Colorado State Football: First Look At The Washington State Cougars
The Rams will head to the Pacific Northwest for a date with Wazzu in non-conference play.
The Cougs may be as unpredictable as ever.
Colorado State Football: First Look at 2022 Non-Conference Opponents
Colorado State gets a chance for a Pac-12 win for the Mountain West when they head to Pullman to face the Washington State Cougars. The Cougars will be looking to prove they belong in the conversation for a Pac-12 title.
Jay Norvell will also get to face his former defensive coordinator in Brian Ward. Ward was the DC at Nevada for the past two seasons and improved the Wolf Pack each year he was there. The familiarity will be a challenge to see who comes out on top.
Location: Pullman, Washington
Series History: The Rams lead the all-time series, 1-0.
2021 Record: 7-6 (6-3 Pac-12)
Head Coach: Jake Dickert (first year as head coach at Washington State, 3-3 overall). After Nick Rolovich was removed as head coach last October for his refusal to comply with the state of Washington’s COVID vaccine policy, it would have been understandable had the Cougars simply folded. Dickert stepped up from his role as defensive coordinator, however, the same role he previously held at Wyoming, and the team stabilized with a trio of wins against teams they probably should have beaten anyway: Arizona State, Arizona, and Washington.
Things might have been better if not for a two-point losses to BYU and a Sun Bowl loss to Central Michigan that came with its own particular logistical challenges. For the sake of stability, the university chose to keep Dickert on in a permanent basis, though it remains to be seen whether Washington State has the pieces in place to compete in a wide open division.
Cameron Ward, QB
Ward followed his former coach to Washington State where he looks to take control of the Cougars offense after throwing for 4,648 yards and 47 touchdowns at Incarnate Word last season. He was named the Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year and a Walter Payton Award finalist and brings familiarity in the offense, similar to Clay Millen, so he could get the Cougars off and running.
— DCTF College Football (@dctfCFB) October 16, 2021
Stribling was a signing day surprise for the Cougars and enrolled early in the spring of 2021 to get a head start on the offense. The effort paid off for him after being named All-Pac-12 honorable mention following a freshman season of 44 catches for 471 yards and five touchdowns. Dickert said he increased his top speed from 19 to 23 miles per hour, so speed will be one thing to watch for from Stribling.
Ron Stone Jr, DE
The first Wazzu defensive lineman since Hercules Mata’afa to be named first team All-Pac-12, Stone Jr. looks to build on impressive sophomore season. Named to the Bronko Nagurski watch list, Stone Jr looks to follow up on an 11.5 tackle for loss and five sack campaign. Was named to Jon Wilner’s top ten Pac-12 players list and will be a tough act for the CSU OL to block.
Daiyan Henley, LB
The swiss army knife of the Cougars defense, Henley was moved around throughout his playing career before settling at linebacker. Those skills he picked up along the way allowed him to read the game quicker. His DB skills led to four interceptions and four pass breakups last season with Nevada. Henley will be a key for the CSU offense to watch for in the middle of the field.
He's back at it‼️💪
— Nevada Football (@NevadaFootball) November 20, 2021
Probably as close to reliable as one can get for a kicker without being perfect. Janikowski, no relation to former NFL kick Sebastian Janikowski, was named to the All-Pac-12 First Team after converting 14-of-17 field goals and 39-of-41 extra points. Remains to be seen how big of a leg he has, career long of only 41 (44 in high school), so if the Rams can hold up near mid-field it could cause some decisions to be made.
The “Coug Raid” as head coach Jake Dickert called it in press conference last December will be close to 50/50 under offensive coordinator Eric Morris. At Incarnate Word, Morris was closer to 40/60 run/pass. Losing two year starter Jayden de Laura to in conference foe Arizona hurt, but Morris bringing along Cameron Ward will dull the pain a little bit.
Ward brings a strong arm and familiarity to the offense that will look to beat you any way they can. Ward will have the standout sophomore Stribling as his main target to go along with the returning Donovan Ollie and Lincoln Victor. They will be breaking in a basically new backfield with Nakia Watson the only returning running back to put up any rushing stats last year.
The biggest question mark for Washington State, similar to Colorado State, is the offensive line. The Cougars lost 101 starts worth of experience from last year, one to the NFL, one to eligibility, and two to transfers. They do bring some experience back, but the question remains. Can this unit come together quickly?
If one was to look at Colorado State and Washington State only looking at the offensive and defensive schemes, one could think they were the Office meme of Pam saying they’re the same picture. To go along with the “Coug Raid” offense, the Cougars will be running a 4-2-5 defensive scheme.
The standouts to watch are Nevada transfers Henley and Jordan Lee, to go along with returners Stone Jr. and Travion Brown. Derrick Langford Jr. is one to watch in the defensive backfield, too, as the 6’3″ DB figures to matchup with the tallest receivers the Rams throw out there.
The Cougars defense had 27 takeaways and look to maintain that level of production this season under new defensive coordinator Brian Ward. The former Nevada DC under Jay Norvell will provide a tricky matchup of who blinks first between the CSU offense and Wazzu defense.
The Rams defense will face an “air raid” offense for the second week in a row after opening their home slate with Middle Tennesse. The familiarity with the CSU offense and Wazzu defense will be the matchup to watch. So based on that it will come down to how CSU’s defense can keep up with Wazzu’s offense. This will most likely be a barn burner of a shootout between two high-powered offenses.
Colorado State 52, Washington State 49