The Washington State quarterback situation is back to Square 1: uncertainty.
Cougars coach Nick Rolovich described Jayden de Laura as “day to day” and Jarrett Guarantano as “a lot better” in his weekly Zoom news conference Monday, without ruling out Camm Cooper or Victor Gabalis as the starter this week either.
The Cougars (1-2, 0-1) play their first road game Saturday (11:30 a.m. Pacific, Pac-12 Network) against Utah (1-2, 0-0) at Salt Lake City. The Utes are favored by 12 points.
Washington State also learned Monday that its game at California on Oct. 2 will begin at 2:30 p.m. and will be aired by the Pac-12 Network.
De Laura, the Cougs’ starting QB the past two games, incurred an unspecified, apparently minor leg injury late in the first half of a 45-14 home loss to USC on Saturday. It was costly, because de Laura had led the Cougars to a two-touchdown lead before USC scored late in the first half to make it 14-7.
“I thought Jayden was playing very well,” Rolovich said. “I thought he was playing the best football since I’ve been with him. I thought he was in great command — he’s very energizing to the team.”
Rolovich inserted Gabalis, a sophomore walk-on, to start the second half. De Laura returned for two brief possessions in the third quarter, wearing a brace on his left knee, but the coach again took him out and went with Gabalis and Cooper the rest of the way. Meanwhile, USC gained its footing and outscored the Cougs 38-0 in the second half.
Guarantano, the grad transfer from Tennessee, started Game 1 but injured a leg in the second quarter and has been sidelined ever since. He was fully suited up Saturday.
“He probably could have been used in an emergency,” Rolovich said, “but he didn’t take any practice reps that were really meaningful last week. I anticipate him being even more ready to play this week as we get going.”
It’s still unclear exactly when de Laura was injured Saturday. Rolovich said it happened after his well-executed fourth-down pooch punt, and the Cougs had only one more offensive play before halftime. It was a 1-yard keeper by de Laura, who showed no immediate signs of being hurt on the play.
The coach said it was team doctor Ed Tingstad who made the call to bench de Laura to start the second half.
“It’s always a doctor’s call with Jayden,” he said. “Dr. Tingstad has been around here a long time. I like how he handles these situations. I don’t know what their conversation was completely, because I know Jayden wanted to come out and go. He went in and got retaped right before the half started.”
De Laura’s increasingly competent play the past two weeks had provided a respite from the Cougars’ QB uncertainties. Preseason camp featured a three-day battle between de Laura, Guarantano and Cooper, with Gabalis getting some quality reps as well.
On another topic, Rolovich acknowledged that he has refrained from posting to his Twitter account since July. Normally active on social media, he said he’d been receiving negative comments on the account, and he anticipated them to increase heading into Pac-12 media day July 27.
He partipated in media day via Zoom because he had declined to be vaccinated for the coronavirus.
“I think it’s become somewhat of a real negative place that I didn’t need,” he said of his Twitter account. “I don’t know if it was doing me a lot of good. I enjoyed interacting with people but it seems in the last year it’s taken a real — I don’t know how positive it is for my every-day life. I assumed it was going to get even more negative as media day approached.”
Since then, he has said he would comply with a state mandate requiring education workers to be fully inoculated by Oct. 18, but he hasn’t said if that means getting vaccinated or seeking an exemption.
Grummert may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2290.