Coach Nick Rolovich’s situation persists as Washington state hosts Stanford
PULLMAN, Washington >> It took a little longer than expected, but Washington State seems to be rolling.
The Cougars’ defense is proving solid as evidenced by their performance over the past two weeks. And with Jayden de Laura, a graduate of Saint Louis, as a quarterback, the Cougars have found some power in attack.
Still, it all appears to be secondary heading into Saturday’s game against Stanford with questions hanging over the schedule over coach Nick Rolovich’s status after this weekend.
Washington state has set next Monday as the deadline for all public employees – including the Cougars coach – to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Rolovich has requested a religious exemption and his future with the team depends on the answer.
Saturday could be just another afternoon on the Palouse with the Cougars facing a Pac-12 opponent. Or it could end up being Rolovich’s last game in charge indefinitely.
Rolovich said this week he was not given a deadline for a decision on his claim.
Regardless of Rolovich’s situation, the Cougars suddenly found a spark after a sluggish start to the season.
The Cougars (3-3, 2-2 Pac-12) produced 491 yards of attack as they beat Oregon State, which led the Pac-12 North. It was a big change for a team that had struggled to score against FBS opponents all season.
De Laura had the best game of her career, completing 32 of 46 passes for 399 yards and three touchdowns. He had 15 of 18 assists in the decisive second half, when the Cougars scored on four straight possessions to take the lead.
âWhat you are seeing is a quarterback who is confident in his shoes,â Rolovich said. âHe makes the people around him better. â¦ I think he’s in the moment. He’s better let negative things unfold on his shoulders, and it’s all part of his growth. “
Rolovich said quarterbacks coach Craig Stutzmann took over two weeks ago in the win over California, replacing offensive coordinator Brian Smith in that role.
âThere’s something about connecting with the quarterback that I think is important,â Rolovich said.
Stanford (3-3, 2-2) presents a much more dangerous passing attack than the Beavers could. Second-year quarterback Tanner McKee threw for 1,449 yards and 12 touchdowns. He threw just three interceptions, all in a loss to Arizona State’s No.18 last week. The Cardinal was limited to just 13 rushing yards in the 28-10 loss.
Stanford coach David Shaw said his team will focus on throwing the ball.
âI have a quarterback who throws for over 350,â Shaw said. “Statistically, that’s how it’s going to be.”
These teams were scheduled to play on November 21, but the game was called off due to coronavirus-related absences in Washington state. The Cardinal led the all-time series 40-29-1, but Washington State has won the last four meetings.
Stanford has faced four ranked opponents before and is 2-2 in those games. Stanford is one of three FBS teams to face six opponents ranked in the AP’s pre-season Top 25. Washington State has yet to face a ranked team.
The Cougars have five receivers with over 100 yards this season and a sixth at just five under 100 yards. On Monday, Rolovich called the Cougars’ receivers the most improved position group. Last weekend, the Cougars logged in on 11 passing plays that totaled over 15 yards. “It was nice to see a few yards after the capture and the explosion,” Rolovich said.
Washington State defensive back George Hicks III was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against Oregon State. Hicks led the team with 10 tackles and got his first interception of the season in the Cougars victory. The interception came late in the first half and ended a push from Oregon State to keep Washington State close. Hicks had seven tackles in the second half, including the last tackle of the game as Oregon State came within one yard of a first down inside the red zone in the final minute.