The Washington State Cougars responded to their stunning season-opening collapse in the best way possible on Saturday: By easily cruising past FCS Portland State, 44-24, behind 303 passing yards and four total TDs from Jayden de Laura.
The Cougs moved to 1-1 on the season, while Portland State dropped to 0-2.
It certainly wasn’t a flawless performance, but it was the sort of performance that keeps the wolves at bay for at least a week.
After a tight first quarter, the Cougars scored 23 points in the second quarter to race out to a comfortable 30-10 halftime lead. WSU had nearly doubled up the Vikings in yardage — 325-175 — with nearly half of those yards coming on the ground. Deon McIntosh was especially effective, rumbling for runs of 21, 12, 16, and 16, including a touchdown.
The third quarter wasn’t quite as explosive, but WSU did tack on a TD to take a four score lead into the final period. PSU piled up some yards and scored a couple of touchdowns in the final frame, but it was inconsequential.
The Cougars now prepare to face USC next week in Pullman.
Tempo, tempo, tempo: After the offensive struggles of last week — and, really, last season — the coaching staff decided to try and turn up the tempo. It worked! As he was leaving the field for halftime, WSU coach Nick Rolovich told sideline reporter Jessamyn McIntyre that he felt like de Laura operated best with a little bit of chaos, and he clearly seemed more comfortable this week as he led the Cougs to 8.6 yards per play through the first three quarters.
Welcome back, Travell Harris: Technically, Harris played in the opener, but he never got loose for any of his trademark big plays. That wasn’t the case today: He had 80 yards on 6 catches with 2 touchdowns and added another 108 yards on returns. He was a handful for the Vikings and a big reason why the Cougars were able to jump on Portland State in the second quarter.
Decimated defense: The defense played well for most of the game despite missing a number of players — Armani Marsh and Tanner Moku each were out with what appeared to be injuries, and then stud corner Jaylen Watson went out of the game after an awkward tackle and returned to the sideline with a sling on his arm. With USC coming to town next week, it’s a bad time to be losing players in the secondary; however, transfer Tyrone Hill filled in admirably, leading the Cougs in tackles, and Daniel Isom returned from the injury he suffered last week. Here’s to hoping Watson’s absence was more precautionary. Fingers crossed.
Did you see that??
Late in the 4th quarter and with WSU comfortably in front, the Cougars — with their starters — moved deep into PSU territory, eventually facing fourth down from the 13 with just over two minutes to go. De Laura apparently convinced Rolovich to go for it, and the QB even called the play.
It was a good play.
Touchdown No. 2⃣ for No. 1⃣#GoCougs | @_THarris1 https://t.co/CVy4hTa9JV pic.twitter.com/Tyqrc1czdB— Washington State Football (@WSUCougarFB) September 12, 2021
He said what?!?
Since my last tweet didn’t do it justice, here’s where Max Borghi talks about potentially running “through someone’s face” next week. pic.twitter.com/QzhlSLyPDJ— Theo Lawson (@TheoLawson_SR) September 12, 2021
One stat to tell the tale
13 - Passes by de Laura that went for at least 10 yards, compared to just six such plays a week ago