Saturday evening, Washington State routed Wyoming on the road to a final score of 41-19. The season opener result was better than expected for the Cougs; however, not everything was perfect.
Things we like to see
The Cougar backfield was superb. James Williams and Max Borghi shredded through the Wyoming defense to combine for four touchdowns. The duo averaged more than 5.5 yards-per-carry against a defense that held their previous opponent to a negative total.
The Wazzu defense played above many expectations. Wyoming quarterback Tyler Vander Waal ended his evening with 67 yards, zero scores and an interception. Recording 139 yards on 39 attempts, the Cowboys ground attack was not much better. Outside of a couple second quarter series, Washington State’s defensive unit left no questions as to who was the better squad.
Gardner Minshew II played solid football. He was spotty at times, and certainly not perfect, but the graduate transfer moved the offense efficiently when it mattered most. 319 yards, three touchdowns and one pick is one heck of a Cougar debut.
Let these two words sink in slowly – No Sacks. The offensive line gave Minshew plenty of time to locate his target. And when the pocket did collapse, the signal caller escaped promptly to throw the ball away avoiding a negatively play. I could get used to this.
Blake Mazza was perfect between the uprights. He went 2/2 with a long of 41 yards. Of course, none of these kicks had excessive amount of pressure, but they certainly mattered.
Most importantly, WSU entered the fourth quarter with a one-point lead. 15 minutes and three unanswered touchdowns later, the seats of War Memorial Stadium were empty. Decisively putting an opponent away come crunch time says a lot about a team’s leadership.
Things we don’t like to see
Washington State was not very good from third down territory going 3/14 on the day. A handful of fourth down gambles and Wyoming penalties kept the chains moving, but that is less than ideal. This figure must improve.
The second quarter was not a good display of Cougar football. After dominating almost every statistical category including time of possession, WSU found themselves trailing at half. It nearly gave me flashbacks to the 2012 UCLA matchup. Luckily, this only lasted a mere quarter.
Several drops by the wide receivers, particularly in the second quarter, stalled out the offense. A couple plays specifically come to mind, but the corps as a whole is too deep for these mistakes. Pac-12 play will be much less forgiving.
You guessed it, the first quarter safety and ensuing free kick. I’m going to count this one an anomaly as I feel not much more needs to be said. Special teams coordinator Matt Brock will iron this one out; I believe this is the last we will see of that.
Things we can’t believe we saw
How about that Mike Leach trickery? Overloading the short side of the field with wide receiver Kyle Sweet side snapping at center is my new favorite formation. I presume WSU has a number of plays they can run out of this set. I expect to see more of this and look forward to it.
A QB sneak on fourth-and-one? I don’t see that often from the crimson and grey, but I certainly don’t mind it. If it works, keep doing it.
All in all, Washington State’s season opener was much better than anticipated considering last week’s prediction,
- “While Washington State is just 1-5 in season openers during the Leach era, Wyoming will not add to the latter. Regardless of the Cougs quarterback situation, their offensive depth and senior leadership on defense have me leaning their way. A dogfight at the half will be sealed away in the fourth quarter. Cougs leave Laramie with a win, 31-27.”
Next Saturday, Washington State will host San Jose State in Martin Stadium for an 8pm kickoff.