GALLERY: Cougars fall to the Air Force in Cheez-It Bowl

Gordon throws 3 TDs, Air Force controls ball all game

JACLYN SEIFERT and KURIA POUNDS

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Cougar football played in their last game of the decade Friday night in the Cheez-It Bowl, resulting in a 31-21 loss against the Air Force Falcons at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona.

This is the first time the Cougars (6-7, 3-6) finished under .500 since 2014, when they went 3-9. Air Force (11-2, 7-1) has its first 11-win season this side of the millenium.

The Falcons ran the clock down with their well-known triple option against the Cougar defense throughout the game, having possession of the ball for over 40 minutes.

Washington State began the game with finding the opposite side of the field against Air Force quickly, but coming up empty on a fourth-and-goal attempt stopped short by the Air Force.

In the opening minutes, redshirt senior quarterback Anthony Gordon broke former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota’s Pac-12 single-season record for total offense and finished with 5,559 yards.

Head coach Mike Leach said that Gordon did a really great job this year at WSU and is looking forward to see his potential NFL future.

“I think Anthony did an outstanding job in sparking our team and sparking our offense,” Leach said.

Air Force junior quarterback Donald Hammond III started scoring with a one yard rushing touchdown at the start of the second quarter to make the score 7-0 with the extra point.

On the second drive, Gordon threw to graduate wide receiver Brandon Arconado throughout the drive, ending it with a two-yard passing touchdown to senior wide receiver Dezmon Patmon to tie up the game about four minutes later.

During the drive, Arconado eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards on the season, the first 1,000 yard season for a WSU wide receiver since 2015.

“Building the relationships with all my teammates was what mattered the most [this season],” Arconado said.

Redshirt junior linebacker Jahad Woods finished the game with 20 tackles, a new Cheez-It Bowl record, and the first 20-tackle game for WSU since 1997, when the Cougars played Arizona State.

The Air Force, throughout the first half, controlled the ball by having these long drives for the defense and converting on third and fourth downs to keep moving the chains.

The Falcons chewed up the clock on the next drive, using the triple option, but resulted in three points by senior kicker Jake Koehnke to extend the Falcons’ lead to three.

Gordon fumbled the ball on the first play of the next drive for WSU, leading to Air Force senior fullback Taven Birdow countering with a three-yard rushing touchdown.

With 24 seconds remaining in the first half on the five yard line, sophomore running back Max Borghi caught a touchdown pass from Gordon after a 58-yard catch-and-run from Tay Martin, to cut the Falcons’ lead to three entering halftime, 17-14.

The Falcons’ opened the second half with another long drive, running the ball downfield, resulting in a seven-yard rushing touchdown for Hammond III, to give the Air Force a 10-point lead to begin the third quarter.

With 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Easop Winston Jr., redshirt senior wide receiver, returned a punt from Air Force senior punter Charlie Scott for 29 yards.

This eventually led Gordon to throw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Arconado and put the Cougars three points behind the Falcons.

With just four minutes left in the game on a third-and-goal for the Air Force , senior cornerback Marcus Strong stopped junior running back Kadin Remsberg short of the endzone to force a fourth-and-goal for the Falcons.

Air Force then converted on the fourth-and-goal with a three-yard rushing touchdown from Remsberg with three minutes left on the clock to ice the game for the Falcons.

Despite the loss, Leach said going to five straight bowls is something for these seniors to be proud about.

“There are guys who were part of us going to five bowls,” Leach said. “Their service to our program is something I’ll forever be grateful for.”