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Opponent Offense Preview: Washington State Cougars

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This offense both runs AND shoots.

NCAA Football: Utah State at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Washington State has done an admirable job coming together after head coach Nick Rolovich’s mid-season firing. The controversy surrounding Rolovich has galvanized the Cougars to a degree and they are playing as well as they have all season. They are second in the Pac-12 in pass yards per game, and after committing twelve turnovers in the first six games of the season, they have just five in their last five. Per our friends over at CougCenter, WSU is the most improved team in the Pac-12 in the second half of the season in points per opportunity (points you score after crossing your opponent’s 40-yard line).

Jayden de Laura in the Run and Shoot

The run and shoot has some key similarities to WSU’s former air raid attack: both employ lots of four and five wide receiver sets and identify as pass first in all respects. While the air raid relies on precise execution and exact timing of well drilled route combinations, the run and shoot is more improvisational. Every route has multiple options depending on how the coverage reacts, trying to force defenders into situations where no matter what decision they make, the offense always has a counter. Of course, this requires quarterbacks and receivers to be in near perfect sync and react to coverages the same way. Another difference from the air raid is significantly fewer passes to running backs out of the backfield. A pass game staple in the air raid, RB Max Borghi has just 14 receptions in eleven games this season.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Washington State James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Pulling the strings for this offense is QB Jayden de Laura, a confident gun slinging quarterback. He’s completing 62% of his passes for 2,506 yards at 8.1 yards per attempt, with 23 touchdowns. The medium sized red flag is his 9 interceptions. The run and shoot is bound to have more turnovers due to the style of the offense but de Laura is an aggressive thrower nonetheless. Yet, he’s third in the conference in yards per attempt, and first in touchdowns and passing yards per game.

Assisting de Laura is the excellent receiver duo of Calvin Jackson Jr. and Travell Harris. Jackson, the 5-10 senior from Florida had an up and down start to his career, but has put it all together this season to become one of the most explosive weapons in the Pac-12. While he doesn’t possess elite size, he has great speed, leaping ability, and excellent hands. He currently leads the Pac-12 in pass plays of 30 yards or more - this offense loves to get vertical, and they have gotten more explosive as the season progresses thanks to Jackson. He’s had at least 130 yards in two of the last three games, with three total touchdowns. Enjoy:

Harris is another steady weapon for the Cougars, who leads the team in receptions and touchdowns. He is less explosive than Jackson, but has similar size and can be slippery with the ball in his hands. Harris also returns both kicks and punts. Finally, there is 6-2 freshman De’Zhaun Stribling who has emerged as the reliable third option. While Jackson and Harris get the majority share of targets and receptions, Stribling is right behind them with four hundred yards and four touchdowns on the year.

Max Borghi TD Maker

In four seasons in Pullman, Max Borghi has a whopping 39 touchdowns, including 10 this year. He’s got great short area quickness and vision, and is always keeping his frame pointed upfield. He’s also athletic with enough speed to be dangerous on the edges. This season he’s contributing almost exclusively on the ground with few looks in the pass game and he’s put his 138 carries to good use churning out 751 yards. The run game has been up and down for the Cougars in 2021, but Borghi is talented enough to punish teams if given the chance.

Syndication: Arizona Republic Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Happy Thanksgiving and Go Dawgs!