Cougs drop 50 points in season opener

Sep. 3—There was a little bit of everything in Washington State's dominant season-opening victory Saturday against Colorado State in Fort Collins, Colo.

WSU had its first 50-point game since 2019, four touchdowns and nearly 500 total yards from quarterback Cam Ward, two wide receivers with their first offensive touchdowns as Cougs, a pick-six — and there was even a 98-yard kickoff return touchdown by the Rams.

This game had it all.

And most importantly for WSU, the win set the tone in what could be the team's last season in the Pac-12 Conference.

"We just came out here and prepared well, came out and executed how we were supposed to," WSU wide receiver Lincoln Victor said in a radio interview. Victor, a senior team captain, had 11 catches for 168 yards.

Colorado State scored first on a 38-yard field goal before the Cougars rattled off 36 straight points for a 36-3 lead early in the fourth quarter.

The Rams showed some signs of life in the fourth but it was too little too late.

Ward went 37-of-49 passing for 451 yards and three touchdowns and wideouts Josh Kelly and Kyle Williams combined for 11 catches, 128 yards and each had their first receiving TDs since transferring to the program in the spring.

On defense, safety Jaden Hicks tallied a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown and a big sack on a fourth down to go along with seven tackles and two pass break-ups.

"Here's the best part: We needed this outcome, we came in to get the win, we did get the win," WSU coach Jake Dickert said. "What I told the coaches (is) if we get the outcome we desire, we're going to get the learns that we require."

Here's more about how Saturday's game went down:

Key plays

Backup quarterback John Mateer took a snap out of the wildcat formation and sprinted to the corner pylon for a 3-yard touchdown and a three-score WSU lead in the third quarter. The touchdown gave WSU a healthy lead, was the first rushing TD of Mateer's career and the first of two on the day for the redshirt freshman from Little Elm, Texas. It was also a glimpse into one of the many packages new offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle hopes to deploy this season.

Ward hit Kelly for a 25-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter for the QB's fourth and final TD of the day and a 43-10 WSU advantage.

Trailing 39-3 early in the fourth quarter, CSU's kick returner Kobe Johnson returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. On the Rams' next offensive possession, backup quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi completed a 75-yard TD pass to Justus Ross-Simmons on a busted coverage on the very first play of the drive. The two miscues show the Cougars still need to work on closing out games, but they came too late for the Rams to make a serious push.

Stars of the game

After having just 26 catches all of last season, WSU senior wide receiver LINCOLN VICTOR had 11 catches for 168 yards in the season opener. It was an offensive statement for a team captain and vocal leader.

On defense, senior Texas transfer linebacker DEVIN RICHARDSON led with 11 total tackles while sophomore safety JADEN HICKS had an interception return for a touchdown and filled up the stat sheet with a fourth-down sack, seven tackles and two passes defensed.

Quote of note

Dickert on new offensive coordinator Ben Arbuckle and the offense: "I think it's a little bit of a glimpse of where we're going. The way (Arbuckle) sees it, the way he calls it, his ingenuity, the tempo ... Cam (Ward) showed his development, he stayed in the pocket. ... There were some plays we left out there but every time we needed to respond, we did it."

Odds and ends

WSU won its season opener for the second straight year and for the sixth time in the last seven years. ... WSU's 556 yards of total offense were the most since 2019 (641 vs. Oregon State) ... Dean Janikowski's 55-yard field goal to end the first half a career-long and the longest by a Coug since 2017. ... Dickert became the first Cougar coach to win his first two season openers since Bill Doba (2003-04).

Up next

WSU (1-0) plays its biggest home nonconference game in years when its host No. 19 Wisconsin (1-0) at 4:30 p.m. next Saturday (ABC) at Gesa Field in Pullman.

"What an opportunity to show what the Cougars are (about) on the biggest, brightest stage," Dickert said. "We gotta make sure we're bringing our best because they will be. It's going to be a special day in Pullman."

Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2277, or on Twitter @StephanSports.