The Lone Star State has been kind to the Cougars in recent years, as your Washington State Cougars (3-0) defeated the Houston Cougars (1-2) on the nation stage by a score of 31-24 on Friday the 13th. The “neutral site” gave the 2019 squad a good taste of a hostile atmosphere that they will face later on this year, with the likes of Utah, Oregon and more on the road. CSN photographer Jack Ellis was at NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Texans, capturing the game’s biggest moments and plays.
OL Liam Ryan’s mullet was in full effect as the team arrives at NRG Stadium. Coming into the Battle of the Cougars, WSU’s offensive line has allowed just one sack through two games, tied for second in the country.
The AdvoCare Texas Kickoff debuted in 2013 and has hosted teams in the ranks of LSU, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, ASU, and more. The 2019 edition featured two of the best offenses in the nation, but ended up being a relatively defensive affair.
Even football superstars like RB Max Borghi make time for the fans in the stands. Borghi’s signature grows in value after each game, as the true sophomore continues to be the workhorse in the Air Raid.
After a 31-24 win in the late hours of Friday night, WSU has now won 14 of its last 16 games, the best record in the PAC 12 during that stretch. With struggling UCLA coming to Pullman next week, 4-0 heading to ranked Utah seems like a real possibility.
HERE COME THE COUGS!
Renard Bell (9) is serving as the WSU captain in 2019, and the reason is classic Mike Leach. Leach thought it would be funny to see Bell (5’8″) facing off against four tall opponents, adding “Renard’s a great guy, everyone loves Renard.” -Reported by Jessamyn McIntyre
DL Will Rodgers III (92) tries to get around the corner, chasing down Houston QB D’Eriq King (4). The D-line applied a lot of pressure on the mobile QB, but King’s ability to turn nothing into something was a nuisance for the Speed D all night long.
DB Daniel Isom (3) went down early with an apparent leg injury early in the game, but he later returned to the field and played well under the stadium lights. Isom recorded two solo tackles in the outing.
CB Marcus Strong (4) was sooo close to blocking Houston’s kicker on several attempts, which may either speak to his agility or poor line play by Houston. Either way, I predict he will manage to get his hands on one at some point this season. You heard it here first!
QB Anthony Gordon (18) showed his own mobility, recognizing a play breakdown and finding open space for moderate gains. Gordon’s rushing stats don’t do him justice (7 rushes, 16 yards) as sacks are included in that count, but his movement is a pleasant addition to his keen throwing abilities.
Houston QB D’Eriq King (4) was as mobile as advertised, and his slippery play style allowed him to shift momentum by turning potential sacks into large gains. King would break this tackle by Jahad Woods (13), run past Willie Taylor III (27) and convert a 3rd-and-4.
A major concern heading in the matchup against a high-powered Houston offense, the WSU D-line played decent, tallying two sacks and four TFL. Holding Houston to 24 points is a major victory that many Cougar fans, myself included, did not see coming.
WR Travell Harris (5) has been tasked with handling punt and kick returns, and he has not disappointed. After falling behind 14-7 in the second quarter, Harris returned the kickoff 37 yards to almost midfield, giving WSU great field position to even the scoreboard heading into halftime.
It would appear as though WR Easop Winston Jr. (8) has beat his man off the snap. Let’s see how this plays out…
An easy 39-yard touchdown to put the Cougars on the board it is! Winston Jr.’s catch was the longest of the night for either team, highlighting another quality outing for the senior (5 receptions, 70 yards).
What more can you ask of a kicker than 19/19 PAT and 5/5 FGA? The Special Teams have been a major asset thus far in 2019, and with K Blake Mazza (40) a redshirt sophomore, the future looks bright. Interesting note: It appears as though P Oscar Draguicevich III (94) is handling holding duties, a job usually assigned to the backup QB.
RUSH Willie Taylor III (27) wraps up Houston RB Patrick Carr (21), with incoming support from S Bryce Beekman (26). Carr missed the first two games of the season for the Coogars with an undisclosed injury, but had a great debut rushing for 77 yards on 9 carries.
Senior Robert Valencia (74) keeps a Houston defensive lineman on the ground on a play right before halftime. The O-line held their own and gave QB Gordon plenty of time in the pocket to find open receivers. Houston blitzed early and often but only recorded two sacks.
CB Derrick Langford celebrates a fumble by D’Eriq King on a forth and short after a muffed snap gave WSU favorable field position to start the second half. The Speed D looked like a completely different monster in the final 30 minutes, forcing two turnovers and holding the Houston offense to just 10 points.
RB Max Borghi (21) was finally utilized in the passing game, recording six receptions for 61 yards. In the first two games of the season, Borghi was only targeted five times for 28 yards.
WR Dezmon Patmon (12) takes advantage of his superior height against Houston CB Shaun Lewis (39) on his 39-yard TD halfway through the third quarter to give the Cougs their first lead of the night. Standing at 6’4″, Patmon has serious NFL measurables, and a good 2019 campaign could hoist him into draft talks come April.
Through three games in 2019, WSU has matched or outscored their opponents in 11 of 12 quarters. High level play from both sides of the ball has allowed the Cougars to pull away from their opponents and finish strong.
QB Anthony Gordon (18) threw for his third straight 400+ yard game against a struggling Houston defense, finishing with a 75% completion rate (36-48) with 3 TDs and 1 INT. While tougher defenses lay ahead, Gordon is on pace to throw for over 5,500 yards in 2019. Wow.
WR Davontaveon Martin (1) recorded 5 receptions and a season-best 76 yards. His most important catch came in the forth quarter when the Cougs were up just 7 points in the forth. His 33-yard reception fueled a 95-yard drive to give WSU a big lead late in the matchup.
Willie Taylor III (27) and Justus Rodgers (37) celebrate a forth quarter fumble by Houston WR Marquez Stevenson. Six plays and nearly three minutes later, Kicker Blake Mazza would put the game out of reach with a 22-yard field goal.
WR Brandon Arconado (19) continues to terrorize opposing defenses, recording a team-high 9 receptions for 115 yards. Arconado recorded his second-consecutive 100+ yard game, also just the second of his career.
In true Cougar spirit, seniors Brandon Arconado (left) and Anthony Gordon (right) honor WSU legend “Popcorn Man” after a 31-24 win over Houston.
Final Thoughts: Unscathed after the non-conference slate, the 2019 Cougars are a team that knows how to win. While WSU squads in years past would have folded under the pressure of a close game on the road, this team stood tall and willed their way to a victory in Houston. This is the golden era of Cougar football, make sure to enjoy every second of it. Go Cougs!
Want more Sights from the Field? Check out my previous posts!
2019 Sights from the Field: WSU Football vs UNC Bears Edition
2019 Sights from the Field: WSU Football vs NMSU Aggies Edition
2019 Sights from the Field: Crimson and Gray Spring Game Edition
2018 Sights from the Field: Valero Alamo Bowl Special Edition