The coldest stadium in the Pac-12 North played host Saturday to the No. 8 ranked Washington State Cougars (10-1, 7-1) and the Arizona Wildcats (5-6, 4-4) in below freezing conditions.
Extending their win streak at Martin to 13 straight, Wazzu continuously slapped around the visiting Wildcats for 60 minutes showing little to no mercy as expressed in the final 69-28 score.
“We’re not that good, they’re not that bad,” Leach said before labeling the matchup a “floodgate game.”
In front of a generously reported 22,000 fans, northwest broadcasting legend Bob Robertson raised the Cougar flag before kickoff. Minutes into the action, WSU Athletic Director Pat Chun awarded the Cougar great for his excellence in sportscasting on behalf of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication during a media timeout.
Wazzu’s first three touchdowns – breeding a 21-7 first quarter lead – were all assisted by a sloppy Arizona secondary.
If the path to the end zone was a gravel road, the southwest visitors did their best efforts to pave it. The Cougs showed little difficulty moving up and down the sidelines of Martin, and the little struggle they did experience was erased due to 7 defensive flags.
It looked as if the Wildcats played Washington State’s Air Raid offense as individuals, not a cohesive unit that they have proven to be. Zona surrendered a total of 75 yards for the night from trivial flags at best.
Too Many Weapons
Did James Williams and Max Borghi’s running tally of broken tackles surpassed that of Arizona’s points on the board? Worse bets have been placed.
Gashing James Williams handoffs – one a career long of 43 yards – were followed with explosive strikes to a dozen receiving targets. In fact, six different Cougars synced up with Minshew II for a score.
It seemed WSU appeared to have more competent receivers than the Wildcats ever imagined having to keep track of. Stretching Arizona’s secondary thin, Washington State hung up 473 yards solely by air.
“We kind of see it each week with different guys stepping up,” Minshew II said. “We’re two deep in every position… I have complete trust in any of those guys.”
Minshew II & The Heisman
Handing out fake mustaches like they’re going out of style, WSU pushed hard for overdue media attention toward their beloved quarterback. Fitting the narrative to a tee, the Mississippi native broke a school record tossing 7 touchdown passes on the night.
His evening ended with no picks completing 78 percent of his passes to 11 different targets.
JuCos Show Out
Junior college transfer Calvin Jackson Jr. scored his first touchdown in crimson and gray threads on a 27-yard post route with Minshew II. Dismissing the possibility of complacency, the 170-pound junior manufactured a second touchdown just a quarter later breaking a tackle on the 6-yard reception.
“It was so surreal. I’ve been praying for this moment for a while now, and it feels great to finally happen,” Jackson Jr. said.
Karson Block – a transfer from Saddleback CC – recorded his first career sack on standout signal caller Khalil Tate of Arizona. The play was ruled intentional grounding and forced a punt after the 25-yard loss pinned the Wildcats at their own 6-yard line.
Defense & Special Teams
A game with more explosive plays than even Mike Leach could have predicted, much of the nights most outstanding efforts could have been seen elsewhere.
Setting the tone early, Marcus Strong intercepted Khalil Tate’s first pass attempt of the night. WSU would score on the following series jumping ahead to a 14-point lead within minutes and never looking back.
Strong later recovered a fumble after Jahad Woods and Taylor Comfort forced the ball loose. It took the Cougar offense a measly 2 plays to manufacture points.
Kainoa Wilson, who blocked the punt at Oregon State, was eager to ensure Coug fans haven’t forgot about him. The redshirt junior once again made an impact on special teams – posting other potential play of the game – after recovering a fumbled Arizona kickoff for six points in the east end zone.
“I just try to go full speed every time, and just try to give everything I got,” Wilson said. “Coach puts me in the right situation all the time, I just got to make plays.”
Woods – ending the night with a career high 11 tackles – made his mark in the fourth quarter’s opening play recovering a muffed Arizona punt return just outside the red zone. Setting up WSU’s first points of the second half, Jamire Calvin got his turn at the end zone off a 2-yard connection with Minshew II.
Khalil Tate Doesn’t Go Down Without A Fight
If a scenario could go wrong it, it did. Their desire to play hard was palpable, but their focus was equally absent. It was just one of those kind of nights for the Wildcats.
Down 55-14 after just 30 minutes of play, Tate was the best player on the field come the third quarter. Over 15 minutes, the junior extended multiple plays with his legs throwing for over 100 yards and 2 scores for 14 unanswered points briefly bringing the Wildcats back into striking distance.
A classic case of too little too late, Tate was benched in place of sophomore Rhett Rodriguez come garbage time in the fourth.
Breaking The 16-Year-Old Curse
With Washington State advancing to their 10th win of the year, the program has locked in its best season since 2003.
Next week, Washington State concludes conference play Friday hosting the No. 18 ranked Washington Huskies (8-3, 6-2) in the annual Apple Cup bout. The in-state rivalry will once again decided the Pac-12 North champion.
“We’ve had this chance three years in a row now. You guys know it, I know it, the coaches know it,” Peyton Pelluer said. “It’s just another week and we’re going to get after it.”
Kickoff time remains undecided. Live coverage of the action can be found on FOX.
Q1 10:44 – WSU 7, Zona 0
Workhorse-halfback James Williams led the opening drive scoring between the tackles on a 1-yard rush. (Mazza kick good)
Q1 7:38 – WSU 14, Zona 0
Freshman back Max Borghi matches his teammates Williams scoring from 1-yard out just minutes later. (Mazza kick good)
Q1 3:19 – WSU 14, Zone 7
Wildcat quarterback Khalil Tate finds receiver Shawn Poindexter at the expense of Darrien Molton who drew a trivial PI. (Havrisik kick good)
Q1 0:19 – WSU 21, Zona 7
Minshew II pitches Calvin Jackson Jr. for 27 yards and the junior college transfer’s first Cougar touchdown. (Mazza kick good)
Q2 12:03 – WSU 28, Zona 7
Minshew II sends an 11-yard reception to Dez Patmon completing a 5-play 79 yard drive. (Mazza kick good)
Q2 10:43 – WSU 28, Zona 14
Khalil Tate scrambles to a 37-yard connection with Tony Ellison get Zona back into striking distance. (Havrisik kick good)
Q2 7:08 – WSU 34, Zona 14
Minshew II and the Cougar offense promptly respond in 7 plays play 6-yard strike to Calvin Jackson Jr. (Mazza kick no good)
Q2 7:04 – WSU 41, Zona 14
Arizona fumbles the ensuing kickoff. Kainoa Wilson of WSU recovered the ball in the east end zone for yet another Cougar touchdown. (Mazza kick good)
Q2 3:22 – WSU 48, Zona 14
James Williams races untouched to the north pylon of the east end zone for a 9-yard score. (Mazza kick good)
Q2 0:10 – WSU 55, Zona 14
Minshew II tosses a 50 yard dime to Tay Martin just before halftime. The 2-play drive was started by a Marcus Strong fumble recovery. (Mazza kick good)
Q3 12:18 – WSU 55, Zona 21
Tate hooked up with Shun Brown for 2 yards and the second half’s first score. (Havrisik kick good)
Q3 1:02 – WSU 55, Zona 28
Tate tosses a second touchdown reception to Poindexter – this one from 14 yards out – cutting down on the established Cougar lead.
Q4 12:37 – WSU 62, Zona 28
Picking up WSU’s first points of the second half, Jamire Calvin got his turn at the end zone off a 2-yard connection with Minshew II.
Q4 7:06 – WSU 69, Zona 28
Easop Winston Jr. scored on a 9-yard out from Minshew II.