The Oregon Ducks are fresh off a dominant 41-20 win over the BYU Cougars, but the Ducks aren't the only team heading into week four with heads full of steam.
Their next opponent, the Washington State Cougars, are off to a flawless 3-0 start before hosting Oregon. Head Coach Jake Dickert already has some impressive wins in his eight-game tenure in charge of the Cougs, including a 17-14 upset over No. 19 Wisconsin two weeks ago.
It's always a tough matchup in Pullman. Here are five Washington State players who could give Oregon headaches come Saturday.
1. Daiyan Henly-Linebacker
The Cougars boast the stingiest defense in the Pac-12, allowing the least points (12.7) and rushing yards (90.7) per game in the conference. And the leader of the Cougar defense, on and off the field, is linebacker Daiyan Henley.
On the field, Henly is the team leader in tackles, sacks, and forced fumbles. Henly had a monster game last week against Colorado State, posting 13 tackles, three sacks and forcing a pair of fumbles.
Off the field Henly is just as energetic, and a huge supporter of his teammates. When he found out that his team recorded seven sacks against Colorado State, his reaction was priceless.
"Seven. I didn't know it was that many." said Henley. "And I had how many? Three? I don't even know how to read this thing (the box score) to be honest. Well anyway, I give credit to my d-line."
Henley does a bit of everything for the Cougars. Expect to heae his name called plenty on Saturday.
2. Cameron Ward-Quarterback
Just like Coach Dickert, Ward is new to Pullman. The West Columbia, Texas product just transferred in from Incarnate Word where he threw for an unreal 4,648 passing yards and 47 touchdowns as a sophomore, against just 10 interceptions.
Ward has kept up that pace in his first three games as a Cougar. He's already accounted for 727 yards and eight touchdowns through the air. Against Colorado State, Ward opened the game by throwing for a touchdown on each of his first four drives.
Ward is a pocket passer who can slice up a defense, and knows how to put the ball where only the receiver can catch it. He's mobile and elusive in the pocket as well, so the Ducks will need to prioritize keeping him cornered and from extending plays.
3. Donovan Ollie-Wide Receiver
Washington State's offense has put the ball in Ward's hands and trusted him to find the open man, and so far redshirt sophomore wide receiver Donovan Ollie has been getting open the most.
Ollie has 19 receptions and 183 yards through three games, good for team high's in both categories. Like most of the Cougars, Ollie enjoyed a great game against Colorado State. He caught the first and fourth touchdown passes from Ward, ending with seven catches and 82 yards.
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The Ducks overcame adversity to defeat the Cougars in Pullman.
"We practiced hard on coming together and gelling together," Ollie said on his connection with Ward. "We had these first two weeks to see where everybody is going to be at, to see where Cam (Ward) is going to put the ball. Our chemistry's grown and the rest is history."
The Ducks should be ready for Ollie to be targeted often on the outside, but they'll also need to keep their eye on wideout De'Zhaun Stribling, who has 14 catches on the year and also scored twice last week.
4. Jaden Hicks-Safety
Last Saturday was the first time redshirt freshman safety Jaden Hicks started for the Cougars, but he looked like a seasoned veteran.
On the first play of the game, Hicks laid a big hit and dropped the running back for a loss. In the third quarter, he flew from the middle of the field to the pylon in the end zone to grab his first interception.
The very next drive, Hicks made the highlight of the game. He came down from his strong safety position and laid the boom with his shoulder to make the receiver drop a sure-fire catch.
"Once I saw the quarterback look over, see ball, get ball so that's what I did." Hicks said. "And then on the hit, I just ran through the guy really. It felt good finally getting a hit like that."
Hicks is liable to drop another hit stick from the top of the defense.
5. Nakia Watson-Running Back
Plenty of Cougars played well against Colorado State. But running back Nakia Watson was the best player on the field in their best win of the season over Wisconsin two weeks ago.
Watson, who used to play for Wisconsin, was responsible for both of the Cougars' touchdowns. He was the first player to score in the game with a two yard rush into the end zone. And he was the last player to score, with a 31 yard catch-and-run to take the 17-14 lead.
The Ducks have been solid against the run, but Watson can get it done as both a runner and a receiver. WSU lost their top two backs in Max Borghi and Deon McIntosh from a year ago, but Watson has been a terrific addition out of the portal and has wasted no time contributing in a big way.
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