Difference makers: Hicks uses sterling outing to help WSU rout Colorado State, 50-24

Sep. 2—FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Here are a few difference-makers and key moments from Washington State's 50-24 win over Colorado State Saturday night to open the season.

Jaden HicksThe Cougars' standout safety had himself a day. Early in the third quarter, he split out to his left to cover Colorado State wideout Dylan Goffney — then he noticed quarterback Clay Millen was throwing his way. Hicks leapt in front of the pass, snared it and raced 37 yards the other way, good for a pick-six. That pushed the Cougars' lead to 29-3. Except Hicks was not done. Only a few moments of game time later, he came on a blitz and combined with Andrew Edson to sack Millen. That turned out to be WSU's only sack of the game, but for Hicks, it capped what turned into a sterling outing.

Plus, late in the fourth quarter, Hicks nearly came up with a play to really cement his showing. CSU backup quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi lobbed a pass his way, only it looked high — but Hicks leapt up to snag it. He just couldn't secure it on the way down.

Interception or not, though, this matters because the Cougs' secondary, outside of garbage time when the Rams added a long touchdown pass, looked spectacular. They limited Millen, who came out in the second half with what looked like an injury, to just 110 passing yards. WSU nickel Jackson Lataimua added an interception in the second half. That came at the hands of Fowler-Nicolosi. All told, Hicks posted seven tackles, half a sack, half a tackle for loss and the one interception.

Cameron WardGive Ward some credit: He fumbled in the first quarter. He fumbled again in the third. Moments before the second, he had a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage, and it easily could have turned into an interception. That could have rattled Ward and his confidence. Instead, he turned in this stat line: 37-for-49 passing for 451 yards and three touchdowns. In the fourth quarter, he evaded a blitzer, rolled to his left and uncorked a throw across his body, hitting a wide-open Josh Kelly in the end zone. That ballooned the Cougars' lead to 43-10.

Ward unfurled several more highlights. He opened the scoring with a one-yard quarterback scramble. Later in the first half, he took a shotgun snap, faked a handoff, rolled to his right and laced a throw to Kyle Williams, who hauled it in for another touchdown.

The rest was icing on the cake for Ward and the Cougars, but they kept airing it out. Early in the fourth, Ward lofted a perfect pass to running back Nakia Watson, who had lost his defender with a wheel route. Another WSU touchdown.

Ward wasn't perfect — he misfired on what looked like an easy touchdown pass to tight end Billy Riviere III, and early in the game, he overthrew receiver DT Sheffield on a deep ball over the middle — but he didn't let that faze him. If anything, he might have used it to fuel the rest of his outing.

Lincoln VictorWashington State's senior receiver didn't score — his teammates took care of those honors — but otherwise, he put up stellar numbers . He hauled in 11 catches for 168 yards, reeling off what felt like big play after big play .

The biggest was a 50-yard reception that went like this: Victor lined up to the left of the formation, against CSU safety Jack Howell, and with one juke, he came wide open. Ward hit him over the middle, and thanks to a long run, Victor set up his team at the CSU 19.

Add that to his list of memorable outings in the crimson and white laundry.

Moment of the game

Hicks' pick-six wasn't just a sterling catch and a better read. It helped the Cougars open the floodgates, starting a blowout. When Hicks jogged into the end zone, not a tackler in sight, he let out a scream and pumped his fist. Right before, WSU backup quarterback John Mateer had taken a QB keeper 3 yards into the end zone, so by the time Hicks secured his pick-six, the Cougars had taken a wide lead and the rout was on.