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What to watch at WSU’s Crimson and Gray Game

Plus, the NCAA adopts a big rule change and the Pac-12 might head to court.

Ashley Davis

Good morning Coug fans, and welcome to the annual Crimson and Gray game. While these scrimmages are really a formality and don’t really tell us a whole lot about the 2023 version of the Washington State Cougars, it’s still a fun opportunity to get the fans involved and showcase the university.

The showcasing of the university actually started yesterday, and WSU is literally calling it the 2023 Spring Showcase. And it started with a bang: the baseball team walked it off against Santa Clara thanks to Elijah Hainline’s walk-off home run on the first pitch of the bottom of the ninth. The baseball teams continues its series against Santa Clara today at noon.

But the crown jewel of the weekend is the Crimson and Gray Game at 3 p.m. Tickets are cheap, free for students, and ticket sales support WSU ROAR. You can watch the game on the Pac-12 Network.

Colton Clark of The Spokesman-Review has given us the best coverage of WSU’s spring campaign, so I’ll rely on his reports for this preview like a good aggregate blogger.

Here’s who and what we’re watching:

The Offensive Line

This group was under the microscope all season last fall and nothing changes that heading into the 2023 campaign. The unit heads into today’s game with just two starters locked in: center Konner Gomness and right tackle Fa’alili Fa’amoe, who was a defensive lineman up until a year ago. At left tackle, it appears to be a battle between Christian Hilborn and Esa Pole, brother of former Coug Toni Pole. Pole has only been playing football for two years. If that concerns you, join the club! A neat story, yes, but a bit worrisome, no?

Christy Nkanu is a senior transfer from Southern Utah vying for one of the guard positions. Ma’ake Fifita is as well.

The new(ish) Air Raid

WSU hired Ben Arbuckle in the offseason to command the offense, and Arbuckle brings in a record setting air attack form Western Kentucky. He’ll lead one squad today made up of the first team offense. Second-year quarterback Cam Ward hopefully knows his new receivers better than I do, and if you’ve forgotten, here’s who they are:

  • Josh Kelly
  • Kyle Williams
  • DT Sheffield
  • Carlos Hernandez

Hernandez is a true freshman and early enrollee, while the others are transfers. If Ward has enough time to throw, which wasn’t the case most of last season, we should get a good idea of what might be in store this fall.

From Clark:

Offensive position battles to watch: wide receiver, tight end, right guard, left guard, left tackle and backup running back. Nine receivers are in the mix for playing time. Three tight ends are hoping to prove their value. Three big men are competing for first-team reps at the guard spots. Two Cougars are vying for starting snaps at left tackle. Two young tailbacks are jockeying for carries behind veteran Nakia Watson. galore on the offensive side!

So, who do we have at linebacker?

You’ll be forgiven if you don’t recognize any names at linebacker this afternoon. Daiyan Henley finished his one season and is off to the NFL. Francisco Mauigoa transferred to Miami, and Travion Brown transferred to Arizona State. So, who are the men in the middle?

Devin Richardson transferred from Texas, and Ahmad McCullough joined WSU from Maryland. Kyle Thornton returns, as does redshirt freshman Hudson Cedarland. Buddah Al-Uqdah was reportedly a top recruit but sat out last year due to injury.

So, unless you’ve really been paying close attention this spring, you may need to learn some new names at the linebacker position.

Enjoy the game, enjoy the festivities, and remember: It’s just the Crimson and Gray Game. Andrei Lintz ain’t walking through the tunnel.

Clock will keep running after first downs starting this season

I don’t know what kind of rules today’s Crimson and Gray Game will feature, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to implement the newest rule for the 2023 season: A running clock after first downs.

The NCAA adopted a big rule change that will shorten college football games this fall. The clock will continue to run after a first down except during the final two minutes in each half. In addition, teams are no longer allowed to take two consecutive timeouts.

Yes, good, great, way overdue. This rule, along with players only needing one foot in bounds for a catch, are perhaps the most impactful rules that differentiated college football from the NFL. But with other things lengthening games—namely the TV timeouts and replay reviews—something had to be done to shorten games. This is a good move.

Pac-12 needs to lawyer up

The stench of Larry Scott’s Pac-12 commissioner tenure just won’t go away:

To review: In January, the Pac-12 fired Pac-12 Networks President Mark Shuken and CFO Brent Willman for failing to disclose a $50 million (!) overpayment from Comcast.

Well, now Shuken and Willman are fighting back, and according to Jon Wilner, the two say they were wrongfully terminated. Wilner reported that Shuken and Willman claim that they did report the overpayment to then-Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott, who allegedly told them to “not to say or do anything” and “no way” and “it’s crazy, ignore it.”

The Pac-12 says the allegations are “wholly without merit” and that the conference will “vigorously” defend against the claims.

This is not the kind of attention the conference needs right now, but I’m am VERY interested in this case going to court for the car crash aspect of it all. Stay tuned.