By DALE GRUMMERT
For the Daily News
Washington State running back Deon McIntosh took a handoff, began running up the middle, then decided to bounce out toward the left sideline.
A nearby teammate motioned encouragement, as if saying, “Come this way, I’m blocking for you.” Sure enough, he plowed into Oregon safety Nick Pickett to clear a path, and McIntosh finished with a 20-yard gain.
Just a normal play, right? Except the lead blocker was slender true freshman quarterback Jayden de Laura.
For center Brian Greene, it was a thrilling sight. Also a little scary.
“At the moment I was ecstatic for him, I was really fired up — I think all of us were,” Greene said during a Zoom news conference this week. “Then I was like, ‘Look, don’t do that again.’ The last thing I need is to get that kid hurt.”
The Cougars’ impressive new quarterback found a new way to score locker-room cred on that second-quarter play in Saturday’s 43-29 home loss to Oregon. But teammates surely are urging prudence from him heading into a game this week against rugged Stanford (0-2).
Kickoff time has been changed to 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Stanford, Calif., with TV coverage on FS1. That’s 30 minutes earlier than the original time.
De Laura, of course, didn’t need to throw a downfield block to prove his verve, which has been abundantly clear during his first two college games as he’s rushed for 70 gross yards in addition to passing for 548.
“He’s a really, really tough dude,” Greene said. “He grew up in a tough area (of Honolulu). Just being around him, he’s very good at taking hits and is a really confident dude.”
McIntosh, too, has impressed offensive linemen with his blocking skills. Running backs play a larger role in pass-protection in coach Nick Rolovich’s run-and-shoot offense than in predecessor Mike Leach’s Air Raid.
“It’s my job to put him on the smallest guy,” Greene said of the 6-foot-0, 190-pound McIntosh. “But if I mess up, he makes me right. I love having Deon back there. He’s a really tough kid, really smart. He sits in meetings with us and will talk to me about protections. He understands football really well.”
ISOM’S LIMBO — Daniel Isom, the senior safety who returned to the WSU roster this year after being kicked off the team in 2019, said this week he focused on academics during his period of limbo.
“My game plan was really just to keep working on myself and graduate,” he said.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in social sciences in the spring, he said, and now is pursuing an MBA.
Isom started the first seven games of 2019 and played a reserve role the next two. Leach then abruptly released him and nickelback Trey Davis for unspecified violations of team rules. Rolovich reinstated Isom at some point after being hired, and Davis wound up entering the NCAA transfer portal.
“I just wanted to come back,” Isom said. “I’m just focused on being here now and being whatever help I can be for the team. Just trying to play hard and lead by example, just playing hard every week.”
Isom shares the team lead with 16 tackles this season, and Rolovich has said he was among the runners-up in a player vote for team captains. A junior-college transfer, he’s back to his original position of safety at WSU after being switched to cornerback after the fourth game in 2019.
DICKERT TAKES BLAME — Cougars defensive coordinator Jake Dickert said Wednesday his play-call was to blame for Oregon’s 57-yard pass play to set up a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half.
Jaylon Redd sped past cornerback George Hick III to catch the pass from Tyler Shough.
“Critical error on my part,” Dickert said. “I put a kid in a situation, George, that he shouldn’t have been in. I look (at) myself in the mirror every day. I grade myself as much as I grade the players, and there’s no excuse for letting that happen right before the end of the half.”
GAME TIMES — The Cougars now know all but two of their remaining kickoff times in this pandemic-shortened season.
Their Apple Cup home game Nov. 27 against Washington will start at 7:30 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN. Then comes a road contest against USC at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 4 on FS1.
Still undetermined are the kickoff times for the Cougs’ home game against California on Dec. 12 and their TBA contest on the weekend of Dec. 18-19, when two Pac-12 teams will vie in the conference title game and the other 10 will be paired off.
Dale Grummert may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2290.