When Washington State refreshed its kits in 2017, they opted for more combinations than originality. Nike and WSU removed the stripes on the shoulders, outlines on the numbers and text on the chest of the jersey from their look that debuted in 2012. That left only a large block number on the chest and a WSU logo on the collar that maximizes the amount of matching combinations WSU can provide on a weekly basis. The uniforms were met with mixed reviews upon their initial release. However, winning changes things.
Since 2017, WSU has won 34-22 in its 56 games with the new uniforms. In that span of time, WSU has tried 25 different combinations of helmet shell and face mask colors, jerseys and pants, with the crimson look being the most common five times (once per season).
Everyone knows that the key to winning football matches is having the right combination of uniforms. Look good, feel good, play good. Easy.
Some of WSU’s combos have performed better than others over the past five seasons, and I’ve taken the time to crunch the numbers and analyze the data to find the best and worst unified combinations — right down to the color logo or the face mask the helmet – based on their record in the last 48 WSU football games.
WSU has made their charcoal-crimson-charcoal combo a staple for seniors, with the one exception in 2018 when they wore it in their second home game against Eastern Washington. The Cougars led the Eagles 59-24.
They made their senior debut in 2017 against the top-25 Stanford Cardinal. The Cougs caused an upset in Luke Falk’s last home game when he hit Jamire Calvin with an 11-yard touchdown down the middle that turned out to be the game-winner with less than seven minutes left. Not to be outdone, the senior day combo did magic again in 2019 when Max Borghi scored the buzzer-beater touchdown against Oregon State in a wild 54-53 thriller. The Uniforms last resurfaced through a thick layer of fog against the Arizona Wildcats last season when the Cougs pulled away late for a 44-18 win.
Since 2017, this combo has brought nothing but horrific memories to Coug fans. It made its debut at Cal in 2017 when the Cougs entered the top-10 at Berkley, clad in their purple and white. The Cougars left Berkley without a touchdown and a 34-point loss upside down, 37-3. They made another appearance in the final game of the same season in the 2017 Holiday Bowl against Michigan State. WSU was rocked again in a 42-17 blowout loss.
After failing to show up in 2018, the uniforms returned to Utah in 2019 in hopes that years of absence would shake off evil voodoo. They have not. Once again, WSU was at the wrong end of a route as the Utes pulled away in the second half with a 38-13 win, leading coach Mike Leach to describe his players in the Crimson and White as “fat, dumb, lucky and entitled.” to call. But how much blame can Leach really put on his players when they have to wear a damn uniform?
The uniforms were last seen outside an eerily empty Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles in 2020. Once again, the Cougs were put to flight when USC took a 28-0 lead in the second quarter and never looked back on another 38-13 loss for WSU. If you do the math, that’s four losses with a point difference of -109. It’s a shame this look has performed so poorly over the years considering the school colors are used to near perfection on the street. But we hope we never have to see that combination again to win games.
Meanwhile, the all-crimson look has emerged the most, with five, with a 3-2 record, and eight other combinations have been worn just once.
Ah, the traditional gray helmet and crimson face mask. It couldn’t be more classic for the WSU. Helm is the second most spawned after Crimson Helm (12) and has had great success. The Cougars’ only loss while wearing their classic helmet came in the 2021 opener against Utah State. That slip aside, it was nothing but smooth sailing for WSU’s timeless look.
The only helmet with a better record is WSU’s white helmet with charcoal logos and face mask, worn only once in 2017 in a 45-7 win over Nevada.
WSU has a pair of helmet combos that have only been worn once in losses, but the “Gray Ghost” look, as I unofficially call it, comes with a .333 win ratio over its three appearances.
The look first debuted in the 2017 Apple Cup, where WSU was defeated 41-14. The helmet didn’t return until a trip to Oregon in 2019, where the Cougs fought valiantly against the 11th-ranked Ducks but left too much time on the board for Justin Herbert, who led a game-winning drive across the field for one game. Winning a field goal as the clock ticks down for a 37-35 Ducks win.
The Gray Ghost made his home debut for a family weekend affair against the Stanford Cardinal in 2021. Along with the charcoal jersey and charcoal shorts, the Cougs won a 34-31 thriller with a stripsack by Quinn Roff that proved victory in what turned out to be coach Nick Rolovich’s last game as Cougar’s league leader.
Trends say we won’t see this helmet until 2023 as it has been appearing every two years since 2017.
When black jerseys became the infatuation of the college football universe in the early 2010s, WSU decided to do something different. WSU mixed this desire for a dark jersey to wear to those late-night prime-time games with its school colors and gave us the color charcoal. Nike refreshed the anthracite look for 2017 by omitting the crimson text for a much easier-to-read white that stands out. The new charcoal look has provided some of the best memories in WSU football history.
The jersey debuted in 2017 against Oregon State with the traditional gray helmet and shorts for a 52-23 win. Anthracite made his full debut against the top five USC Trojans two weeks later on a magical Friday night when the Cougs showed off the charcoal helmet and pants to wear with the jersey. The end result was a 30-27 excitement thanks to a clean blitz from Jahad Woods on Sam Darnold, who lost the football and was regained by the Cougars. The all-charcoal jersey reappeared a year later at WSU’s biggest weekend ever against the Oregon Ducks for College Gameday. I think we all know how that ended.
The charcoal uniform is so clean that it was actually worn more times in 2017 than the home crimson uniform (four to three times). After two of the biggest wins in WSU football history and a perfect 6-0 start, the uniforms have lost some magic, losing two of their last three, with the first loss coming on the night of September 21, 2019. She last appeared in 2021 wearing the Gray Ghost helmet in that 34-31 win over Stanford.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. WSU has only worn the refreshed white jerseys on the street, and it’s a lot harder to win on the street than it is at home.
The Cougars won their first game in the new white jerseys, defeating Oregon 33-10 in the Icy White combination, but lost four of their next five games in the whites to end the 2017 season. WSU only won 1-5 in their white uniforms in 2019, and their only win came against the Houston Cougars in Houston.
Despite the white jersey record, they are the only jersey to have been worn in an Apple Cup win since the 2017 refresh. The white jersey also takes home the title of most worn with 26 times, while anthracite is the least worn with nine times. Crimson is mid-table with 21 appearances.
Although their relative white jerseys have the worst record, the white shorts have fared very well. The White Pants debuted in 2017 with a win over Nevada, and the Cougars won seven straight games before suffering their first and only loss at Cal in 2019.
The White Pants bounced back with a win in their only Oregon State appearance in 2020, then picked up two wins on the road in 2021, the last being the sweetest. (See picture above)
The gear team did a good job of spreading out the wins and losses when our worst pant is still .500, but it’s a bit of a surprise to see that WSU’s classic crimson pant is the worst of the four options while they is worn most. It doesn’t help that four of the 10 losses are from the cursed Crimson-White-Crimson combo.
The refreshed crimson pants were part of the signature crimson look, which made its debut against Boise State in that overtime comeback win and most recently in the 2021 Sun Bowl against Central Michigan.
As for the others, the charcoal pants have been worn 16 times with a record of 9-7 and the gray pants have been worn the least nine times with a 5-4 record.
With that stat in mind, Coach Dickert and the outfitter are left with only one option. Make the analysis your own and either compete in the undefeated “Senior Day” combo each week or rock a classic helmet, charcoal jersey and white pants that squeezes the best win percentage out of each piece of gear for WSU give the best chances to win every game.
While WSU has a range of options for uniform combinations, they also have a range of helmet shell, logo and facemask colors to choose from. Perhaps that can be covered in a unified deep dive part two.