Cougs shut out Spartans

WSU had record night on defense, while offense struggled at times



Graduate transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew II runs the ball while looking for an open pass during the game against San Jose State on Sept. 8 at Martin Stadium.

JACKSON GARDNER, Evergreen reporter

WSU football defeated San Jose State University on Saturday night in Martin Stadium 31-0. The Cougars defense clamped down on San Jose State keeping the Spartans off the scoreboard and securing their second straight season with a home opener shut out.

It isn’t always the case that the WSU (2-0) defense steals the headlines — that job is usually reserved for Head Coach Mike Leach’s lucrative Air Raid offense. But when the defense holds an opponent to the fourth fewest yards allowed in a single game in program history, it’s worthy of a compliment.

“I thought defensively we played very well for I’d say the better part of three and a half quarters where we shut them out,” Leach said. “Anytime you get a shut out — it doesn’t matter who you get a shut out against — that’s a fantastic effort.”

Tonight, the Speed D picked up right where they left off from last week. Except this week, there was no second quarter hiccup, just sound football for 60 minutes where WSU defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys’ group forced 11 straight Spartan (0-2) drives to end in punts and then the 12th was capped off with an interception.

Before the game kicked off, Cougar fans cheered while the Hilinksi Family raised the Cougar flag to honor the life of Tyler Hilinski. WSU also showed its solidarity with National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month by putting the blue and purple ribbon logo on both 25-yard lines.

The Cougars only gave up 109 total yards of offense and just nine yards on the ground. In the first half the Spartans gave the Cougars more yards via penalty, 40 yards on six penalties, than they had on offense, 23 total yards. The Cougars also doubled SJSU’s time of possession with 20 minutes of offense to the Spartans nine minutes.

Of the Cougars five total sacks, the most notable came from redshirt senior nose tackle Taylor Comfort’s in the second quarter. After earning a scholarship this offseason, which allowed him to play his fifth and final year, he collected his first career sack.

On offense, the group led by graduate transfer quarterback Gardner Minshew II did their part, but collectively the unit has seen better days. Minshew was able to move the ball, completing 34 passes for 414 yards and three touchdowns on 51 attempts. However, he did have a pair of interceptions on the night.

The Cougars offense didn’t fare much better on third downs from a week ago, either, only converting on three of their 12 attempts. But the Cougs did convert on fourth down to a tune of 80 percent.

Perhaps the best play of the night for Leach’s offense came on a fourth down conversion where Minshew found sophomore wide receiver Tay Martin for a 36-yard touchdown to put WSU up 14-0.

Despite Martin already having a stellar night, it would have been that much better if he would have came down with another fourth down conversion touchdown reception early in the second quarter.

If the play had stood, it would have been his third touchdown reception in the first half. At the night’s end, the sophomore had six receptions for 68 yards and two touchdowns.

Leach recognized his receiver’s performance in the first half but was critical of him in the second.

“I thought he had a few good catches and then he went dormant,” Leach said. “Then he felt like his work was done. He’s right there in the pile of no higher or no lower than anybody else in that second half with regard to the receivers. He was invisible in the second half.”

Now 2-0 and outscoring its opponents 72-19, WSU will shift its focus to inland northwest rival Eastern Washington University, who will they face at 5 p.m. Saturday in Martin Stadium. The game will also be broadcast live on Pac-12 Networks.