How has Gardner Minshew II’s mobility helped the Cougar offense?

San Jose State’s defense appeared to have no answers Saturday night as the Cougar offense hummed up and down the sidelines of Martin Stadium. While the Cougs softened up the second half, the home opener told Wazzu fans all they needed to know about Gardner Minshew II.

He can run.

The starting quarterback scampered for 32 yards and a score on nine carries against the Spartans. Considering Minshew II only had one designed run omitting QB sneaks, he made the most of it.

Perhaps the element of surprised helped him on the read option; I assume not many defensive coordinators prepare for a QB keeper the week leading up to WSU. However, Minshew II read the defensive end, trusted his legs, evaded a tackle and found the goal line. His athleticism was evident.

“It helps keep plays alive,” said Head Coach Mike Leach of his quarterback’s mobility. “We haven’t had hardly any negative yards. I think that’s huge because then you don’t end up behind the sticks.”

On the third offensive drive, WSU found themselves in that exact situation following a negative first down play. The ensuing snap, Minshew II was unable to find a target downfield. Just before the pocket collapsed, he rolled out right and burned up the sideline for a 10-yard gain. The result? A manageable third-and-one.

It’s important to note the value of Minshew II’s mobility in this offense is not yards gained – it’s in drives extended. And for a team who passes often, Washington State knows nothing kills a drive quite like a sack.

“We’re not always going to be perfect. Today it even showed. We missed a couple blocks and [Minshew II] scrambled out and got us some big yards,” said offensive lineman Liam Ryan to the press following San Jose State.

The Mississippi native has shown his ability to escape the pocket two weeks in a row. While coverage sacks have a history of stalling the offense, it’s easy to forget they ever existed. Between the offensive line and Minshew II’s legs, the Cougars have not been sacked once this season.

The last starting quarterback at WSU to finish a year with positive rushing yards was Jeff Tuel in 2010. As it looks now, no. 16 just might change that.

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