Jayden de Laura's flag-planting still on minds of Washington defenders as Arizona comes to town
The last time Jayden de Laura was on the field at Husky Stadium, it produced a moment that will probably live on in the minds of both Washington and Washington State fans for some time.
Then a quarterback for the Cougars — he transferred to Arizona this offseason — de Laura capped off one of the more painful Washington seasons in recent memory with a 40-13 Apple Cup win and a planting of an oversized Cougar flag right at midfield. Washington had fired Jimmy Lake two weeks prior. The season ended with a whimper and Washington State fans storming the field inside UW’s own house.
QB Jayden de Laura plants a WSU flag in Husky Stadium after the Cougs’ Apple Cup win over UW 🍎🚩 pic.twitter.com/GtNfxbycdV
— Seattle Times Sports (@SeaTimesSports) November 27, 2021
Coaches approaching potentially emotional games like to serve their team talking points “You’re playing yourselves this weekend, as long as we don’t beat ourselves we’ll be fine,” is a popular one. A “nameless, faceless” opponent is another.
“Definitely not faceless,” UW safety Alex Cook told reporters of de Laura and his new Arizona Wildcat teammates this week. “That was the last moment of the 2021 season, him specifically planting the flag in our home stadium. So I’m definitely not going to take that lightly. I don’t think anybody else on the team is going to take that lightly, for those who were on the team. And we’re making sure guys who were not on the team know what’s going to happen come Saturday. And I’m not talking about dirty shots or anything like that. I’m talking about there’s going to be a different vibe, different intensity coming on Saturday.”
From a football standpoint, the lasting impression of de Laura was how effectively he dissected what was a statistically excellent Washington secondary last year. The Huskies had two early-round NFL Draft picks at corner. And de Laura completed 21 of his first 22 pass attempts to help Wazzu run away.
At Arizona, he’s throwing the ball all over the yard. The Wildcats rank 10th nationally in passing yards per game. They lead all of college football in explosive pass plays. De Laura’s crop of pass-catchers is deep and talented, and the UA offense has built itself around featuring them as often as possible.
“He’s dynamic,” said UW defensive coordinator Chuck Morrell this week. “He’s dynamic with his feet. I think every time he gets the ball in his hands he believes every snap he’s going to score a touchdown. That’s what appears to be his mentality and his mindset.”
That’s gotten de Laura into trouble this season, but it has also created brilliance. Arizona has been alternating between good and bad, most of it influenced by the play of the defense. When de Laura can play with a lead, can play without pressing, he’s been deadly. When he’s given a deficit, he has a tendency of trying to get it all back at once.
“The biggest challenge is how long he extends plays,” said Morrell. “There’s several shots where he’s running east, west, east, west, east, west, and then finding a guy open down the field. So I think the challenge is trying to stay attached to your work throughout the course of what turns into a nine-, 10-, 11-second play.”
While Washington’s offense has been the story of the season in Seattle — and UW’s secondary has been thinned out by injuries — Arizona’s Jedd Fisch is looking forward to seeing how his offense matches up against the Husky defense.
“Every time I have ever thought about Washington, I’ve thought of defense,” Fisch said this week. “In my mind, this is a top defense. I don’t look at the stats, I look at the player bodies and they have a lot of really, really good player bodies out there and they have a lot of skills.”
Fisch said he thought the edge rushers were true NFL talents. UW has been known as an NFL talent factory at defensive back. The pass defense will be keen on stopping de Laura, but Fisch says they can’t be too focused on that.
“That was last year,” Fisch said. “Jayden’s Jayden and that’s what happened last year. I’m sure there was a lot of energy and excitement and enthusiasm when you go win the Apple Cup. I’m sure it was a big deal there just like it’s a big deal here when we play the team up north.”
And it hasn’t been forgotten.