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Cal Football

Washington State Preview: Cougars Have Some Issues

September 30, 2021
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With a 1-3 record and a trip to powerful Oregon looming after a bye week, Cal could stand to play a team that has issues.

Washington State has issues. 

The Cougars, who come to Memorial Stadium Saturday afternoon, have had to deal with incidents both on and off the field. 

Coach Nick Rolovic’s vaccination status has become a major distraction, and prior to Saturday’s game at Utah Rolovic had to inform his players that one of their teammates was the victim of a shooting.

On the field, the quarterback position has been unsettled since training camp began. Jarret Guarantano, a transfer from Tennessee, started the opener against Utah State, was injured and replaced by last year’s starter Jayden de Laura. He started the next two games, was injured himself and was replaced by Guarantano, who started last week. 

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Travell Harris

De Laura seems to be healthy again and the battle is rejoined. Neither of them has really impressed Rolovich.

“I think we haven’t had a real clean start to the season at the quarterback position,” Rolovich said in his weekly news conference. “We gotta see who is available and who can go out and do it. There will probably be some competition element like there was last week.”

And then there is running back Max Borghi, a preseason honors candidate who had to leave Saturday’s loss at Utah with a finger injury. He was initially listed as questionable for Saturday, although Rolovich sounds like he expects him to play. Just how effective he can be is anybody’s guess.

Rolovich’s predecessor Mike Leach, he of the imaginative offense and monosyllabic quotes, took the Cougars to national relevance, winning 11 games in 2018 and even bringing college football Game Day to Pullman. Things started to slip in 2019 and Leach bailed for Mississippi State. Rolovich took over, went 1-3 in the truncated 2020 season and is 1-3 now. 

That 2-6 mark would be enough to start the Cougar followers grumbling, but Rolovich has further alienated them by refusing to get vaccinated against COVID. From midsummer he has refused to give his reasons and if facing a deadline. All state employees must be vaccinated next week, and the Seattle Times urged that Rolovich be fired if he does not comply by then. 

On Saturday morning, just hours before the Cougars were to face Utah, Rolovich got a phone call telling him wide receiver Brandon Gray, who did not make the trip to Salt Lake City, had been wounded in a shooting in Pullman the previous night. 

In his press conferences this week Rolovich has fielded as many questions about Gray as he has about Cal. At latest report, the player remains hospitalized in stable condition. 

Stable, however, is not a word applicable to the Cougars’ quarterbacks. it has been a revoving door.  Cal head coach Justin Wilcox is preparing for both of them. 

“They are different, they have different styles,” Wilcox said. “Jay de Laura is kind of like a point guard, he’s real active. He’s active even when the play is not going. You just see him. He’s noticeable. He’s bouncing around. ...He’s a talented guy. I remember him playing in high school, he’s a really good high school player.

“And then Jarret is a little bit more traditional. He’s tall (6-4), throws the ball down the field. He has played a lot of college football. I am sure they have certain things like any offense they have a little of this and a little of that more with each guy.”

Jeffrey Swinger -- USA Today
Jarrett Guarantono

Whoever plays will likely have Borghi, backed up by Deon McIntosh, who according to Cal defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon is not too shabby, either.

“They’ve both been productive,” Sirmon said. “They can stretch the defense, they can outrun some of the pursuit inside. They can press it outside a five-technique and gain some yards. They are doing a good job of cleaning up the pass game in terms of some of the protection responsibilities. They are both very talented, good hard physical runners with the ability to pop it outside.”

Unlike Leach’s madcap offense, Rolovich’s version of the Run and Shoot features the run as much as the pass. But when it throws, WSU has two of the better receivers in the conference. Travell Harris, all 5-feet-9, 185 pounds of him, has 24 catches to rank third in the conference. He is also dangerous on punt returns. Calvin Jackson has 20 catches, fourth-best in the Pac-12.

The Washington State offensive line, anchored by honors candidate Abraham Lucas at right tackle, was supposed to have been a strength. But the Cougars have allowed 15 sacks, eight of them last Saturday. Even Cal’s somewhat suspect pass rush should be able to exert some pressure.

