No. 8 Cougars maul Wildcats

Minshew breaks WSU single game record for passing touchdowns with seven



Redshirt junior running back James Williams breaks away from the line of scrimmage in the game against University of Arizona on Saturday in Martin Stadium.

JOHN SPELLMAN, Evergreen reporter

Despite a chilly Martin Stadium, No. 8 WSU football was anything but cold Saturday as it took down University of Arizona in the second-to-last game of the regular season. WSU scored 55 points in the first half alone en route to a 69-28 victory.

“We’re not that good, they’re not that bad, OK, but I did think that all three sides of the ball contributed in the first half,” Head Coach Mike Leach said. “I think that was significant — I think that’s what kind of blew it open. I do wish we had a better third quarter, [but] I thought we had a pretty good fourth quarter.”

The Cougars were looking to avenge last season’s loss to the Wildcats where WSU lost on the road 58-37.

WSU got off to a good start against Arizona on Saturday, taking a 7-0 lead on its first possession with a 1-yard touchdown run from redshirt junior running back James Williams.

The Cougar defense came up with a big play on Arizona’s first possession when the Wildcats’ junior quarterback Khalil Tate threw an interception to WSU junior cornerback Marcus Strong.

WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew II was able to move the Cougar offense down the field before handing the ball off to freshman running back Max Borghi, who gave WSU a 14-0 lead on another 1-yard touchdown run.

The Wildcats were able to cut the Cougars’ lead in half two drives later when Tate threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to redshirt sophomore wide receiver Shawn Poindexter to put the WSU lead at 14-7.

However, the Cougars responded, putting a quick offensive drive together before Minshew found junior wide receiver Calvin Jackson Jr. open for a 27-yard touchdown pass, which put WSU’s lead at 21-7 with 19 seconds left in the first quarter.

The Cougars kept up the offensive pressure on the next drive, with Minshew maneuvering the WSU offense down the field, culminating in an 11-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Dezmon Patmon and giving the Cougars a 28-7 lead.

Arizona came down on the next drive just as fast to go 73 yards on four plays, capped by a 37-yard pass from Tate to redshirt senior wide receiver Tony Ellison to cut the lead to 28-14.

Each time Arizona would go down the field and score, Minshew would return to lead his team towards the end zone as he threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jackson, but the extra point was missed and WSU led 34-14.

Despite that, Minshew wasn’t on the field for the next Cougar touchdown, as Arizona redshirt junior receiver Cedric Peterson fumbled the ball. It rolled back to the end zone where it would be recovered by redshirt junior wide receiver Kainoa Wilson for a touchdown, giving the Cougars a 41-14 lead.

After a punt on Arizona’s next possession, Minshew and his teammates on offense were back in sync as he carved up the Arizona defense, giving WSU a 48-14 advantage on a 9-yard pass to Williams.

If the Wildcats had any chance to come back against the Cougars, they needed to score a touchdown before halftime, and they looked well on their way to doing that as they went all the way down to the Cougar 1-yard line. However, once they were there, they fumbled into the end zone where WSU recovered it for a touchback.

Minshew came back onto the field with 40 seconds left in the first half and the ball on his own 20. He gained 30 yards on the first play on a pass to Borghi. His second play was a 50-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Tay Martin to put the Cougs ahead 55-14 at halftime.

WSU fell victim to stagnant play in the third quarter, an occurrence that has happened multiple this season at Martin Stadium. During this time the Wildcats cut the lead down to 55-28 on touchdown passes from Tate to senior wide receiver Shun Brown and Poindexter.

The Cougars returned to form in the fourth quarter as the offense took control of the game, leading to two more touchdown passes from Minshew as he hit sophomore wide receiver Jamire Calvin for a 2-yard touchdown pass, then redshirt junior wide receiver Easop Winston Jr. for a 9-yard touchdown pass.

That put WSU up by a final score of 69-28, improving the team to 10-1 on the season. However, the big story after the victory was Minshew setting a new Cougar record for most passing touchdowns in a game with seven.

“I think in high school I got six one time, but I don’t think I’ve ever done seven,” Minshew said. “That was pretty crazy tonight.”

Another record was set for WSU career games with sixth-year linebacker Peyton Pelluer, who recorded 52 games as a Coug when he stepped on the field against Arizona.

“I feel old, but it’s a blessing,” Pelluer said. “I’m just glad I came back for this year and had the opportunity.”

The win for WSU also sets up a winner-take-all Apple Cup on Friday at Martin Stadium, with the victor being crowned champion of the Pac-12 North Division.

“We are excited about the win for tonight, but tomorrow we are in there bright and early to start preparing for the next one since we play on Friday,” Leach said.

Despite the dominant 69-28 win over Arizona, the Cougars will look to maintain performance in what has the makings to be a highly contested Apple Cup. Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m. Friday in Martin Stadium.