PULLMAN – At an 8pm kickoff, the Washington State Cougars (1-0) hosted the San Jose State Spartans (0-1) in their 2018 home opener at Martin Stadium. In just 12 previous meetings between the two programs, WSU leads the all-time series at 7-4-1.
Gardner Minshew II and the Cougar offense wasted no time upon receiving the opening kickoff. A 35-yard connection to Dezmon Patmon quickly pushed WSU across midfield. Finishing off the 70-yard drive, Minshew II hooked up with Tay Martin from 15 yards out for a touchdown.
After a quick three-and-out, the Cougar offense was back to work on their own 10-yard line. Halfbacks Max Borghi and James Williams extended the drive into Spartan territory. On a fourth-and-ten gamble from 36 yards out, Minshew II synched up with Martin for another score.
“We were awfully close to punt and too far out to kick a field goal,” Head Coach Mike Leach told the media in his postgame interview.
Once again, the Spartans were unable to make noise on offense. The Cougar defense, behind a Darrien Molton pass breakup, forced another three-out-out. Seven plays and 43 yards later, San Jose State linebacker Jesse Osuna intercepted Minshew II on a batted ball intended for Tay Martin.
After 15 minutes of play, WSU led SJSU 14-0.
Much of the second half looked like a game of hot potato; neither squad could hold onto possession. Spartan corner Nehemiah Shelton intercepted Minshew II for the signal caller’s second turnover of the half.
Washington State later put an end to the disfunction. James Williams set up a 36-yard field goal attempt after stretching a shovel pass into a 26-yard gain. Blake Mazza converted on his attempt building the Cougar lead.
WSU’s defensive unit showed up big in the following drive. Taylor Comfort and Dominick Silvels both recorded sacks forcing San Jose State to punt.
In the next series, Minshew II made an explosive connection to Kyle Sweet on fourth down putting WSU in the red zone. With no time left in the half, the signal caller scored on a 1-yard rush.
At halftime, the Cougar defense held San Jose State to two first downs and 23 total offensive yards. Washington State led at break, 24-0.
The third quarter opened with five consecutive punts from both sides. Punters Oscar Draguicevich III of WSU and Bryce Crawford of SJSU fought for field position. Both pinned the opposing team within the ten-yard line.
Ironically, SJSU produced their most successful drive of the night off the poor field position. After 8 plays, the Spartans finally crossed midfield. Cougar linebacker Jahad Woods sacked Montel Aaron on third down putting an end to the series.
The Cougs orchestrated a drive following Crawford’s punt, but turned it over on downs after failing to convert on fourth-and-one.
After a scoreless third quarter, WSU led SJSU into the fourth 24-0.
“I thought we had a good first half. I was not impressed with our second half,” said Leach. “I thought some of our young receivers need to become tougher people.”
Washington State’s first drive of the fourth quarter was explosive. Minshew II connected with Kyle Sweet for 27 yards and again for 19. After stalling out at SJSU’s 30-yard line, Blake Mazza failed to convert on a 47-yard field goal.
Halfback Malike Robertson moved the chains on the ensuing Spartan drive with a 16-yard rush; however, the Cougar defense forced yet another punt after Aaron was sacked by a swarm of WSU defenders on third down.
In just six plays, WSU took their next drive 75 yards to the house. Minshew II completed a three-yard touchdown pass to James Williams. Travell Harris set up the score with a 39-yard reception to start the series.
With under a minute to play, backup quarterbacks of both squads threw interceptions. Anthony Gordon of WSU was intercepted by linebacker Kyle Harmon; JaQuan Blackwell of SJSU was intercepted by safety Deion Singleton. Neither team made any imposing moves into enemy territory.
Washington State wins it, 31-0.
“It doesn’t matter who you get a shutout against,” said Leach. “That’s a fantastic effort. I thought that was good.”
Next week, Washington State hosts FCS opponent Eastern Washington (2-0). Kickoff is set at 5pm on the Pac-12 Network.