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Cougars Set to Open 2021 Hosting Utah State

Aug 30, 2021

8 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021  •  Pac-12 Network
Gesa Field (32,952)  •  Pullman, Wash.

Washington State (0-0, 0-0 Pac-12) opens the 2021 season hosting Utah State (0-0, 0-0 Mountain West) at Gesa Field Saturday evening. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. on the Pac-12 Network.

Washington State returns 20 starters for 2021 season and year two under head coach Nick Rolovich, who saw the Cougars post a 1-3 record in a Covid-19 shortened 2020 season. WSU returns 10 starters on defense led by senior linebacker Jahad Woods while senior running back Max Borghi and three-time All-Pac-12 second-team right tackle Abraham Lucas headline the eight starters who return on offense.

Washington State and Utah State meet for the first time since 1961 and faceoff in Pullman for the first time since the inaugural meeting in 1949. The Cougars lead the all-time series 2-1, including a 33-0 win in Pullman in 1949. The two teams were scheduled to open the season in Logan, Utah last year before the season was delayed and limited to conference-only games. There are a couple WSU connections on the Aggie coaching staff as USU cornerbacks coach Ray Brown was a defensive graduate assistant in 2014, USU defensive graduate assistant Tim Burmeister worked in the 2019 season for WSU in a defensive quality control role, USU tight ends coach DJ Tialavea is the cousin of Cougar offensive lineman Rodrick Tialavea and Utah State is located in Logan, Utah, the hometown for Cougar legend Luke Falk who set the WSU record with 27 wins and set Pac-12 Conference and WSU career records for passing yards (14,486), total offense (14,086), passing touchdowns (119), pass completions (357), pass attempts (534) and total plays (2,306). WSU owns a 73-59-5 record in season-openers and has won four straight openers after posting a 38-28 win at Oregon State last season. 

Washington State and Gesa Credit Union announced a partnership to provide Gesa the naming rights to the playing surface at Martin Stadium, now named Gesa Field, pronounced gee-sah. The 10-year agreement is valued at a minimum $11 million, that will escalate as additional Gesa consumer-based incentives are reached. The agreement with WSU Athletics will formalize the first major sponsorship announced under the new Gesa Credit Union which recently merged with Inspirus Credit Union making it the second-largest credit union in the state. 

Washington State University Athletics announced that in accordance with state and local guidelines, Cougar Football home games will be at 100 percent capacity for the 2021 season. The Cougars will open their season Saturday, Sept. 4 against Utah State. Washington State Athletics will continue to follow all university, Pac-12, local and state guidelines related to health and safety measures.

Dating back to the middle of the 2003 season, ESPN's College GameDay has had the WSU flag appear throughout the show. The streak reached 258 after appearing last Saturday in Atlanta for Alcorn State-North Carolina Central. The first appearance came in Austin, Texas (10/4/03) and the streak began two weeks later in Madison, Wisc. (10/18/03). Two flags – Ol' Crimson and Gray – have been flown in the background of the GameDay set by dozens of friends and alumni. The Gray flag was added in 2014 after Whitey was retired in honor of Steve Gleason's "No White Flags." Appearance No. 217 was its first in Pullman (10/20/18), a 34-20 win over Oregon. 

Washington State went 7-0 at home in 2017, 6-1 in 2018 and 5-1 in 2019 before dropping its lone home contest last season against No. 11 Oregon to push it's Gesa Field record to 18-3 over the past three-plus seasons.  

Travell Harris (WR, RS-Sr.#)    2x All-Pac-12 HM, 103 career rec, 29 rec, 340 yards and 2 TD in 2020
Max Borghi (RB, Sr.)    Doak Walker, Biletnikoff Award Watch Lists, 20 career rush TD, 140 career rec
Abraham Lucas (RT, RS-Sr.#)    3x All-Pac-12 2nd Team, 30 straight starts
Deon McIntosh (RB, 5th-year)    2020 - Led team with 6.2 yards/carry, 80.8 rush yds/g
Liam Ryan (LT, 5th-year)    2020 All-Pac-12 HM, 30 career starts

