. Bobby Terrell, so all those guys I think they got an opportunity,” Dickert said. “It was huge, and they’re no longer freshmen… You’re a Pac-12 player, you can never take it away from you.”

The performance from the second and third units was a sign of the depth on the Cougar’s roster and was a great chance to get everyone some critical in-game reps. How much it plays a role this year is yet to be seen, but one thing is for sure, the Cougs are deep, and the talent is real.

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About the Contributors
LUKE WESTFALL, Evergreen sports co-editor
Luke Westfall is a junior in Broadcast News from Custer, WA. He is an avid fanatic of the many sports at many levels who spends all his available time indulging in them. Luke began working at the Evergreen in Spring 2022.
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.