As is our weekly custom, we check in today with a writer who covers Cal’s next opponent.
Today, we pose 5 Questions to Colton Clark, who follows Washington State for the Spokane Spokesman Review.
Here are his thoughts about the Cougars:
— How do you expect Washington State to respond Saturday after building a 12-point lead then giving up 29 fourth quarter points to Oregon in a 44-41 loss?
“I don’t think they’ll be too much affected by that. It’s impossible not to be. But they preach maturity," Clark says in the video at the top of this story. "There are some new pieces but everybody on the team, for the most part, is old and they have a lot of experience. They’ve gone through a lot of things like this.
“There’s nothing tougher going to happen than losing your coach mid-season and playing well throughout that. I don’t think a heart-breaking loss is really going to get to them that much.”
— Seems like coach Jake Dickert is doing a good job and that there is quite a bit less drama than a year ago under Nick Rolovich. Tell us about Dickert.
“Definitely less drama . . . there’s been no drama whatsoever. And the fan base loves him too.”
Less drama than Rolovich, who refused to follow a mandate that every state employee be vaccinated for COVID-19 and was fired after six games.
Less drama than Mike Leach, who brought his creative Air-Raid offense to Pullman, but often was a loose cannon.
“Kind of interesting that Jake Dickert is kind of the first normal guy who’s been the coach at Wazzu in a while,” Clark said. “People seem to be happy about that because there’s a level of stability there. You know what you’re going to get from him.
“He ended up being the right guy because he’s kind of a natural unifier, a natural leader. That showed last year.”
— Dickert last week said quarterback Cameron Ward has “magic in his fingers.” Tell us what we’ll see when the sophomore transfer from Incarnate Word is at his best and does he sometimes gets himself into trouble with his improvisational style?
“The thing I tell people is watch Cameron Ward’s release. It’s exactly what scouts talk about — it’s just so fast. He does not load up on anything. Where he’s really shined this year and made the highlights is improvisational stuff.”
It hasn’t been perfect, Clark notes. Along with his 10 touchdown passes, Ward has thrown five interceptions.
“He’s thrown some picks and that’s part of the settling-in process. He does not look uncomfortable at all, but maybe the confidence in his abilities and not quite used to Pac-12 level football has gotten him in trouble a little bit.
“When he’s rolling and they’re in the up-tempo and he starts getting in a groove, it really is just rhythmic.”
— Cal is familiar with transfer linebacker Daiyan Henley, who had nine tackles for Nevada when the teams met last year. He already has 8 1/2 tackles for loss and is projected as a possible first-round NFL draft pick. What makes him so good?
“He was a return man/receiver for two years, then he was a defensive back for a year. Then Brian Ward, who is Wazzu’s current DC, came into Nevada in 2020 and flipped him to a linebacker.
“So you have this elite-level athlete who’s just getting bigger and bigger and he still is retaining that skill-player speed. Now he’s a sixth-year senior and he’s got all this knowledge of offense and all this defensive knowledge and he’s playing (as) an actual linebacker. He’s just so quick.”
— The Cougars were good defensively the first three weeks, especially defending the run. How concerned are they after a rough outing against Oregon and with Cal’s Jaydn Ott coming to town following his 274-yard rushing performance?
Clark suggests that Oregon recognized an opportunity to throw the ball downfield against an inexperienced secondary.Will Cal do the same?
“The defensive front, that’s the strength of the team. Oregon game-planned them to scheme them out of it and neutralize the pressure they send. The defensive line couldn’t cause anything in the backfield because they got the ball out fast.”
“They had a good running game, too. A lot of it was just quick stuff angled toward the sideline. Get out of there fast — don’t let the D-line impact this game.”
Cover photo of Washington State coach Jake Dickert by James Snook, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo