The air raid days are over, and a new, balanced offensive approach has changed Washington State’s identity since Nick Rolovich took over in Pullman. The second-year coach is just 2-5 during his short tenure at Washington State, and scoring has been rare, getting outscored 218-189 in those seven games, with most of those points coming in blowout wins against Portland State earlier this season and Oregon State in 2020. That’s not to say the Cougars are lacking in talent.
Sophomore quarterback Jayden De Laura (6’0”, 190 lbs) has been consistent this season, completing 61.4% of pass attempts for 575 yards with six touchdowns and just two interceptions. With a QBR of 59.8, De Laura sits firmly in the top half of PAC-12 quarterbacks, however, Wazzu’s starter may not be available due to a knee injury suffered before the end of the first half. De Laura is currently considered day-to-day, meaning the Utes defense may be seeing more of Victor Gabalis (6’3”, 213 lbs) behind center. The sophomore came in to replace De Laura in the second half against USC, completing 6 of 13 pass attempts for a paltry 19 yards. While De Laura will occasionally take off down an available running leg, Gabalis is a pure pocket passer, who didn’t attempt a single run in his two quarters on the field.
If De Laura is unavailable, Utah’s defense will need to prepare for a larger dose of senior running back, Max Borghi. The 5’10”, 205 lbs bruiser is one of the conference’s best running backs, amassing 217 yards on just 37 attempts this season while recording zero fumbles during his career at Washington State. Though seldom used as a slot receiver since Rolovich took over, the dynamic back has a knack for grabbing short passes or working out of the backfield, leaving Borghi as the most dangerous player on the field when the Cougars are on offense.
Downfield, Utah’s secondary will have their hands full with senior receiver Calvin Jackson Jr (5’10”, 294 lbs) who is a tremendous talent deep downfield, averaging 14.6 yards per reception, while fellow senior Travell Harris (5’9”, 185 lbs) is a red zone threat, accounting for four receptions in the end zone this season, making up 22% of all his receptions in 2021.
Utah’s defense won’t need to be great to stop Wazzu, but a statement game against a conference opponent might be just what this team needs to get things back on track.