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Behind crisp offensive performance, No. 23 Wazzu handles Northern Colorado

Cougars QB Cameron Ward passed for 327 yards and accounted for five first-half touchdowns

By JOSH WRIGHT, Associated Press
Published: September 16, 2023, 6:06pm
8 Photos
Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward (1) runs for a touchdown next to Northern Colorado linebacker Tama Tuitele during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.
Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward (1) runs for a touchdown next to Northern Colorado linebacker Tama Tuitele during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Pullman, Wash. (AP Photo/Young Kwak) Photo Gallery

PULLMAN, Wash. — Cameron Ward passed for 327 yards and accounted for five first-half touchdowns, and No. 23 Washington State breezed to a 64-21 victory over FCS member Northern Colorado on Saturday.

The Cougars (3-0) were locked in after their emotional win over Wisconsin last week and showed no signs of looking ahead to next week’s Pac-12 Conference opener against No. 16 Oregon State at home.

Ward and the Washington State offense were crisp from the outset.

The junior quarterback completed his first 12 passes — including a 37-yard touchdown strike to Kyle Williams and a 28-yard TD pass to Lincoln Victor — to give Wazzu a 22-0 lead in the first quarter. Victor had six catches for 119 yards with a pair of TDs.

Ward also ran for an 8-yard touchdown on Washington State’s opening possession. He completed 20 of 26 passes.

Ranked for the first time since 2019, the Cougars racked up 386 yards in the first half and scored touchdowns on all six of their drives to go up 43-0.

Their 43 points in the first half were their most since scoring 55 before the break against Arizona in 2018.

Northern Colorado (0-3) punted on their first five possessions, including three-and-outs on the first two.

Jamarii Robinson’s juggling 18-yard touchdown catch gave the Bears their first points with 12 seconds left before halftime.

Northern Colorado quarterback Jacob Sirmon was 16 of 24 for 167 yards and two touchdowns returning to his home state. Sirmon also threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to Darius Stewart in the fourth quarter.

KEEPING THE PRESSURE

After a career-best two-sack game against Wisconsin, Washington State edge rusher Ron Stone Jr. added a sack and tackle for loss in the first half against overmatched Northern Colorado. Fellow edge rusher Brennan Jackson also racked up a sack after recovering two fumbles last week on Stone Jr. sacks.

FLAWLESS STARTS

Washington State backup QB John Mateer did his best to match Ward’s flawless start.

Mateer started the second half in relief of Ward and completed his first six passes with two TD tosses to on the first two drives of the third quarter.

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Mateer finished 7 of 8 passing for a career-high 138 yards before third-string QB Emmett Brown entered in the fourth quarter.

THE TAKEAWAY

The only slight downside for Wazzu was struggling early in the run game against a team picked by coaches and media to finish 10th in the Big Sky Conference. Walk-on Dylan Paine led WSU with 81 yards rushing and scored his first career touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Starter Nakia Watson had 41 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.

UP NEXT

Northern Colorado: Visits Idaho State next Saturday.

Washington State: Hosts Oregon State next Saturday in a meeting of the only two schools remaining in the Pac-12 beyond the 2023-24 athletic year.

No. 23 Washington St. 64, Northern Colorado 21

N. Colorado 0 7 7 7 — 21

Washington St. 22 21 14 7 — 64

First Quarter

WSU — Ward 8 run (Riviere pass from Ward), 10:28.

WSU — Ky.Williams 37 pass from Ward (D.Janikowski kick), 6:08.

WSU — Victor 28 pass from Ward (D.Janikowski kick), 3:41.

Second Quarter

WSU — Kelly 18 pass from Ward (D.Janikowski kick), 12:27.

WSU — Watson 6 run (D.Janikowski kick), 8:45.

WSU — Victor 31 pass from Ward (D.Janikowski kick), 3:20.

UNCO — Jam.Robinson 18 pass from Sirmon (Green kick), :12.

Third Quarter

WSU — Meredith 15 pass from Mateer (D.Janikowski kick), 9:43.

UNCO — Gibbs 1 run (Green kick), 5:40.

WSU — Nunnally 62 pass from Mateer (D.Janikowski kick), 5:10.

Fourth Quarter

WSU — D.Paine 1 run (D.Janikowski kick), 13:46.

UNCO — Stewart 52 pass from Sirmon (Green kick), 11:36.

UNCO WSU

First downs 17 34

Total Net Yards 366 718

Rushes-yards 31-158 36-239

Passing 208 479

Punt Returns 0-0 1-12

Kickoff Returns 0-0 0-0

Interceptions Ret. 1-0 0-0

Comp-Att-Int 18-30-0 29-38-1

Sacked-Yards Lost 2-8 0-0

Punts 8-40.625 1-42.0

Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0

Penalties-Yards 7-80 5-56

Time of Possession 29:16 30:38

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING — Colorado, Afari 17-116, Meis 2-19, Stewart 6-13, Gibbs 3-8, Sirmon 3-2. Washington St., D.Paine 7-81, Schlenbaker 4-41, Watson 9-41, Pulalasi 7-39, Mateer 3-19, Ward 2-12, Kelly 2-6, Jenkins 1-1, (Team) 1-(minus 1).

PASSING — Colorado, Sirmon 16-24-0-171, Gibbs 2-6-0-37. Washington St., Ward 20-26-0-327, Mateer 7-8-0-138, Brown 2-4-1-14.

RECEIVING —  Colorado, Haggerty 6-70, J.Robinson 4-39, Stewart 3-65, Pell 2-3, Cas.Cheeks 1-27, Afari 1-4, Meis 1-0. Washington St., Victor 6-119, Kelly 5-74, Hernandez 4-36, Ky.Williams 2-49, Meredith 2-36, C.Johnson 2-27, Pruett 2-14, Hamilton 2-7, Nunnally 1-62, Mathers 1-26, Watson 1-19, Riviere 1-10.

MISSED FIELD GOALS — None.

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