PULLMAN – Utah quarterback Cameron Rising had been at the top of the scouting report for Washington State throughout the week leading up to Thursday’s Pac-12 matchup at Gesa Field.
Apparently, all that prep work was for naught. But you won’t hear the Cougars complaining. They don’t have to face one of the Pac-12’s best players.
Rising, a first-team all-conference pick last year, was a surprise scratch against WSU. The junior dual-threat QB watched the game from the sideline, wearing a headset and a yellow penny. Sophomore walk-on Bryson Barnes made his first-career start in Rising’s stead.
In his most recent game, Rising had one of his finest performances. He passed for 415 yards Oct. 15 in the Utes’ 43-42 upset of No. 7 USC. He’s been dealing with a nagging injury to his left knee, according to a report from Josh Newman of the Salt Lake Tribune, but wasn’t expected to be sidelined for Thursday’s game.
Rising has been efficient through the air and dangerous on the ground this season. He has passed for 1,855 yards and 15 touchdowns against three interceptions on a 68.8% completion rate. Rising has rushed for 308 yards and six touchdowns on 47 carries.
“Their quarterback, on tape, is the No. 1 competitor that I have seen,” WSU coach Jake Dickert said earlier this week. “This guy does it all. If they need him to run 20 times, he will do that and he will do it physically. If he needs to throw it 40 times, he will do it.”
Barnes has appeared in seven games over the past two seasons in a reserve role.
The Utes are also playing without Tavion Thomas for unspecified reasons. Thomas is a preseason first-team All-Pac-12 pick and Utah’s leading rusher with 414 yards and five touchdowns on 93 carries. The Utes took a by-committee approach to the ground game, rotating three running backs.
The Cougars shifted some pieces on their offensive line this week and sent out a new-look starting five against Utah. Right tackle Ma’ake Fifita, who started the Cougs’ first seven games of the year, was moved to the guard position earlier this week and sent to the bench for the game. Redshirt freshman Fa’alili Fa’amoe took over, making his second-career start. Senior transfer Grant Stephens held down the right guard spot.
Outside receiver De’Zhaun Stribling stayed at the slotback position for the second consecutive game. True freshman Leyton Smithson made his second-career start in place of Stribling at outside receiver.
Stribling was impressive early at his new position. He caught a 21-yard pass down the seams in the first quarter and opened the scoring with a 29-yard touchdown early in the second period. Stribling motioned right from his inside receiver post, then cut upfield on the snap and raced into open field, hauling in a precisely placed pass from Cougar quarterback Cameron Ward.
WSU strong safety Jordan Lee left the field limping midway through the second quarter after a big collision with Utah running back Ja’Quinden Jackson. Lee went to the injury tent for a few minutes, then was taken to the locker room.
Lee, a senior transfer from Nevada, missed three games earlier this year after sustaining an injury in WSU’s Week 2 win at Wisconsin.
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