The crazy 2020 Pac-12 season ended Saturday for the Cougs, and there were many takeaways despite the small sample size.
WSU was originally scheduled to play in a seven-game season, but the pandemic had other thoughts. The Cougs played in four out of the seven scheduled games. Here is my report card on the offense in the 2020 campaign, starting with the quarterback situation.
Prior to the season, I had published an article in April titled: “Digging into WSU’s Quarterback Situation Heading into the 2020 Season”. My initial prediction was to see the depth chart (in chronological order) look something like: Cammon Cooper, Gunner Cruz, John Bledsoe, Jayden de Laura.
I was horrifically wrong. Prior to the season, Bledsoe entered the transfer portal in September. Unfortunately, there has been no update on that situation.
With Head Coach Nick Rolovich, came the “run-and-shoot” offense. This was the main benefit for true Freshman QB Jayden de Laura, who was given the nod as QB1 before the opener against Oregon State. He did very well in his first collegiate game, earning Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors after throwing for two TDs as well as running one in himself. He followed that up with another solid performance against the Ducks, throwing for 300+ yards and two more TDs. Once he received a positive COVID test, and a few cancellations later, we saw more of the “Freshman or rookie” side of de Laura in the final two games. In the games against USC and Utah, de Laura posted 338 pass yards and a TD, but with that came three picks and a fumble. He was sidelined in both games, where Gunner Cruz and Cammon Cooper got to see a bit of time.
For Jayden de Laura, this year was certainly a positive one, but he has some things to improve on as well. A few improvements that I can see the Hawaiian working on include: deep-balls, decision-making and overall confidence. His final stat line looked like this: 78/129, 886 pass yards, 7 pass TDs, 4 INT, 34 rush yards, 2 rush TDs. We didn’t see enough of Cooper or Cruz for them to receive grades.
Jayden de Laura’s grade: B
Now onto more of the offense’s playmakers, including the running backs and wide receivers.
A major surprise to us all before the season was seeing Junior RB Max Borghi out for three of the four games. With Borghi out, came the emergence of RS-Senior RB Deon McIntosh. McIntosh did extremely well as starting running back, where he posted 323 rush yards and three TDs. Borghi was able to come back in the brutal comeback loss to Utah on Saturday, where he did well (95 yards, TD) despite a crucial fumble lost in the fourth quarter.
Running Back’s grade: A
Throughout the four games, WSU saw a multitude of wide receiver’s show off their skills in the new offense. The main group included: Travell Harris (340 yards, 4 TOT), Renard Bell (337 yards, 2 TDs), Jamire Calvin (183 yards, TD).
With Rolo’s new scheme, the wide receivers were put into a different situation than years past under Mike Leach. We saw Harris succeed as both as pass catcher and runner. Renard Bell was the favorite target of de Laura (33 receptions), where Calvin was the deep-ball threat along the sidelines.
Lucas Bacon also enjoyed his first career TD against Oregon. Calvin Jackson Jr was injured in the first game and never got to see any time in the final three games. He will hopefully recover well and we will get to see more of him and the rest of the wideouts come 2021.
Renard Bell and Travell Harris were given All-Conference Honorable Mention honors.
Wide Receiver’s grade: A
For the final part of the report card, we dive deeper into the offensive line. Liam Ryan and Abe Lucas are the two guys that stuck out to everyone preseason, and throughout the four-game campaign. Other contributors on the line included Brian Greene, Josh Watson and many more in the rotation. As a group, they gave up nine sacks (2.25 per game), but this was also their first season in the new offense. Going into 2021, they will understand the scheme more and add a bunch of talent from the newcomers, as well as the returners.
RT Abe Lucas was given All-Conference Second Team honors. Center Brian Greene and LT Liam Ryan were given All-Conference Honorable Mention honors.
Offensive Line’s grade: B
(Photos via WSU Athletics)