Cougs prepare for Ducks at home

Rookie quarterback Jayden de Laura hopes to lead Cougs to victory on Saturday



Cougar football looks to upset No. 11 Oregon at home on Saturday in the same fashion as their College GameDay match-up in October 2018.

CODY SCHOELER, Evergreen reporter

The Washington State Cougars will play their first home game of the season when they face the University of Oregon Ducks at 4 p.m. Saturday in Martin Stadium.

The Cougars (1-0) have experienced recent success against the Ducks (1-0), beating them in four games over the last five years.

Head coach Nick Rolovich said it is not a guarantee that the same success will translate over to this year, but having experienced players that have beat Oregon is something they can rely on.

“They’re already past the uniforms and the helmets,” he said. “They’ve seen that, they’ve done that, they’ve played, they’ve had success.”

Redshirt junior wide receiver Jamire Calvin said he believes WSU has been able to win so many of those games is because they match up really well with Oregon.

WSU is coming off a 38-28 win on the road against the Oregon State Beavers. They were led by freshman quarterback Jayden de Laura and redshirt senior running back Deon McIntosh.

De Laura was 18-33 for 227 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, leading the team to a win in his first college game. He also chipped in 43 yards and a score on the ground.

“He played very well, especially for his first game in the Pac-12, in a Power Five conference against really good teams,” Calvin said. “He went out there and executed and did the things he was supposed to do.”

McIntosh, who stepped in for an unavailable junior running back Max Borghi, rushed the ball 18 times for 147 yards and a touchdown.

The Ducks (1-0) faced the Stanford Cardinal last weekend, beating them 35-14. They were also led by a first-time starting quarterback, as sophomore Tyler Shough threw for 227 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Rolovich said Shough will present a different matchup than they faced last week. He said the Ducks’ quarterback can get out of the pocket and make chunk plays.

Redshirt senior linebacker Jahad Woods said although Shough is inexperienced, he will pose a tough matchup because of his versatility.

“He’s a young guy but I don’t think he really plays like it,” Woods said. “He does it with his feet, he can pass really well — we have to respect what he does in the run game.”

Shough was helped by having junior running back CJ Verdell in the backfield with him. He ran for 105 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries against the Cardinal.

Verdell is a familiar but despised name for Cougar fans. He had 257 yards and three touchdowns against WSU last year in a game the Ducks won 37-35 on a last-second field goal.

Woods said Verdell is a very talented running back and he respects how he plays.

“He’s an all-around back,” he said. “He’s definitely going to be a tough matchup but I have full confidence in our scheme and our defense and how we play that we will be able to contain him.”

This year’s game may very well be decided in the trenches on both sides of the ball for each team.

One of the biggest developments from the Cougars’ win over Oregon State was the revamped pass rush. WSU was able to bring down the quarterback four times in that game, led by redshirt sophomore Ron Stone Jr. with 1.5 sacks.

The Cougar defensive line will face a tougher test this week, matching up against an Oregon offensive line that was regarded as one of the best in the country last year.

They are without junior left tackle and 2019 Outland Trophy winner Penei Sewell, who opted out to prepare for the NFL draft, but the unit is still a strength of the team.

Woods said the Oregon offensive line has not missed a step despite the players they have lost on that unit. He said it is going to be a battle and will come down to whoever wants it more.

The WSU offensive line will face a considerable opponent as well. The Oregon defensive line is led by sophomore defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, the 2019 Pac-12 defensive freshman of the year. Thibodeaux and the rest of the Ducks defensive line will present a challenge for the Cougar offensive line for the second straight week.

Redshirt senior Liam Ryan and redshirt junior Abe Lucas will likely be challenged the most, as they are the ones likely to match up with Thibodeaux. They responded well to facing 2019 Pac-12 sack leader Hamilcar Rashed Jr. last week, preventing him from recording a sack and holding the entire Beaver team to just one sack.

Another strength of the Oregon team is their secondary. Although the unit was also hurt by opt-outs this year, it was still able to hold Stanford to just 216 passing yards and no touchdowns through the air.

Calvin said he feels confident in the Cougars’ wide receiver group going up against the Ducks and in general.

“Personally I feel we match up good against in the country,” he said. “I like us against any secondary.”

The Cougars will look to go 2-0 on the season when they face the Oregon Ducks at 4 p.m. in Martin Stadium. The game will be broadcasted on Fox.