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

‘We belong’: WSU football takes down Oregon State

The Cougs defeat the No. 14 Beavers and make another statement
Defensive backs Chau Smith-Wade and Jaden Hicks celebrate after pass breakup against Oregon State September 23, 2023 in Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash.

Finish. In 2022, WSU had a late lead over No. 15 Oregon at home with a chance to improve to 4-0, but tonight was different. Unlike 2022, the Cougs did what needed to be done to secure a 38-35 win over No. 14 Oregon State.

WSU led 38-21 at one point in the fourth quarter. It seemed like 2022 all over again, but the Cougs held on recovering an onside kick to get over the hump. WSU is now 4-0 for the first time since 2016, but all that matters is the win, WSU head coach Jake Dickert said.

“An ugly win is gonna be the prettiest thing ever in the Pac-12, and no one’s gonna complain about it,” Dickert said. “We just beat a really good Oregon State team, and it wasn’t pretty. It was tough, it was gutsy, it was gritty. This is a player’s game period. And our guys went out there and executed and made just enough, one more play than [OSU] did to win that game.”

For the second time in four weeks, the WSU crowd stormed the field. A sign of a program-shifting win, as WSU continues to shock the college football world.

The matchup was one between the only two schools currently set to remain in the Pac-12 past 2024 and brought fireworks as a result. As a sign of solidarity, the WSU band played the OSU fight song before the game and Butch hung out with the Beavers mascot pregame.

There was plenty of disrespect going the way of these two schools which the Cougs took only as further motivation as usual. The most prominent was on ESPN College Gameday as Lee Corso referred to the game between WSU and OSU as the “No one wants us Bowl,” to which Dickert defended his team and beliefs.

“I don’t really understand that, what’s the merit, once again, because the facts say people watch the Cougs and the people watch the Cougs more than every team left over in the Big 12,” Dickert said. “So I know coach Corso is at the point where they just give him the sheet and he reads off of it and they try to make a joke, but it didn’t even make sense. It’s well-documented what ESPN has done to try to get our league to where it’s at.”

Fans hold up a sign mocking ESPN College Gameday at a game against Oregon State September 23, 2023 in Pullman, Wash.

Once the two teams got on the field, however, the gloves were off. The two squads are fundamentally different, as WSU struck through the air, OSU on the ground.

The Cougs came out with a bang, as on the second play of the game, WSU quarterback Cam Ward found wide receiver Kyle Williams for a 63-yard touchdown to put the Cougs up 7-0. The score was Williams’ fourth TD in four games. 

After forcing a punt, Ward led a nine-play, 90-yard touchdown drive, ending in a QB sneak by Ward to put the Cougs up 14-0 early. The highlight of the drive was a one-handed wraparound catch by receiver Josh Kelly on the defensive back that made the Saturday night SportsCenter top-10 coming in third.

OSU would respond with a quick touchdown drive before Ward lit up the Beavers again, eventually finding Kelly for a 44-yard TD. The touchdown was close to topping Kelly’s highlight catch, as he took a short pass, juked the initial tackle attempt, then put three defenders in the spin cycle simultaneously with one move clearing his own path to the endzone to make it 21-7 Cougs.

“Out of all the plays I’ve had in my life, that’s definitely one of the top plays,” Kelly said.

The next drive was a chance for the Cougar defense to shine. From WSU territory, OSU QB DJ Uiagalelei was hit as he attempted a pass, leading to the ball floating into the air where WSU safety Sam Lockett III snatched it for his first interception of the season.

Later in the second quarter up 21-14, the Cougs would lose a fumble for the second straight drive. The defense picked up the slack however as impact safety Jaden Hicks blew through the offensive line on a blitz to record a fourth-down sack to force a turnover-on-downs.

That jolted some life into the Cougs’ passing attack as they marched down the field, capping a six-play, 55-yard drive with Ward scrambling for an extended amount of time before finding a wide-open Kelly in the endzone to take the Cougs into the half up 28-14. 

“At that moment I was nervous about the clock. Cam was freestyling and doing what he does, and then he throws something into the endzone and sometimes you just got to smile,” Dickert said when asked about Ward’s play.

The third quarter has not been friendly this season to the Cougs, especially not against Wisconsin, so the Cougars forced their own luck. Following a missed field goal, the Cougs on their second possession of the half decided to run a fake punt from their own 29-yard-line, as punter Nick Haberer completed a pass to tight end Billy Reviere III for a crucial first down.

The Cougs would then break out a two QB formation, as John Mateer took a snap, handed the ball to Ward as Mateer ran into the flat, catching a pass from Ward, and took it for nine yards and a first down. Ward would then hit Kelly once again on a spectacular one-handed grab for a 19-yard touchdown.

OSU would eventually punch in a late TD to make it 38-35, but tight end Cooper Mathers jumped on an onside kick attempt by the Beavers to seal the victory for the Cougs.

Wide receiver Kyle Williams celebrates against Oregon State September 23, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

It was an outstanding game for the WSU passing attack, as they outgained OSU 422 to 198 through the air. Kelly had eight catches for 159 yards and three touchdowns and Williams had seven catches for 174 yards and a touchdown. True freshman receiver Carlos Hernandez also had seven catches as receiver Lincoln Victor went down with an apparent lower-body injury.

“All you gotta do is put it in [Kelly and Williams’] vicinity, they gon’ come down with it,” Ward said. “When [Kelly and Williams[ were first getting here I told them straight up, as soon as you get here we’re looking for two new guys to throw the ball to and they showed up and showed out today.”

Ward also continued his electric pace, playing a nearly perfect game against OSU’s top-15 scoring defense in the country coming in. He ended 28-for-34, completing an unreal 82.4% of his passes for 404 yards and four touchdowns with a 221.0 QB rating. Ward still has no interceptions this season and was only sacked once.

“Cam deserves to be mentioned with the best quarterbacks in the country period. I think he continues to show that, and I think nationally we undervalue him and what he’s doing,” Dickert said.

Quarterback Cam Ward delivers a pass in a game against Oregon State September 23, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

Defensively the Cougs were good against the pass but did allow 242 rushing yards. Nonetheless, the defense did just enough, Dickert said.

Defensive tackle Nusi Malani had a sack and corner Cam Lampkin, despite being picked on opposite Chau Smith-Wade, made several huge plays.

“First off, I wouldn’t throw at Chau either. Lamp has responded,” Dickert said. “He had to stay the course over and over. And when you do you eventually see the results of your work and I’m really proud of that kid.”

WSU now goes into a bye week before a tough road conference game against UCLA. This week is different for everybody, Dickert said. He will not watch the film until Thursday, but Ward, on the other hand, will be right back at it.

The win was just another statement for the WSU program, and the win “just takes us to a new level,” Dickert said. It continues to show that the Cougs are more than the sum of their parts.

“I said this summer I felt confident that we put together a really good team, and no one was talking about it and we can do it in our own way,” Dickert said. “I saw a tweet again today we got zero five [star recruits], zero four stars right, but we’re greater than the sum of our parts because of our connection and how we play and the buy-in that [the players] have to their job […] I just told [Ron Stone Jr. and Brennan Jackson] to come back for year six. This is why they came back.”

The Cougs continue to prove everyone wrong week after week and are now over the early season hump, and ready for the Pac-12 grind. Now with two ranked wins, WSU has again proven to the entire college football world what Dickert said best: “We belong.”

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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.
Julian Caballero is a photographer for the Daily Evergreen. He is a junior broadcast production major from Tacoma, Washington. Julian began working for the Daily Evergreen in fall 2022.
BRANDON WILLMAN, Editor-in-chief
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 EIC starting in summer 2023 and enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.