Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner of BYU vs. Washington State

Oct 22, 2021, 11:07 AM
Puka Nacua - BYU Football...
BYU football wide receiver Puka Nacua is in his first year with the Cougars. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
(Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah –  The BYU Cougars look to get back to their winning ways this week with another Pac-12 matchup on the schedule. BYU travels to Pullman to take on the Washington State Cougars. It’s the Cougs vs the Cougs on the Palouse.

BYU vs. Washington State

The Cougars in Crimson have had quite the week following the departure of their head coach Nick Rolovich and four other assistant coaches. Washington State enters this game 4-3 on the season, although they have won their last three games in Pac-12 play.

BYU makes its first ever visit to Martin Stadium on Saturday. The Cougars in Navy are 5-2 on the season and looking to improve to 4-0 against the Pac-12 this season.

Three Storylines: BYU vs. Washington State

1) Distractions Aplenty

The biggest storyline this week is undoubtedly the chaos around the Cougar coaching staff. Defensive Coordinator Jake Dickert takes over as the acting head coach for Wazzu. He has less than five years of experience at the FBS level and none as a head coach.

How will the team react to the chaos this week? Their former head coach announced that he will file a lawsuit against the university. It’s been an up-and-down season in Pullman and the team enters their toughest stretch of games. After facing the visiting Cougars at home, Washington State will travel to Arizona State and then #10 Oregon.

Earlier this season, USC traveled to Pullman on the heels of losing their head coach Clay Helton, who was fired on September 13th. Behind the arm of former Corner Canyon star Jaxson Dart, the Trojans rallied and dominated the Cougars 45-14. Can Washington State rally around an acting head coach in the midst of all this off-field chaos?

2) Get Puka Loose on the Palouse

Last week was a breakout week for one offensive player for BYU, wide receiver Puka Nacua. Nacua had five receptions for 168 yards and a touchdown in the loss to Baylor. It was his second 100-yard game of the season for Puka, who has seemingly adjusted to the new team and is creating a great rapport with quarterback Jaren Hall.

With a deep and talented receiver group, it took Nacua some time to get healthy and integrated into the team. Now, Nacua has become BYU’s best deep threat. He is second on the team in receiving yards and third in all of college football in yards per reception, averaging 22.2 yards per catch.

BYU quarterbacks have done a great job at distributing the ball to the many targets on this offense. Last week proved that Jaren Hall is willing to take deep shots, especially if it’s number 12 on the route. I’d expect that to continue this week as the former Washington Huskie faces a former Apple Cup foe.

3) A Rare BYU Losing Streak

It’s not often we have seen a Kalani Sitake-led team suffer a three-game losing streak during their season. In 2020, BYU lost just one game. 2019 saw BYU lose three straight games before upsetting #14 Boise State with quarterback Baylor Romney. In 2018, the Cougars never lost more than two games in a row before righting the ship with a win.

It’s been almost two years since BYU last dropped back-to-back games. The team seemed to remained focused after a disappointing home loss to Boise State two weeks ago. After a rough introduction to the Big 12 last week, how will they respond?

BYU’s hopes for a New Year’s Six bowl bid are all but gone at this point. With no conference championship to play for, can the team stay focused on the rest of the season? In the college football season you have to stay focused on the present, not what is ahead. Let’s see how the Cougars handle the rest of the season, one game at a time.

BYU vs. Washington State takes place in Pullman, Washington at Martin Stadium on October 23rd. Pre-game coverage begins at 9 a.m. (MDT) on KSL NewsRadio 102.7 FM and 1160 AM. Kickoff is at 1:30 p.m. (MDT).

Dallen Graff is a KSL Sports Contributor. He is the Producer of Cougar Sports Saturday (SUBSCRIBE) on KSL NewsRadio. Follow him on Twitter.

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Three Storylines That Could Determine Winner of BYU vs. Washington State