BYU football doesn’t see coaching turmoil at Washington State as big advantage
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors head coach Nick Rolovich walks back toward the sidelines after a timeout during Brigham Young University's homecoming game against the University of Hawaii held Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018, at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald
It’s been a busy week for news coming out of Pullman, Washington, regarding the Washington State football program.
Very little of it, however, has been about how WSU is hosting BYU for a football game on Saturday.
The long-rumored issue of Washington State head coach Nick Rolovich’s refusal to meet the vaccine mandate required by the state culminated when Rolovich and four assistant coaches were fired on Monday.
Two days later, an attorney representing Rolovich said the former coach would be suing the university for illegal termination, indicating that this dispute is far from over.
Meanwhile the WSU football team has to look past all the noise and focus on extending its surprise three-game winning streak by knocking off BYU.
The news of the terminations, however, clearly hit the players hard. It was reflected in the messages they posted on social media after the announcement was made.
“This man changed my life in so many ways,” Washington State cornerback Jaylen Watson wrote in an Instagram post. “A real stand-up dude that always stands on what he believes in heart was so pure and a true role model to me and my teammates. Was always bigger than a dollar sign which is the only thing you wrap your fingers around.”
Whether or not the affected players and coaches will be able to refocus enough to play well on the football field is a huge question.
The responsibility for that will be in the hands of interim head coach Jake Dickert, who was the team’s defensive coordinator prior to the upheaval.
BYU’s perspective, however, is that the situation could just as easily galvanize the Washington State players as it could drag them down.
“They’re going to be ready to play,” BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said Wednesday. “I don’t think the coaching situation really has an impact on the game at all.”
When asked to try to put himself in their shoes, BYU sophomore quarterback Jaren Hall admitted that losing five coaches from the staff on the week of the game would present some unique challenges to the players.
“It would definitely be tough,” Hall said. “I know for us offensively, if you lose your coaches game planning and stuff may be a little different — but at the end the day there are still a lot of coaches on the staff.”
Roderick said can relate in some ways, since BYU played a couple of games in 2020 without having a full coaching staff.
“We’ve been talking to our team about how we played two of our best games last year with close to half our coaching staff not even on the trip,” Roderick said. “At the Boise State game last year we were missing a good number of coaches, and the Central Florida game we were missing pretty much our whole offensive staff. Coach Ed Lamb in particular reminded our whole team of that, that we played great without our coaches last year.”
While the circumstances were different in those cases, the bottom line — according to Roderick — is that success on the field depends on the athletes.
“It’s a player’s game and these guys are going to be highly motivated and ready to play,” Roderick said.
Hall said that he’s seen teams respond to that kind of adversity by being more locked in.
“We’ve been through it before,” Hall said. “It just puts more need to be a little more urgent early on the week to prepare for the game, because you know on Game Day you’ve still got to play. I think in the past when that happened to us, we dealt with it very well. For Washington State, I’m sure they will be ready to go and those guys will be fired up. They may have even more drive to go and perform well. It’s a tough situation but it definitely comes down to the players just being prepared and doing their thing.”
BYU at Washington State
TIME: 1:30 p.m. MT
TV: Fox Sports 1
WHERE: Martin Stadium
THE WORD: This will be the fifth meeting between BYU and Washington State with BYU having a 3-1 lead in the series. BYU last beat WSU, 30-6, in Provo in 2012. This will be the first time BYU has played at Washington State as three of the previous games took place in Provo and the other was in the Holiday Bowl in 1981. WSU’s only win came in 1989 (46-41) … This is the fourth of five games in 2021 where BYU will play an opponent from the Pac-12 Conference this season. BYU is 3-0, having defeated Arizona, Utah and Arizona State. BYU will finish the regular season playing at USC … This will be Washington State’s third game against a team from the state of Utah, having lost to Utah State, 26-23, in the season-opener and losing at Utah, 24-13, on Sept. 25.