Washington St Utah Football

Washington State running back Deon McIntosh celebrates after scoring against Utah during the first half Dec. 19 in Salt Lake City.

Fans will get to see Washington State three times at Martin Stadium within the first month of the 2021 football season and six times before November, but the Cougars will face a challenging stretch of road games near the end of the slate, culminating as always with the Apple Cup rivalry.

The Cougars, who went 1-3 in head coach Nick Rolovich’s COVID-19-shortened debut season, will play seven home games and five more on the road this fall. The 2021 schedule, which was unveiled Tuesday, features three consecutive home games to start the season and three in a row in October.

“I look at 12 games and that makes me happy,” Rolovich told Yogi Roth and Guy Haberman on Sirius XM radio Tuesday morning. “This team, all the teams have been working hard and had a tough deal with 2020. This I think is a bright ray of hope and encouraging for them to continue the work they’re doing. Hopefully, we finish this one.”

Rolovich’s team will open with two home nonconference games, on Sept. 4 against Utah State and Sept. 11 against Portland State. The Cougars will be playing Utah State, now under the direction of first-year coach Blake Anderson, for the first time since 1961. WSU and PSU haven’t met since the Vikings stunned the Cougars 24-17 in Pullman during the 2015 season.

The Pac-12 opener against USC will take place on Sept. 18 and mark the first Pullman meeting between the Cougars and Trojans since 2017, when Luke Falk led an upset of Clay Helton’s fifth-ranked team.

The Cougars will go on the road for consecutive games, against California on Sept. 25 and Utah on Oct. 2. The game at Utah will mark WSU’s fourth trip to Salt Lake City in the past five years.

WSU will return home for three consecutive games at Martin Stadium, beginning with a Pac-12 North clash against Oregon State. The Cougars have won seven consecutive games against the Beavers, including a 38-28 victory in the 2020 season opener. Stanford will travel to Pullman for a game on Oct. 16, followed by BYU on Oct. 23.

Playing three of their final four games on the road, the Cougars will travel to Arizona State on Oct. 30 before a bye on Nov. 6. WSU will be back on the road to play Oregon on Nov. 13 before hosting Arizona in a Friday night matchup on Nov. 19.

On the subject of playing nine consecutive weeks without a bye, Rolovich said, “That’s the way it is. That’s the way it is. … I think people who complain about schedules sometimes are wasting their time. It it what it is, takes what it takes to get it done and I promise, I’m happy for this team. Something’s in front of them where they can visualize and think about getting into a full season.”

The regular season concludes with a Nov. 26 rivalry game at Washington.

The Cougars and Huskies had played 75 consecutive years before missing the Apple Cup in 2020.

Theo Lawson can be reached at (509) 939-5928 or theol@spokesman.com.