PULLMAN – Finally surfacing, the team we all expected Washington State to be suited up Saturday for a bashing of the Stanford Cardinal.
Never mind interim co-defensive coordinators, recent departures of defensive backs for violating team rules, and recent blunders from past outings. Mike Leach and Co. strung together 60 minutes of solid football keeping the outside noise right where it belongs – on the outside.
Washington State (5-5, 2-5) promptly beat Stanford (5-5, 3-5) by a decisive 49-22 spread in front of 32,952 fans at Martin Stadium. It was WSU’s second sellout crowd of the season.
One might call it a down year for both programs, though Washington State pushed itself out of the Pac-12 North cellar – taking an early lead, and never letting it go. WSU has now beaten Stanford four years in a row.
Leach said postgame the performance was the most complete he’s seen from the squad all season citing contributions from all sides of the ball.
Offense In Sync
Anthony Gordon charted the usual flash posting 520 yards and 5 touchdowns to the stat sheet. Easop Winston notably pulled town a pair of scores leading the receiving corps with 11 receptions. Brandon Arconado complemented with a touchdown of his own and 148 yards to fit.
And while the WSU offense ceased to punt all game, they weren’t perfect. Gordon tossed an interception on the goal line – albeit with 60 pass attempts its bound happen – failing to score in the red zone.
Through 8 trips inside Stanford’s 20 yard-line, the Cougars came up with points on 7 occasions. Three of which shouldered by placekicker Blake Mazza; he remains a perfect 15-15 on the season.
“I’m not real fired up about that,” Mike Leach said on settling for field goals. “We scored some [touchdowns], but I’m kind of tired of kicking field goals.” Leach did recognize his kickers execution, and said he has confidence in Mazza when needed.
Cougs Ground Game
The Cougars execution on crucial downs remains the unsung hero of the night converting 9-13 on 3rd down; however, the most interesting highlight of the stat sheet is found in the run game. WSU outgained Stanford on the ground by 98 yards.
Max Borghi led the charge rushing for a touchdown and 111 yards averaging over 7 yards per carry. Meanwhile, WSU’s defense held Stanford to only 6 yards on the ground all game.
“It feels real good. Obviously,I know those coaches,” Borghi said. “They’re a dominant rushing team, and to out rush them is something I’m proud of.”
Special Forces Was All Over The Place
Having never missed a PAT in 97 attempts, Mazza missed twice Saturday afternoon while Oscar Draguicevich didn’t punt once but did kick a live ball. And for good measure, Travel Harris returned a kickoff 83 yards right on Stanfords goal line.
Yeah. All that’s true. We have a lot to unpack here.
Draguicevich – also a holder on field goals and PAT – kicked a blocked attempt of bounds to stop a potential Cardinal return. Mazza was charged with the miss, and proceeded to repeat a quarter later.
As for Harris, Stanford got to within a field goal of the Cougs after a quick score and two-point conversion. Nearing the end of the third quarter, the kick return set up easy points to extend Wazzu’s lead multiple scores.
“I thought when Travell returned that kick, that flipped the entire momentum of the game,” Gordon said. “Goes to show all three sides of the ball are important.”
Update The Record Books
The casual fan might not have known it, but Gordon walked off Martin Stadium the school’s all-time leader in single season touchdown passes at clip of 39. His 4,314 yards currently sits at 10th all-time in Pac-12.
On the defensive side of things, Jahad Woods recorded 9 tackles upping his season total to 101 – the most by any Washington state defender since Peyton Pelluer in 2015.
Tay Martin, We’ve Missed You
It’s been a quiet year for the outside receiver, though Martin recorded a breakout game of sorts. He averaged 19 yards over 4 receptions and scored.
“It’s been a long time coming for Tay. I told him I was going to give him a bunch of shots early in the game and get him involved,” Gordon said.
Martin’s score came on a 30-yard crossing route where he couldn’t have been more open if Stanford tried running away from him. Martin wouldn’t tell the media the secret to the play, but did acknowledge it was a new wrinkle to the offense added this past week.
A conversation between Martin and Lewiston Tribune reporter Dale Grummert in the media room implies the ‘X’ receiver breaks on his route in a relatively delayed fashion. Regardless, it worked wonders.
Defense Surrendering Explosive Pickups
Time and time again, Stanford had themselves behind the chains relying on the sheer athleticism of receiving duo Connor Wedington and Michael Wilson.
Alas, it worked. A lot.
Of David Mills 34 completions, 9 of them were explosive going for more than 20 yards. Three of which moved the chains on a 3rd-and-long situation.
“Its pretty difficult. But you know, they’re gonna make plays too. Its just a matter of how we bounce back,” Woods said. “It was a hard fought game.”
In order of occurrence, Stanford picked up 255 yards across the 9 explosive plays in chunks of 25, 43, 23, 21, 21, 21, 20, 54, and 27.
As for mitigation of explosive plays moving forward, Woods directed the media toward Coach Leach.
(Top photo: Jack Ellis – Cougar Sports Network)
Q1 11:02 – WSU 6, STAN 0
Gordon marches downfield in the Cougar’s opening drive converting twice on third down. A 29-yard crossing route to Easop broke the plane giving WSU the early lead. (Blake Mazza kick blocked)
Q1 3:02 – WSU 13, STAN 0
Leach may have texted David Shaw a crossing route was coming, as the Cardinal already knew. Tay Martin simply executes, beating his defender on a 16-yard footrace to the pylon for a score. (Mazza kick good)
Q2 12:07 – WSU 19, STAN 0
Easop pulls down a 15-yard crossing routing route between the hashes despite getting his bell rung. (Mazza kick no good)
Q2 11:19 – WSU 19, STAN 7
The Cardinal begin to show their athleticism needing just two plays for scale the field and score. Cougar defense supplemented the effort getting beat off the line and a crucial missed tackle. (Ryan Sanborn kick good)
Q2 1:41 – WSU 19, STAN 14
Stanford falls behind the chains continuously, relying on pure athleticism of standout receiving duo Connor Wedington and Michael Wilson to convert on explosive third-down conversions. The strategy works for a 99-yard drive for points. (Sanborn kick good)
Q2 0:25 – WSU 22, STAN 14
Savvy plays by Gordon, and solid work between the tackles by Borghi, pushed WSU into field goal range. Cougs extend their lead to an entire score on Mazza’s 35-yard boot from the right hash.
Q3 6:35 – WSU 25, STAN 14
Derrick Langford pass breakup keeps the Cardinal out of the end zone forcing a botched field goal. Gordon syncs up an explosive connection to Martin teeing up a 38-yard Mazza kick.
Q3 4:18 – WSU 25, STAN 22
Simi Fehoko burns Marcus Strong on a 4-play series. His two catches crossed the plane and combined for 64 yards reducing WSU’s lead to just a field goal. (2 pt. conversion good)
Q3 3:29 – WSU 32, STAN 22
Travell Harris runs the ensuing kickoff back 83 yards setting up Gordon and Arco for an easy 5-yard pitch for six. (Mazza kick good)
Q4 13:02 – WSU 35, STAN 22
Borghi’s 37-yard sprint crossed midfield for Mazza to heed the call once more converting from 35-yards out.
Q4 7:09 – WSU 42, STAN 22
A Skyler Thomas interception put the offense at midfield before Borghi punched it home on a 2-yard swing pass to the left pylon. (Mazza kick good)
Q4 3:14 – WSU 49, STAN 22
Borghi carries the rock 4 yard to the end zone on a series made possible to Jahad Wood’s end zone pick.