The Cougs rank 11th in the conference in total defense (414.3 yards per game), so things look promising for Garbers and Co. However, the Bears have to be careful with the ball, something they haven’t always done. WSU enters the week leading the Pac-12 with six fumble recoveries, second-most in the country. The Cougs’ ten takeaways are second best in the conference and sixth in the country..

 The Bears will have to find a way to deal with defensive end Ron Stone, who has become one of the best in the league.

“He is so good,” Musgrave said. “Against Utah in the backfield, balls were flying out of the ball carriers’ hands. He is dynamic, We’ve got to account for him on each and every down.He can line up inside or outside. He is physically gifted.”

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
Nick Rolovich

Antonio Pule, who was not even listed on some preseason depth charts, has supplanted preseason honors candidate Ahmir Crowder at an inside tackle.

Rolovich said that Pule has been productive, has taken a big jump and made “a heavy commitment.”

Linebacker Jahad Woods leads the team with 32 tackles and is generally around the ball.

The secondary has improved with the move of George Hicks from cornerback to safety. That really paid off when erstwhile starter Halid Djibril was injured two weeks ago.

Notes

  • The Golden Bears lead the overall series  48-28-5.
  • Cal has won the past three contests in Berkeley. - 33-20 in 2019, 37-3 in 2017 and 34-28 in 2015. 
  • The Bears are 7-1 vs. Washington State in their last eight games at home, while Cal is 12-3 overall in the series since 2005.
  • Woods is the national active leader in career tackles with 321, sixth best in WSU history.





 

 

 

Discussion from...

Washington State Preview: Cougars Have Some Issues

2,587 Views | 8 Replies | Last: 12 days ago by heartofthebear
heartofthebear
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You're doing it again, that thing you do when you say "Cal should...". So that when Cal doesn't we can all get upset. Just stop it. Cal "should be able to pressure the QB"? Why because USC and Utah did? Are you comparing Cal's defensive front to USC and Utah? Really? Cal has a serious problem with their pass rush and here it is. Their DL is absolutely the slowest group of guys I've ever seen in a backfield. The QBs just dance around them. Have you noticed that or are you even paying attention?

I'm not going to get upset when/if Cal does not sack the QB because Cal will win anyway, but, if you are going to try to trick me into having unnecessary hopes for Cal, please don!
Strykur
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They suck.

Cal wins.
82gradDLSdad
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Strykur said:

They suck.

Cal wins.


Yes. I mean they were 1-3 last year and are 1-3 this year. Teams with records like this suck.
Rushinbear
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heartofthebear said:

You're doing it again, that thing you do when you say "Cal should...". So that when Cal doesn't we can all get upset. Just stop it. Cal "should be able to pressure the QB"? Why because USC and Utah did? Are you comparing Cal's defensive front to USC and Utah? Really? Cal has a serious problem with their pass rush and here it is. Their DL is absolutely the slowest group of guys I've ever seen in a backfield. The QBs just dance around them. Have you noticed that or are you even paying attention?

I'm not going to get upset when/if Cal does not sack the QB because Cal will win anyway, but, if you are going to try to trick me into having unnecessary hopes for Cal, please don!
Two things worry me: 1. If Borghi plays. 2. DeLaura's quick release, if he plays.
Blueblood
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Cal might beat Wazzu tomorrow. Here's the latest group picture of The Cougs starting OL!


"Victory!"

"We're gonna lose....
Says who?
So, untie your shoe,
Go Wazzu!"
heartofthebear
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Hey David Bush, I'm calling you out?
WSU has issues? Really?
Cal's going to pressure the QB, really?

I'm looking forward to your next article.
I'm sure it won't be about how messed up this program is.
You won't get access that way will you.
What a joke.
calumnus
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heartofthebear said:

Hey David Bush, I'm calling you out?
WSU has issues? Really?
Cal's going to pressure the QB, really?

I'm looking forward to your next article.
I'm sure it won't be about how messed up this program is.
You won't get access that way will you.
What a joke.


Prepare for two weeks of hearing what a great record Wilcox has against Oregon and how they are reeling after losing to Stanford.

I think our win over Oregon last year was our only win over an FBS team that finished with a winning record in about 3 years?
heartofthebear
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If we beat Oregon, it will be on Oregon.
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