FORT COLLINS, Colorado (AP) — Cameron Ward threw for three touchdowns and ran for another and Jaden Hicks returned an interception 37-yards for a touchdown and Washington State beat Colorado State 50-24 Saturday night.
Ward was 37 of 49 for 451 yards passing, including touchdowns of 3 yards to Kyle Williams, 12 yards to Nakia Watson and 25 yards to Josh Kelly. Ward also rushed for 40 yards, including a 1-yard score, helping Washington State start the season with a victory for the fifth time in six years. Lincoln Victor led a productive group of Washington State playmakers with 11 catches for 168 yards. Dean Janikowski kicked a career-best 55-yard field goal and John Mateer, who spelled Ward several times, had touchdown runs of 1 and 3 yards. “I thought offensively we were spotty at times, and the scoreboard says we did some really good things,” Washington State coach Jake Dickert said. “Defensively, we go out there and really put together three complete quarters and then not finish. So, there’s lot of things that we will learn from this. Our guys have to come back ready to work and know that we need to get better.”
Kobe Johnson returned a kick 98 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter for Colorado State, which lost an opener for a sixth consecutive season. Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi relieved starting quarterback Clay Millen after he was shaken up in the third quarter, completing touchdown passes of 75 yards to Justus Ross-Simmons and 20 yards to Dallin Holker as part of the Rams’ 21-point fourth quarter. “That was disappointing to say the least,” Colorado State coach Jay Norvell said. “We did at times do some good things. We didn’t do enough offensively to help our defense against a good offense, and we certainly didn’t play our best defense either to slow them down.”
Up 14 , the Cougars scored two touchdowns in a 28-second span in the third as Mateer scored the first of his two touchdown runs and Hicks picked off Millen, heading down the sideline untouched to put the Cougars 29-3 early in the third. The teams each put 21 points on the board in the fourth quarter. “We knew that their O-line was one of their weaknesses and we decided to get after them,” Hicks said. “Using that pressure really helped out the defense overall. Three-and outs were really key to the game and getting them off the field and getting our offense on the field so they can get rolling was really good.”
Washington State went up 17-3 at halftime. Colorado State marched to a 38-yard field goal by Jordan Noyes on its opening possession but Ward responded by leading three first-half scoring drives, two for touchdowns. Ward sparked the first TD drive with two scrambles for 26 yards before eventually going up the middle on a sneak from the 1. The Cougars led 14-3 on Ward’s 3-yard pass to Williams and added a 55-yard field goal by Janikowski as time ran out in the second quarter. EYES ON THE PRIZE
“I looked up in the last second and the ball was coming right at my face. I put my hands up, caught it and just saw open grass. It just felt good running, running to the end zone,” said Hicks of his interception return for a touchdown
Washington State: The Cougars got off to a strong start, showcasing a balanced effort that highlighted a productive offense and a solid defense. The late scores by Colorado came after the Cougars had the game in hand and their offense also helped stave off a potential rally by producing another late score.
Colorado State: The Rams offense showed some signs of life late in the game but still needs to develop its scoring punch. Coach Jay Norvell undertook a major roster reconstruction, including an overhaul of the offensive line, partly to spark an offense that was held to 17 points in each of its three wins last season while never scoring more than 20 points in any game.
Washington State: Host No. 19 Wisconsin in its home opener next Saturday night.
Colorado State: The Rams have a bye next week before resuming play Sept. 16 against intrastate rival Colorado, which upset No. 17 TCU earlier in the day.