George Hicks III (DB, Sr.)    39 career GP, 31 tackles and 5 PBU in 2019
Daniel Isom (DB, 5th-year)    2020 All-Pac-12 HM, 17 career starts, 2020 - 32 tackles
Justus Rogers (LB, RS-Sr.)    43 career GP, 7 career sacks, 142 career tackles
Jaylen Watson (DB, RS-Sr.#)    2020 All-Pac-12 HM, 3 GP, 13 tackles, 2 PBU, FF, FR
Jahad Woods (LB, RS-Sr.)    40 straight starts, 3x All-Pac-12 HM, 319 career tackles, 2020 - 31 tackles, 4.5 TFL

The Cougars will see a quarterback competition in 2021.
Below is a list of quarterbacks who enter preseason camp competing for the starting position (listed by year).

Jarrett Guarantano (Gr.)    Grad transfer from Tennessee, 41 GP, 32 starts, 38 career TD, 3 career 300-yd games
Cammon Cooper (RS-Jr.)    4-star signee, 2017 Utah Gatorade Player of the Year, 2020 - 2 GP, 11-of-16, 99 yards
Jayden de Laura (So.)    Started all 4 games in 2020, 886 yards, 5 TD, Pac-12 Freshman of the Week at OSU
Victor Gabalis (So.)    Walked on prior to 2020 season
Xavier Ward (Fr.)    3-star signee, early enrollee, All-League 1st team as junior, 2,044 pass yds, 14 TD

• WSU is 18-3 at Gesa Field over the last three seasons
• WSU defense led the Pac-12 with 8 forced fumbles, was 6th in the Pac-12 with 5.8 tackles-for-loss/g
• WSU recorded its 7th-straight win over OSU, the longest winning streak against OSU since winning 10 straight (1983-93)
• Since 2015, WSU owns 44 wins, 6th-most among Pac-12 schools (UW - 50, Utah - 49, Stan - 48, USC - 47, Ore - 45)
• Since 2015, WSU owns 30 Pac-12 wins, tied for 5th-most among Pac-12 schools (USC - 37, UW - 34, Stan - 34, Utah - 31, Ore - 30)

• WR Travell Harris (85.0) and WR Renard Bell (84.3) finished 2020 2nd and 3rd in the Pac-12 in rec yds/g, respectively
• QB Jayden de Laura was the 1st true freshman QB to start a season-opener in program history
• RB Max Borghi is the only player in country named to both Doak Walker and Biletnikoff Award Watch Lists
• RB Deon McIntosh finished the season 7th in the Pac-12 with 80.8 yards/g and 9th in Pac-12 with 12 carries of 10+ yds
• LB Jahad Woods finished 2020 as the Pac-12's active leading tackler with 319 career tackles, 10th-most in WSU history
• OL Abraham Lucas is a Preseason 4th-Team All-American by Phil Steele, 3x All-Pac-12 2nd-Team selection
• OL Brian Greene was named to the 2021 Rimington Trophy Watch List (top center), 2020 All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention
• DL Dallas Hobbs was named a 2021 Allstate AFCA Good Hands Team Nominee (community service, academic, impact on and off the field)

Nick Rolovich took the reigns as the Cougars' Head Coach in 2020 after spending a total of eight seasons at the University of Hawai'i, the last four as head coach. Rolovich, 41, was named the 33rd head football coach in Washington State history, Director of Athletics Pat Chun announced Jan. 14. He also served as Nevada's offensive coordinator for four seasons and spent two years coaching quarterbacks at City College of San Francisco. Rolovich completed his fourth season at Hawai'i with a 28-27 record and three bowl games in his time. Last season he guided UH to its first 10-win season since 2010 as the Rainbow Warriors went 10-5, capped by a 38-34 win over BYU in the Hawaii Bowl. 

