PULLMAN, Wash. >> Tyler Allgeier ran for 191 yards and two touchdowns and BYU beat Washington State 21-19 on Saturday in Washington State’s first game since head coach Nick Rolovich was fired for refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccination.
Rolovich and four assistants were fired Monday for not complying with the governor’s mandate that all state employees be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Rolovich had requested a religious exemption that was denied Monday, the state’s vaccination deadline.
He was replaced for the remainder of the season by Jake Dickert, the defensive coordinator, who was elevated to acting head coach.
“Our guys had a lot of heart,” Dickert said, praising his team’s “effort and commitment.”
“I know it’s been a tough week,” Dickert, in his first college game ever as a head coach, said. “It’s a little bit learning on the fly. I felt it was really smooth. For the most part we operated as a staff.”
Asked what it was like to be a head coach, Dickert said he had to take a breath and remember to enjoy the experience.
“I’ll never forget it,” he said. “It was a dream come true.”
Despite WSU quarterback Jayden de Laura calling on Cougars fans to fill Martin Stadium, only 22,500 fans attended the game in the 32,900-seat stadium.
Washington State was undone by several offensive holding penalties that wiped out good gains, and two failed conversion attempts after touchdowns.
“That put us behind the eight-ball,” Dickert said.
Max Borghi scored three touchdowns for Washington State (4-4), which saw its three-game winning streak end.
Jaren Hall threw for 143 yards for BYU (6-2), which fell out of the Top 25 this week after losing two straight games.
“A lot of credit to Washington State,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “I know they are going through a lot of adversity and change.”
Borghi ran 11 yards up the middle for a Washington State touchdown on their first possession, capping a 75-yard drive. Lopini Katoa replied with a 3-yard touchdown run, also capping a 75-yard drive, for BYU to tie it at 7.
BYU missed a field goal and also turned the ball over on downs while in WSU territory in the first half. De Laura, a former Saint Louis star, was intercepted while throwing into the end zone to kill one first-half drive.
BYU took the opening kickoff of the second half 75 yards in 11 plays for a 14-7 lead, but WSU answered, with Borghi scoring on a 1-yard run. But the conversion pass attempt failed and WSU trailed 14-13.
BYU marched 81 yards on 11 plays for a 21-13 lead with 14:57 left. Borghi scored his third touchdown on a 1-yard run with 4:14 left. But a conversion pass failed.
Before the game, fans gathered to support the program.
Standing outside Martin Stadium before the Cougars’ game, Joe Trull, 55, of Port Orchard, Wash., said he was disappointed that Rolovich did not get a chance to coach a full season but added that the coach’s dismissal “was the right thing to do.”
Trisha Griggs, 32, a 2011 graduate of Washington State, wore a Cougars sweatshirt and said. “I think it’s sad for the players. I think how difficult it is on players and causing such divisions among Cougar Nation.
“But I’m an alum and I still support athletics.”
Mark Blewett, 51, of Spokane and a 1995 graduate of WSU. said he was a fan of Rolovich, who led the Cougars to a 4-3 start this season.
“He got himself fired,” Blewett said. “He stood on a hill and died on it. He is a leader of men working for a research university. He made his own bed.”