Max Borghi probably won’t be setting another career high in carries this weekend.
Washington State interim coach Jake Dickert indicated during his news conference Monday that running back Deon McIntosh — Borghi’s backup who frequently rotates in — is more likely to play than not when the Cougars visit Arizona State at noon Saturday (FS1).
“We fully hope to get Deon back in the mix this week,” Dickert said.
Borghi shouldered the load in WSU’s 21-19 loss to BYU this past Saturday, posting 83 yards and a career-best three rushing touchdowns on a career-high 18 carries.
McIntosh was sidelined with an apparent ankle injury, which he sustained in the second quarter of the Cougs’ Oct. 16 victory against Stanford.
The grad student from Florida leaned on crutches and had his right ankle wrapped. Borghi took over almost all rushing duties against the Cardinal, logging a then-career-high 17 attempts and piling up 89 yards and a pair of scores.
Wisconsin transfer Nakia Watson impressed in fall camp, but he wasn’t used in the Stanford game and the Cougars only tried him once versus BYU — a 1-yard rush late in the first quarter.
McIntosh has 285 yards on 60 carries and 93 receiving yards on 11 catches this season. He’s reached the end zone twice and is an effective blocker.
Borghi has 504 yards and eight touchdowns on 100 attempts this year.
The stout speedster and NFL draft hopeful was relied on heavily last week as BYU often rushed three linemen and loaded its secondary with six players. Borghi had three chunk runs, but mostly was contained when he tried to bounce outside.
Asked to assess the offense’s performance, Dickert liked that it started fast, scoring on a nifty 11-yarder from Borghi on its first possession. But some “finishing aspects” of the Cougs’ run-and-shoot could use work.
“Finishing some runs, finishing some blocks,” said Dickert, who was acting as a head coach for the first time after Nick Rolovich and four WSU assistants were terminated by the school Oct. 18.
“We got ourselves behind the chains (with stuffed runs and penalties). I thought that was the big story of the day, and trying to overcome those situations just didn’t happen. But I think there’s a lot we can still build off on Saturday.”
Dickert also hinted that the Cougs expect to return free safety Halid Djibril before the season ends.
Djibril, a redshirt junior from Los Angeles, started WSU’s first two games before suffering a leg injury in the second quarter against Portland State on Sept. 11.
“H.D. is going to hopefully get back out there moving this week,” Dickert said. “I think he’s a little ahead of schedule. I don’t know if it’ll be to the point where he’ll be completely ready for this game, but we’ll see how he responds.”
Grad student George Hicks III, a converted cornerback, has filled in full time for Djibril and fared well, recording 42 tackles, two for loss, and an interception.
When Djibril is healthy, the Cougs plan to work the two into the lineup.
“Those two complement each other,” Dickert said. “I think George is really an elite cover guy who’s done a lot better job with his tackling and his approach. Halid, his expertise is physicality, and coming up and finishing.”
WSU has been relatively thin at safety and largely depends on Hicks, Daniel Isom and Tyrone Hill Jr.
“It’s exciting to get another body back in the secondary,” Dickert said. “We need it desperately.”
Fast-improving edge-rusher Brennan Jackson was helped off the field late in the fourth quarter of the BYU game, but “he’ll be ready for next week,” Dickert said.
“I always like to talk to B.J., he looks like a grandpa when he walks around — he’s always got a little nick or bruise or something,” Dickert added, laughing, then offering praise for the fourth-year junior from Temecula, Calif., who’s up to 29 tackles and 2.5 sacks this season. “It’s because he plays so hard. He had a heckuva game. You watch the tape and, man, he played hard.”