Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich and his players had hardly come to terms with the devastating news in their own midst when they learned their opponent last week had received an even worse shock.
Utah sophomore cornerback Aaron Lowe was shot and killed at a house party in Salt Lake City early Sunday, hours after the Utes’ 24-13 win against Washington State.
The previous early morning, WSU receiver Brandon Gray had been shot and wounded near a house party on College Hill in Pullman. Rolovich said Monday that Gray remains in stable condition at a Spokane hospital, but he had no further details.
The Cougars (1-3, 0-2) play another conference road game Saturday (2:30 p.m., Pac-12 Network) against California (1-3, 0-1) at Berkeley, Calif. It was also announced that their home game Oct. 9 versus Oregon State will begin at 1 p.m., also on the Pac-12 Network.
After learning about the Utah shooting, Rolovich said he texted Utes coach Kyle Whittingham and told him “we’re thinking about him, praying for him.
“You don’t wish that on anybody,” he said in his weekly Zoom news conference. “This game is hard enough, this job is hard enough, what these young men are trying to do is hard enough, and to add something so tragic — they’ve had a couple here now.”
He was alluding to the fact that Utah players, like WSU’s, have dealt with harrowing news before. Sensational Utes running back Ty Jordan died of an apparently accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound last Christmas in Texas.
The Cougars lost quarterback Tyler Hilinksi to suicide in January 2018 and defensive back Bryce Beekman to a drug overdose in March 2020.
“The main focus needs to on the kids,” Rolovich said, “and (how they’re) dealing with it. How can we help and how can we get them any type of counseling, any type of resources? Because this is a heavy thing for a young person.”
Rolovich said he learned the news about Gray in a phone call from a player at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday, and spent much of the rest of the morning trying to “alert everyone who needed to know.” He informed players on the travel squad at a meeting prior to their pregame meal.
Afterward, “the position coaches took their group and handled that group setting the best way they thought possible,” he said. “Give guys an opportunity to get some emotions out.”
INJURY REPORT — Rolovich said running back Max Borghi, who left the Utah game with an arm injury early in the second quarter, is “probably questionable” for the Cal game.
The injury occurred on a 3-yard run when Borghi tried to stiff-arm linebacker Karene Reid, then landed awkwardly on his left arm as he was being tackled. Reid was tagged with a questionable facemask penalty.
Cougars quarterback Jayden de Laura, who missed the Utah game with his left-knee injury, is “closer” to being ready, Rolovich said.
Offensive lineman Brian Greene, who had been sidelined since early in the Cougars’ season opener, saw limited action at Utah, but at left guard. Konner Gomness continued to play center.
“It was great to get Brian back,” Rolovich said. “I felt Konner was playing well at center. The versatility in a bunch of those guys is helping us in giving guys a few snaps off. Getting Brian back in the groove at a little bit slower pace was probably a smart move for his long-term health this season.”
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