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Pac-12 previews: There’s optimism at Washington State with Jake Dickert at the helm

Coach Jake Dickert led the Cougars to a 40-13 victory over arch-rival Washington in the Apple Cup — snapping a seven-game losing streak in the series

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Washington State coach Jake Dickert leads team onto the field in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, Friday, Dec. 31, 2021.

Washington State coach Jake Dickert leads his team onto the field to face Central Michigan in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas, Friday, Dec. 31, 2021.

Andres Leighton, Associated Press

Editor’s note: Sixth in a series of articles examining each of the Pac-12 football teams heading into the 2022 season.

Washington State’s football program went through a bizarre set of circumstances last year when coach Nick Rolovich, and four of his assistants, were fired during the middle of the season because they refused to be vaccinated for COVID-19, a requirement set in place by Washington Gov. Jay Insee for state employees. 

At the time of Rolovich’s dismissal, the Cougars were riding a three-game winning streak. 

Washington State appointed defensive coordinator Jake Dickert as the interim head coach, posting a 3-2 record the rest of the season, highlighted by a 40-13 victory over arch-rival Washington in the Apple Cup, which snapped a seven-game losing streak in the series. 

“That was a real special ending,” Dickert told the Pac-12 Network. 

Dickert did a remarkable job keeping a divided program together and after the season was promoted to head coach. 

The Cougars will move on from Rolovich’s run-and-shoot and back to the “Air Raid” offense this season. 

Dickert hired a new offensive coordinator, Eric Morris, who spent the past season as the head coach at the University of Incarnate Word. Morris previously served as a receivers coach at WSU under then-coach Mike Leach, author of the Air Raid attack. 

“Eric’s one of the brightest offensive minds in the country,” Dickert said. “Adding a tight end to our game adds to our multiplicity and allows us to use tempo and defenses are going to have to prepare for us week to week. We’re still going to have an exciting offense and one that Coug fans love, throwing the ball.” 

But there will be more of a rushing game in this iteration. 

“We will run the ball. That’s something I’ve told the team multiple, multiple times,” Dickert said. “That’s a mentality and a mindset that we’ll always have in this program.”

While Washington State saw quarterback Jayden de Laura transfer to Arizona, Morris brought in his QB from Incarnate Word, Cameron Ward. Last season, Ward completed 384 of 590 passes for 4,648 yards with 47 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. 

“It’s exciting for us to see how much he works behind the scenes,” Dickert said of Ward. “He’s like having an extra coach on the field. He’s taking this offense to a whole other level. I’m really excited about giving him the keys of the offense and letting him go to work.”

While WSU has the potential to be an explosive team offensively, the defense loses three starters in the secondary, including cornerback Jaylen Watson. The Cougars’ defense improved in 2021 and it will need to continue to get better this season. 

2021 record: 7-6 (6-3 Pac-12).

Utah ties

DB Sam Lockett III (Utah State transfer)

DB Chris Lampkin (Utah State transfer)

Edge Lawrence Falatea (Alta HS)

OL Rodrick Tialavea (Highland HS)

OL Christian Hilborn (Highland HS)

2022 schedule

Sept. 3 Idaho

Sept. 10 @ Wisconsin

Sept. 17 Colorado State

Sept. 24 Oregon

Oct. 1 California

Oct. 8 @ USC 

Oct. 15 @ Oregon State

Oct. 27 Utah

Nov. 5 @ Stanford

Nov. 12 Arizona State

Nov. 19 @ Arizona

Nov. 26 Washington 

Up next: Arizona

Washington State removed the interim tag from coach Jake Dickert’s title as he prepares for his first full year at the helm.

Washington State removed the interim tag from coach Jake Dickert’s title as he prepares for his first full year at the helm of the Cougar football program.

Andres Leighton, Associated Press