Washington State’s Sun Bowl loss was the first flaw in Jake Dickert’s short era, showing he still has a lot to learn


You could say Jake Dickert has no one to blame but himself.

The Washington state midseason head coach was so successful after taking over from the infamous Nick Rolovich that he never had a honeymoon. The coach who wins three of his first four conference games and eliminates Washington in the Apple Cup flattens his own learning curve.

So there was no excuse for the Cougars to show up unprepared for Friday’s bowl game in El Paso, TX, losing 24-21 to mid-Michigan after sleepwalking to a three-TD deficit in the first. half time.

There is no denying that it was a bad loss, a loss that cuts the veil a bit on a program that had started in Dickert’s first offseason as head coach. After a month of selling rookies on your take on a schedule that beat UW by 27 points in Seattle, coaches may find a colder welcome in the high school halls following the loss to a mere mid-size opponent.

Dickert has all the success the team has had under his care, which is how he turned a temporary gig into a permanent contract.

Losses were also at his feet.

But the way the half-endowed Cougars gave their fans a reason to stick around, close the halftime deficit and put an exciting finish on the table, makes the same point very clear: This is the program. from Dickert now.

There’s not much to be learned from a game that was canceled and then reinstalled when CMU stepped in to replace COVID-stricken Miami. If there was one lesson to be learned on Friday, it was: don’t look at a lost gift in your mouth.

We still have a lot to learn about the style of football the Cougars will play in the future. WSU hired Eric Morris, an air raid specialist, to lead the offensive. The first reports of Cougars recruiting tight ends, a position that has not been used at Pullman for nearly a decade, hint at the changes underway.

Dickert’s program, however, has an identity. One was forged over two years to overcome challenges that none of the players could have dreamed of when recruiting, and few of their predecessors had faced. Games canceled. Coaches run out rather than get vaccinated. Almost constant tests and protocols.

Through it all, the WSU mindset under Dickert has been to wipe it out, play with all available players, and make it work with what they have.

So it happened on Friday in the second half. In addition to not having the two best running backs on the team, starting offensive tackles and very good defensive backs, Laura’s quarterback and offensive motor Jayden was knocked out of the game.

Substitute quarterback Jarrett Guarantano did not make it to El Paso, presumably choosing to focus on going pro in something other than the sport. Substitute Cammon Cooper left the squad earlier this year, so the ‘next man’ was sophomore quarterback Victor Gabalis, a student who doesn’t have a track scholarship but probably owes it. a.

All Gabalis did was throw for 177 yards and two touchdowns and bring the Cougars back from a blowout to a thrilling finish. It wasn’t Tua Tagovailoa who replaced Jalen Hurts at halftime to win the 2017 national championship, but it was something.

The comeback could have been completed if the officials had been slightly more generous in WSU’s last fourth down attempt. So, how are you.

“This has been the story of our season,” said Dickert. “As many times as things could have gone the other way, they just kept fighting. “

Resilience is a great quality to have, when it’s needed. The ability to bounce back quickly got WSU through what could have been a disastrous transition following Rolovich’s sacking. The problem is, on Friday, the adversity the Cougars were responding to had self-inflicted.

It’s Dickert’s team now. He needs to figure out what went wrong and fix it.


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