Main takeaways from WSU vs. Oregon State

From stellar offensive line play to a true freshman quarterback’s memorable debut, WSU excelled in nearly every category



True freshman quarterback Jayden de Laura dives into the endzone to extend the Cougars’ lead to 21-7 during the football game against Oregon State on Saturday.

CODY SCHOELER, Evergreen reporter

The Cougars started their season 1-0 by beating the Oregon State Beavers 38-28 on Saturday, answering a lot of questions in the process.

We saw head coach Nick Rolovich roaming the sidelines for the first time, and true freshman quarterback Jayden de Laura take his first snaps in college.

Beyond just the scoreboard, there were several positive developments in that game from the offensive line to the new-look defense.

Takeaway #1: The offensive line is the strength of this team

Rolovich spoke about the offensive line’s consistency and importance to the team in previous weeks and it showed in game one. He reiterated that sentiment after the game, referring to the group as “the tip of the spear” on the offense and maybe the whole team.

These are the five guys who do not get a lot of credit on the team and do not show up in the stat sheet: Liam Ryan, Jarrett Kingston, Brian Greene, Josh Watson and Abe Lucas. All five of these linemen played big roles and were the stars in the win.

They kept de Laura clean almost all game only allowing one sack, which Rolovich took the blame for due to play calling. They also were a huge reason why the offense was able to pick up 456 total yards, including 227 on the ground (which we will get to later).

There is no better way to introduce a true freshman under center than behind an incredibly solid offensive line. The offensive line will continue to lead this team, both on and off the field, and these guys will establish themselves as one of the best units in the conference.

Takeaway #2: The pass rush actually rushed the passer

Opposing quarterbacks did not feel much pressure playing against the Cougars last season — literally. They averaged under two sacks a game and the defensive line recorded just 15 sacks all season.

A lot of conversation was had over the offseason about the defensive ends’ transition from last year’s “rush” position to the edge rusher position this year. It seems to have already paid off if this game is any indication of what is to come.

The Cougars more than doubled their 2019 per-game average for sacks against the Beavers, taking down Tristan Gebbia four times. 

Edge rusher Ron Stone Jr. led the way with 1.5 sacks. Defensive lineman Ahmir Crowder also added a sack and edge rushers Willie Taylor III and Brennan Jackson chipped in one and 0.5 sacks, respectively.

Defensive coordinator Jake Dickert’s new defense looked impressive in week one, signaling what could be the turnaround for the unit that multiple players have alluded to. If this defense is the real deal or at least improved from last year, the defensive line will have to continue to impress.

Takeaway #3: The run part of the Run and Shoot was impressive

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Cougars won the game due to their ability to run the ball. You probably did not stop me, because that is not a sentence that has been said very often.

Unless you were a fan in 2007 when Dwight Tardy rushed for 207 yards, you have not seen a rushing performance as good as the one put forth against the Beavers.

Deon McIntosh had 18 carries for 147 yards, the most for a Cougar since Tardy, and a three-yard rushing touchdown. He stepped in for preseason All-Pac-12 first-team running back Max Borghi, who was unavailable due to injury.

Rolovich said that McIntosh had a very impressive training camp and that the coaching staff was confident in his ability.

McIntosh showed that he is not just Borghi’s backup, breaking off several impressive runs to put together the best game of his Cougar career, topping his 93-yard performance against Oregon State last season.

Rolovich’s Run and Shoot offense made a statement on Saturday. The Cougars finished with 229 rushing yards, more than the 227 passing yards they racked up.

It was not just all McIntosh on the ground. De Laura had 43 yards and a touchdown, and wide receiver Travell Harris chipped in 49 yards and a score.

The passing game will still be a huge part of this offense, but after game one the running game is leading the way so far.

Takeaway #4: The next man up was ready

Rolovich said after the game that there were 32 players unavailable for the game against Oregon State. This is not a surprise due to the nature of the pandemic. The shocking part was that you could not tell WSU was down all those guys from the way they played.

Edge rusher Brennan Jackson said after the game that the team — especially the defense — embraced the next man up mentality.

Borghi was the most notable name that was ruled out, leading to the previously mentioned McIntosh stepping up big time. Some of the other players that did not play on Saturday were linebacker Travion Brown and defensive backs Tyrese Ross and Chad Davis Jr.

The limitations in the secondary led to freshman walk-on defensive back Ayden Hector stepping in to start at safety. 

Hector, a former four-star recruit that committed to Stanford, has been with the team for just over two weeks but that did not stop him from showing out on the field. He tied for the team lead with seven tackles, five of them being solo tackles. 

There will be more obstacles to come this year, whether it is injuries or COVID-related, but so far the Cougars have demonstrated an ability to roll with the punches and adapt to whatever challenges they are faced with.

Takeaway #5: A star is born and his name is Jayden de Laura

The stat sheet may not suggest that de Laura took the Pac-12 by storm on Saturday. The eye test, on the other hand, concludes that the freshman from Hawaii has a bright future ahead of him in Pullman.

He completed 18 of 33 pass attempts for 227 yards and two touchdowns — actually, three touchdowns if you include the one that Renard Bell caught “with the help of the ground.”

The most impressive part of de Laura’s game does not show up in the box score. He showed the type of mobility and escapability in the pocket that one would expect from a seasoned veteran. De Laura consistently was able to evade pass rushers and make plays with his legs. 

He also showed off his arm talent and proved that he was not afraid to test the defense by throwing it downfield. De Laura shook off an early interception in the first quarter and made some impressive throws down the stretch.

One of de Laura’s best throws was a dime to Renard Bell on the right side of the end zone that was called a touchdown but nullified due to a penalty. The next play, de Laura went to the other side of the end zone with another great throw, this time to Travell Harris for a touchdown that actually counted.

There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the true freshman ahead of his first start. His play has answered many questions but there is still more to be seen from de Laura.

All in all, his first game could not have gone much better. An impressive stat line and a victory has de Laura starting on the right foot in what is looking to be a great season and career.