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

Battle for the Pac-2; WSU opens conference schedule

WSU and Oregon State clash in the midst of two statement seasons
WSU run on the field before taking on Northern Colorado, Sept. 16.

Is it not ironic? The dust has settled, the football season is in full swing and the conference schedule opens up with the two remaining Pac-12 schools meeting coming off 3-0 season starts.

While there is certainly a rotating storyline around the college football world surrounding this game, the focus for the Cougs is on the game itself, with a spotlight both teams earned, head coach Jake Dickert said.

“I think this is a great storyline, and once again the spotlight will be on Pullman, Washington. So what an opportunity for Cougs everywhere,” Dickert said. “You earn these things, we talked about this, if both teams are 0-3, you don’t[get this attention]… We’re just focused on what we need to do right now.”

This game is a sign of more than just the situation the Pac-12 is in, it is about the success of the OSU and WSU programs over the last five years, Dickert said. While the focus is on the game, he acknowledged the connection of the two programs.

“So I know nationally we’re together and we’re going to be rebuilding the Pac-12 and all those things,” Dickert said. “But on the field, it’s not going to be that friendly.”

Both teams are beginning to gain national respect, as OSU comes in at No.14 and WSU at No. 21. in the latest AP Top 25 poll and hyperlink it.

The situation is eerily similar to last season. The Cougs come in 3-0, with a big ranked win over Wisconsin in week two and a blowout win in week three.

Last year the Cougs took on a highly-ranked Oregon squad and nearly pulled it off, but could not get over the hump. This year is a chance at redemption for the Cougs.

“You just learn and grow, and I think we got a bunch of guys and competitors that know what the moment is, don’t want this to be the peak of [the season] and want this to be another step in our journey,” Dickert said. We’ve grown through some of the adversities of the past and opportunities last year… this is where we want to be.”

The two teams faced off last year, with the Beavers besting the Cougs 24-10. 

The key to that game was the Beavers registering six sacks. Coming into this week’s four matchup OSU has 12 sacks this season, with six more last week. One thing is for certain, the Cougs offensive line will have their hands full.

“Their defensive line is a problem, and it’s the strength of their defense. They’re attacking and they do it in multiple different ways, a lot of line games, movements. I think they’re very athletic and they play within themselves with power,” Dickert said. “We’ve watched the same tape, so our guys got to be prepared. They understand what it takes.”

The other key to last year’s game was the OSU rushing attack. Running back Damien Martinez had over 100 yards burning the Cougs. This season Martinez averages 117 rushing yards per game. 

The Beaver’s offense is based around being physical, running the ball and setting up the play-action pass, Dickert said. Similar to Wisconsin, the key is to stop the run early to set up the pass rush.

Martinez has Dickert’s attention, as he said he watched OSU’s game tape from last week and had to check and see if it was sped up because “that’s how fast that due was running,” Dickert said.

The biggest change in the Beavers offense from last year to now is the new signal caller, DJ Uiagalelei. A former five-star high school recruit and transfer from Clemson, the 6-foot, 4-inch tall quarterback is a force on the field, who adds a new level of confidence to OSU’s attack.

“When you have a quarterback that you feel really in, he raises the level of everybody else around them. And you can see him making all the big throws, really great touch passer and they use him in the old jackhammer package where he can run,” Dickert said. “Just like Cam brought to us, when you feel really good about the quarterback position, you feel really good about your opportunity to win games.”

OSU has a stingy defense, but had some cracks in the passing game last week, allowing 256 yards to the opposing quarterback. Surely something the Cougs will look to exploit as Cam Ward continues his breakout season.

Ward through three games, and having rested for three quarters as well, has 990 passing yards, nine touchdowns, a 72% completion percentage and is the only QB in the country with over 100 pass attempts and no interceptions. Ward also is tied for the team lead with 95 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

It is the biggest test of the year for Coug’s offense, as OSU is 15th in the nation allowing just 11 points per game. 

The Cougs will also be healthier this week, as cornerback Javan Robinson and left tackle Esa Pole, who started the Cougs first two games, were back to full speed in practice Wednesday.

On another defensive note, Dominic Tatum, a Utah State transfer defensive back has left the team, leaving room for more competition in the secondary, something defensive coordinator Jeff Schmedding relishes.

“If somebody makes that decision they make that decision and then you have to have guys step up and that’s the bottom line,” Schmedding said. “I love the position battles, and what our guys do a great job of is supporting each other through the competition. But competition makes us better, comfort doesn’t make you grow.”

The disrespect will continue throughout the year for both schools, creating further tension in this week’s matchup. The players know it too.

“We know from outside sources that we’re not a power five team, so we got something to prove day in and day out,” Ward said.

The disrespect is fuel, and both teams know they have a chance at 4 p.m. Saturday at Martin Stadium to make a statement to the college football world. The mission for the Cougs: take the statement for your own.

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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.