PULLMAN – He was tall, perhaps six feet or so, donning a crimson jersey and eyes laced with matching excitement.
“Can the new guy spin it?” he asked. “I just hope he throws downfield. I hate check downs.”
Just one of several characters you’d meet in an RV tailgate lot during gameday, the man soon got his answer along with 27,228 others in attendance.
Yes, Anthony Gordon – and his moniker ‘The Gunslinger‘ – isn’t a marketing gimmick despite what nay sayers on social media might suggest. And as if right on que, Mike Leach’s newest signal caller wasted no time silencing the sideshow once it got down to business.
The No. 23 Washington State Cougars blew past the New Mexico State Aggies 58-7 in a season opening out-of-conference matchup Saturday night at Martin Stadium.
“I felt like we could have been sharper on offense late in the game. I thought early in the game we could have been sharper on defense,” Leach said. “When they settled in I thought they played real well.”
“I had some butterflies before the game. It wasn’t any bad nerves though,” Gordon said. “I was optimistic and confident coming in.”
He was explosive, competitive, quick – all the traits that earned him the job this preseason came to life during the redshirt senior’s debut start.
By halftime, he was 22-23 with 330 yards and already bidding Pac-12 offensive player of the week honors. And once No. 18 closed the book on his outing late in the third quarter, he had picked up 420 yards for five trips across the goal line.
Gordon teamed up with four different receivers for points. Rodrick Fisher, Easop Winston, and Dez Patmon all made the trip while Travell Harris highlighted the group doing it twice.
Of course, he wasn’t perfect. Gordon overthrew a wide open Renard Bell on a third down that was destined to be points. Placekicker Blake Mazza salvaged the series booting through a 50-yarder.
“As far as a first time starter, he’s precise as anybody I’ve had,” Leach said.
And while Gordon did score on each of his series, Leach humored the media, “I don’t care for field goals. You may value that production higher than I do.”
A big assist to finding the end zone was workhorse tailback Max Borghi. He was a catalyst for the offensive surge tallying up 128 yards and a touchdown off just 10 carries. It was Borghi’s first 100-yard game on the ground with WSU and the programs’ first since Gerard Wicks in 2016.
“I knew he went out there and played his butt off just by watching the game,” Will Rodger III said. “Those numbers are amazing. He’s truly gifted.”
Several names stepped up defensively, though routinely keeping the Aggies out of the end zone was a team effort. Marcus Strong led the unit with 8 tackles while Danile Isom trailed just behind carding 6 unassisted of his own.
The Cougs may have allowed a NMSU touchdown early in the first quarter, but they made the proper adjustments – to bend but never break – the ensuing series.
Strong picked off opposing quarterback Josh Adkins after Willie Taylor III and Nnamdi Oguayo crunched the signal caller mid throwing motion. Additionally, second-string linebacker Hank Pladson nabbed a pass, one-handed mind you, of his own a few series later.
Both second-half turnovers set up successful Mazza field goal attempts.
“Two [turnovers] is the minimum. We gotta get more,” Strong said.
Rodger III says the defense wanted a shutout, but believes the unit can grab one elsewhere in the 2019 slate.
Both Gage Gubrud and Trey Tinsley got second half snaps, though Gubrud made more noise. He scored in his first series and completed 9-11 attempts. The graduate transfer now has 88 career touchdown passes and 10,000 passing yards to his name.
Leach told the media he hoped to get a better sample size on Gubrud and Tinsley. He wants to see more of them amid another large score discrepancy going forward.
Washington State hosts Northern Colorado next week at Martin Stadium for a 2 p.m. start. Live coverage will be broadcasted at the Pac-12 Network.
Q1 9:21 – WSU 7, NMSU 0
Anthony Gordon finishes a five-play, 66-yard drive with a 41-yard touchdown call to Rodrick Fisher on a post route. (Blake Mazza kick good)
Q1 6:25 – WSU 7, NMSU 7
Assisted by a facemask, the Aggies scored on a Jason Huntley draw as a fumble was then recovered by QB Josh Adkins and crossed the goal line soon after. (Dylan Brown kick good)
Q1 5:11 0 WSU 14, NMSU 7
Dez Patmon takes a crossing route untouched 48 yards to the house. (Mazza kick good)
Q2 11:07 – WSU, 21, NMSU 7
Gordon hooks up with former San Francisco City College teammate Easop Winston between the hashes for 19 yards and another score. (Mazza kick good)
Q2 9:55 – WSU 28, NMSU 7
Travell Harris caps off the one-play drive with a 54-yard touchdown reception. (Mazza kick good)
Q2 1:23 – WSU 35, NMSU 7
Max Borghi takes a handoff between the tackles across the goal line from 12 yards out for some insurance heading into halftime. (Mazza kick good)
Q3 11:56 – WSU 42, NMSU 7
Travell Harris runs from sideline to sideline in a 20-yard sprint to the pylon. (Mazza Kick good)
Q3 8:38 – WSU 45, NMSU 7
Max Borghi gallops 54 yards flipping field position to set up placekicker Blake Mazza for a 45-yard field goal.
Q3 6:12 – WSU 48, NMSU 7
After a rare sack – and a rare Gordon overthrow of Renard Bell in the end zone – Mazza cleans up the series with a 50-yard field goal tying his career long.
Q4 14:13 – WSU 55, NMSU 7
Gage Gubrud shows his mobility hitting Renard Bell in the back of the east end zone early in the fourth quarter.
Q4 12:18 – WSU 58, NMSU 7
Mazza yawns through a 38-yard kick set up by second-string linebacker Hank Pladson’s interception. Tinsley got his first series and was unable to move the chains.