No. 23 WSU ready for first game of season ranked in AP Top 25
Sep 14, 2023, 1:35 PM
(Ali Gradischer/Getty Images)
WSU head coach Jake Dickert would still like to wait until six weeks into the season before there are any rankings of college football teams. That being said, Dickert acknowledges the validation that came with the Cougars cracking the AP Top 25 at No. 23 following last week’s upset victory over Wisconsin.
“It is cool. It means a lot in recruiting. It shows the hard work that our guys have put in in the dark and to get recognized for that I do think is important. But (it) doesn’t mean anything. I want to be ranked at the end,” Dickert said.
The Cougars (2-0) will likely be ranked for a second straight week barring some type of unexpected outcome on Saturday when they face FCS program Northern Colorado.
For WSU, taking on the Big Sky school is almost a perfect bridge between the high of last week’s victory over Wisconsin and next week’s Pac-12 Conference opener against No. 16 Oregon State.
That is as long as the Cougars don’t get caught looking ahead to the Beavers.
“I think we do have a mature team. I think after a big win, are you still hungry? Are you full? I know I digested that win and I’m starving again,” Dickert said. “So they need to be the same way and that’s what good teams do. Like I said, this is another step in our journey and we need to take it that way.”
Northern Colorado (0-2) has struggled out of the gates in its first season under new coach Ed Lamb. The Bears haven’t had an easy start opening on the road at Abilene Christian before getting routed at home by Incarnate Word, ranked in the top 10 in the FCS polls.
“We have a team that hasn’t had enough success yet to really believe when the game is close and competitive,” Lamb said after the loss to UIW.
WATCH THE EDGE
WSU edge rusher Ron Stone Jr. was named Pac-12 defensive player of the week after his performance against Wisconsin that included five tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. One of those fumbles was recovered by teammate Brennan Jackson for a touchdown.
“We’re trying to make a lot of those (plays) and not let one of them be the only one we have,” Stone said. “I think he and I have the ability to make some more plays like that.”
In a perfect scenario, Stone and Jackson won’t be on the field for very long Saturday, but when they are they’ll be a problem for the Bears.
While WSU quarterback Cameron Ward has done it with both his arm and feet through the first two games, the Cougars would like to get more production from their running backs.
Starting running back Nakia Watson has managed just 41 yards rushing on 18 carries through the first two games, although he had a key fourth-quarter touchdown run against Wisconsin. But the Cougars know they need more from Watson and the rest of the running game moving forward.
Northern Colorado QB Jacob Sirmon will have a bit of a homecoming this week. Sirmon, a Bothell High School product, was once a top recruit on the other side of the state at Washington but never got much of a chance to see the field for the Huskies. Sirmon threw four passes in his career at Washington before transferring to Central Michigan for one season and eventually ending up at Northern Colorado. Sirmon has thrown for just 220 yards in his two starts this season and the Bears have scored just 18 offensive points in eight quarters.
BACK IN THE POLL
WSU’s return to the AP Top 25 was its first appearance in the poll since Week 4 of the 2019 season. The Cougars were ranked 19th after starting 3-0 but lost 67-63 at home to UCLA and have not returned to the poll again until this week.