WSU football opened conference play in the highest-scoring game in conference history against the UCLA Bruins with 130 points on Saturday at Martin Stadium, which ended in a 67-63 loss for the Cougars.
The Bruins (1-3, 1-0) scored first after an early interception from WSU redshirt senior quarterback Anthony Gordon and a 14-yard touchdown pass from UCLA sophomore quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson to redshirt senior running back Joshua Kelley gave UCLA a quick 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.
The Cougars (3-1, 0-1) came right back with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Gordon to redshirt senior Easop Winston Jr. to even up the score at 7-7 in the first.
UCLA drove down the field and responded with a 31-yard field goal by senior kicker JJ Molson to give the Bruins a 10-7 lead with 4:49 left in the first quarter.
After a slow first quarter for WSU, Gordon drove down the field with help from graduate student wide receiver Brandon Arconado and finished it off with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Winston to give the Cougars a 14-10 lead with 13:02 left in the second quarter.
A quick trade of interceptions by UCLA junior defensive back Darnay Holmes and WSU redshirt junior safety Skyler Thomas led to a 10-yard touchdown pass from Gordon to redshirt sophomore Travell Harris to extend the Cougar lead to 21-10.
The next play, a 100-yard kickoff return by redshirt junior wide receiver Demetric Felton cut the lead down to four, with WSU leading 21-17.
Head coach Mike Leach said the main issues in the second half stem from a whole lack of team effort.
“We collapsed in every phase of the game,” Leach said. “Offense, defense, special teams. Every phase.”
WSU rebounded with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Gordon to Winston, having the Cougars up 28-17 in the second quarter.
The Cougars closed the first half with a 7-yard passing touchdown from Gordon to junior wide receiver Tay Martin to give WSU a 35-17 lead at the half.
Gordon finished the first half with 306 passing yards and five touchdowns, with three of the five touchdown passes going to Winston.
Gordon said the loss is very disappointing with the lack of ball security from the wide receivers.
“It’s pretty hard to win any sort of football game when we turn the ball over six times,” Gordon said.
To start off the third quarter, Gordon passed to redshirt junior wide receiver Renard Bell for a 35-yard touchdown, giving the Cougars a 42-17 lead with 8:09 left in the third.
After a 3-and-out for the Bruins, Gordon quickly responded with a 6-yard passing touchdown to senior wide receiver Dezmon Patmon.
With that touchdown, Gordon tied the current WSU record for most passing touchdowns in a single game with seven, set last year by former WSU and current Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II.
With 3:48 left in the third, Thompson-Robinson ran it in the endzone from the 1-yard line, cutting the WSU lead down to 49-24.
After a fumble by redshirt freshman wide receiver Rodrick Fisher, UCLA quickly turned that into points with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Thompson-Robinson to sophomore wide receiver Chase Cota to close the gap even further to 49-31.
UCLA came off a 3-and-out from WSU with a 94-yard passing touchdown from Thompson-Robinson to Felton to shorten the lead to 49-38 in the third quarter.
To start the fourth quarter, Thompson-Robinson passed to redshirt junior tight end Devin Asiasi for a 7-yard touchdown, followed by a successful 2-point conversion attempt from Thompson-Robinson to Cota to make the game one score, 49-46, in the fourth.
WSU came back with a 33-yard touchdown pass from Gordon to Winston, extending the lead to 56-46 in the fourth and giving Winston his fourth touchdown of the night, tying the record for the most touchdown receptions in a single game set by Gabe Marks in 2015.
With that pass, Gordon has now set the record for WSU and the Pac-12 conference with the most passing touchdowns in a single game, with eight passing touchdowns.
The Bruins ended their drive with a 3-yard rushing touchdown by Thompson-Robinson, cutting the lead for WSU back to 3, 56-53.
WSU senior defensive lineman Misiona Aiolupotea-Pei said the defense did not finish the plays, which led to the comeback for UCLA.
“There were a lot of big plays they had, because of missed tackles,” Aiolupotea-Pei said.
After another 3-and-out for WSU, redshirt freshman wide receiver Kyle Philips returned the punt to the endzone, giving UCLA their first lead, 60-56, since 10-7 at the end of the first quarter.
The Cougars responded with a 65-yard passing touchdown from Gordon to sophomore running back Max Borghi, taking back the lead with 6:11 in the fourth.
With that touchdown, Gordon extends the record for most passing touchdowns in a single game to nine.
UCLA comes back with 1:07 left in the game with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Thompson-Robinson to Felton to give UCLA the lead 67-63.
Gordon finished the game completing 41 of 61 passes, 570 passing yards, and a Pac-12/WSU record nine touchdowns.
The Cougars’ next game is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium against the Utah Utes. The game can be seen live on FS1.