• 1st WSU head coach to win his debut since Bill Doba in 2003
• 1st WSU head coach to win his debut on the road since Warren Powers in 1977
• 2019 Mountain West Coach of the Year, Reached Mountain West Championship game
• Opened 2019 with back-to-back wins over Pac-12 foes Arizona and Oregon State
• Produced 31 All-Mountain West Conference honors and 59 All-Academic honors
• In 2019, UH offense ranked fifth nationally with 338.0 ypg and No. 13 nationally in total offense at 471.0 ypg
• In 2018, UH had 5,800 yards of offense, 43 TD passes, 30.8 ppg and No. 9 nationally with 310.3 passing/g
• In 2016, took over the program as the fifth-youngest head coach in NCAA Division I FBS at the age of 37 

Washington State football was not able to see fans at Gesa Field in 2020 but head coach Nick Rolovich was still able to connect with Cougar fans.
• Throughout the spring of 2020, Rolovich would order a number of meals at a local Pullman restaurant, tweet out a "password" and the first 20 people to show up at the restaurant and use the password, would receive the meal
• Rolovich also provided dinner to the staff at Pullman Regional Hospital who were working a late night shift

WSU Head Football Coach Nick Rolovich announced in February that Kyle Krantz was named the Cougars' special teams coordinator. Krantz, a coaching veteran with 12 years of experience, including 10 seasons in the SEC as part of four different programs, arrives in Pullman having spent the previous five years (2016-20) at the University of South Carolina under head coach Will Muschamp. Most recently, he served as the Gamecocks' special teams coordinator while also assisting with the defensive backs for the 2020 season. He served as the special teams assistant while coaching the Nickels and the SAM linebackers for two seasons (2018-19) after beginning his time in Columbia, S.C. as a defensive analyst before moving to an on-field coaching position in 2018.

Eleven Washington State Cougars received All-Pac-12 Conference honors led by second-team selections right tackle Abraham Lucas and punter Oscar Draguicevich III. Nine Cougars received All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention; wide receiver Renard Bell, center Brian Greene, wide receiver Travell Harris, defensive back Daniel Isom, edge Brennan Jackson, kicker Blake Mazza, left tackle Liam Ryan, defensive back Jaylen Watson and linebacker Jahad Woods.

Cougar running backs served all-purpose roles for the Air Raid and increased their production in the run-n-shoot offense under Nick Rolovich. The 2018 WSU backs combined for 974 rush yards and 1,044 receiving yards while scoring 28 total TD and in 2019, combined for 953 rush yards, 710 rec yards, 103 catches and 19 total TD. Last season under Rolovich, Deon McIntosh rushed for a career-high 147 yards in the win at Oregon State, the most by a Coug since Dwight Tardy's 214 yards against UCLA in 2007. McIntosh added another 92 yards and a score on the ground against Oregon before  Max Borghi and McIntosh combined for 109 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns at Utah. McIntosh finished the season seventh in the Pac-12 averaging 80.8 yards/g

The Cougar defense was impressive in the season-opening win at Oregon State, recording 4 sacks, the most since recording 4 against Arizona in 2018 • against No. 11 Oregon, WSU forced three takeaways and tallied 6 tackles-for-loss • at No. 20 USC, WSU tallied 7 tackles-for-loss including 3 sacks and held the Trojans to five rushing yards, tied for the 10th-fewest rush yards allowing in program history • since 2015, the Cougars are 29-7 when forcing multiple turnovers including a 5-0 mark when doing so in 2019 • Jahad Woods, tallied 31 tackles in 2020, finished the season as the Pac-12's active leading tackler with 319 career tackles, 6th-most among all FBS players • Woods tallied a team-high 11 tackles including 3 for loss and a sack against Oregon • Woods finished 2020 with a huge game at Utah, recording nine tackles with two for loss and an interception

Renard Bell, Social Science
Cammon Cooper, Business Administration
Brian Greene, History
Jarrett Guarantano, Psychology
Travell Harris, Sport Management
George Hicks, Political Science
Tyrone Hill, Social Science
Dallas Hobbs, Digital Technology & Culture
Calvin Jackson, Jr., Humanities
Brennan Jackson, Business Administration
Armani Marsh, Sport Management
Deon McIntosh, Social Science
Christian Mejia, Kinesiology
Justus Rodgers, Business Administration
Liam Ryan, Criminal Justice
Jahad Woods, Humanities

Matt Chazanow is in his seventh season as the play-by-play voice for Cougar football, men's basketball and baseball broadcasts. Joining Chazanow for his fourth season will be former Cougar quarterback Alex Brink who is the only WSU quarterback to win three Apple Cups and was later a seventh-round draft pick by the Houston Texans. Returning for her ninth season as the sideline reporter is Jessamyn McIntyre, an executive producer for Q13 FOX in Seattle.