PULLMAN – Great athletes have short memories. Time will tell where the Washington State Cougars (3-1, 0-1) stand after a 32-point meltdown to the UCLA Bruin’s (1-3, 1-0) benefit.
Coug fans claim the title undefeated, but until their memory bank aligns with the on-field equivalent, the 509’s most unflattering verbiage lives on.
They coug’ed it; whatever that means.
Anthony Gordon spun 570 yards and 9 touchdowns breaking Gardner Minshew’s single-game touchdown record (7) en rout to the historical loss. Minshew himself was even on site to see it.
Though Gordon wouldn’t be smiling in his postgame presser. “All I care about is the win… I don’t really care what my stat line is.”
UCLA played single coverage near the goal line all night allowing for a surgical dissection highlighting Easop Winston Jr. for 10 receptions and four scores.
“I hope everybody plays that defense if it’s gonna work out like that,” Leach said.
Prey tell the collapse? The defensive didn’t tackle, and the offense made up for it by not holding onto the ball.
Two picks, four lost fumbles, and a defensive secondary chasing shadows was all it took. The Bruins picked up 29 points off turnovers all made possible due to over 20 yards per completion.
Gordon specifically cited the turnover margin to the media when assessing the loss.
“They did a good job attacking the ball, but we had bad ball security,” Leach said. “Second half we went out there loose and soft and gave them momentum and let them back in it. We didn’t tackle them and we still haven’t tackled them.”
Max Borghi told the media ball security drills are done at the conclusion of every practice where some on the team may just be ‘going though the motions’ due to ‘practice habits.’
Easop and Gordon lost the final two fumbles allowing the go-ahead score and victory formation. The hometown crowd openly disagreed with calls and reviews all night – all of which would stand. Easop’s blemish was chief among them.
“He seemed certain he didn’t fumble. I won’t comment on any officiating. It’s not my call to say what happened,” Gordon said. “We need to take more pride on holding onto the football. Myself included.”
Leach later suggested a lack of toughness could have played a role in Wazzu’s defensive lapse.
“We didn’t finish. As coach says, we need to play a full game,” Misiona Aiolupotea-Pei said. “They were doing the same thing. We just weren’t tackling well enough or executing.”
The defensive play of the game can be credited to George Hicks III after railing receiver Demetric Felton for an incompletion forcing a turnover on downs preserving a narrow and fleeting 3-point lead. Of course, Jahad Woods and Bryce Beekman downing a 60-yard Hail Mary on the half-yard line as time expired in the first half proved equally crucial by that point. So take your pick.
“We collapse on all three phases of the game. Offense, defense, and special teams,” Leach said.
Two Bruin kick returns to the house – 100 and 69 yards – is the last piece of evidence to confirm the head man’s narrative.
Leach ended his media conference with three points for the upcoming practice week – ball security, tackling, and adjustments on special teams. After all, Leach always says, ‘you’re either coaching it or letting it happen.’
But a loss is a loss; it all counts the same. Despite the heartbreak, a short memory mitigates any chance of a hangover, and WSU has a chance to prove their mental toughness – and coachability for that matter – next week in Salt Lake City.
Then, and only then, will we fully understand what to expect for the 2019 slate.
The Cougs square off with the Utah (3-1, 0-1) Sept. 28 at 7 p.m. Watch live coverage at Fox Sports 1.
(Top photo: Jack Ellis – Cougar Sports Network)
Q1 13:11 – UCLA 7, WSU 0
Thompson-Robinson links up with Joshua Kelley from 14 yards out. The three-play series was set up by a Josh Woods interception on WSU’s own 29 yard line. (JJ Molson kick good)
Q1 10:14 – WSU 7, UCLA 7
Gordon bounces back from his turnover leading a 9-play, 75-yard drive scoring on a 4-yard bullet to Easop. (Blake Mazza kick good)
Q1 4:49 – UCLA 10, WSU 7
The Cougar defense bends – forcing UCLA to drive the field – for a 31-yard boot off Molson.
Q2 13:02 – WSU 14, UCLA 10
Gordon and Arco link up for two completions for 44 yards setting up a 28-yard back-shoulder pitch for Easop. (Mazza kick good)
Q2 8:14 – WSU 21, UCLA 10
Gordon gets charged with pick after a Patmon drop, though Skyler Thomas intercepts UCLA the very next snap. Travell Harris capitalizes on a 10-yard screen into the east end zone. (Mazza kick good)
Q2 7:58 – WSU 21, UCLA 17
Nothing but the back of Demetric Felton’s jersey. His 100-yard kickoff return keeps UCLA in striking distance. (Molson kick good)
Q2 3:51 – WSU 28, UCLA 17
Hat trick! Gordon hits Easop on a 3-yard strike for their third point-scoring affair of the night. (Mazza kick good)
Q2 0:27 – WSU 35, UCLA 17
Bruin defense leaves Tay Martin on an island. Gordon hits his back shoulder for the quarterback’s fifth touchdown of the half. (Mazza kick good)
Q3 8:09 – WSU 42, UCLA 17
Gordon calls Renard Bell 35-yards on a post opening the second half with a touchdown.
Q3 6:52 – WSU 49, UCLA 17
With Minshew in the building, Gordon ties his predecessor’s record of seven touchdowns in a ballgame on a 6-yard Dez Patmon out.
Q3 3:48 – WSU 49, UCLA 24
Thompson-Robinson scores on a one-yard QB keeper. (Molson kick good)
Q3 3:33 – WSU 49, UCLA 31
The Bruins capitalize on a turnover scoring on just one play – a 37-yard Chase Cota reception – to make the Cougs uncomfortable.
Q3 1:21 – WSU 49, UCLA 38
One play is all Demetric Felton needed for a 94-yard seam route and six points. (Molson kick good)
Q4 14:28 – WSU 49, UCLA 46
Devin Asiasi reels in a 7-yard Thompson-Robinson pitch extending UCLA’s run to 28 unanswered points. (two-point conversion good)
Q4 10:08 – WSU 56, UCLA 46
Gordon and Easop sync up for their fourth scoring play of the night – a 33-yard back-shoulder bomb breaking Minshew’s record (7) for single-game touchdown passes.
Q4 8:10 – WSU 56, UCLA 53
Thompson-Robinson keeps a read option winning the race to the pylon. (Molson kick good).
Q4 7:31 – UCLA 60, WSU 56
Kyle Phillips zig zags a punt return 69 yards en rout to the Bruins second touchdown in less than one minute. (Molson kick good)
Q4 6:11 – WSU 63, UCLA 60
Gordon checks down to Borghi for 65-yard on the broken tackle scamper giving the gunslinger his ninth touchdown. (Mazza kick good)
Q4 1:07 – UCLA 67, WSU 63
Felton peels down the sideline from 15 yards out giving the Bruins a crunch-time lead.