Washington State thumps Arizona behind Gardner Minshew’s record-breaking night
PULLMAN – It’s been a season of milestones for Washington State in 2018, and the Cougars were eyeballing another one Saturday night, trying to become the sixth team in program history to nail down 10 wins in a single season, and the first one to do it since 2003.
The visiting Arizona Wildcats were never going to interfere with school history on a frosty night in Pullman, and in many cases actually helped No. 8 WSU reach the 10-win plateau at Martin Stadium. In a 69-28 blowout, the Cougars got that record and also set a number of others they probably didn’t count on.
Had it not been for a fumbled snap on a PAT in the second quarter, WSU would’ve matched the most points scored in a single half in program history. Instead, the Cougars settled for a 55-14 halftime lead – one point shy of the 56 they scored in 1997 against Southwestern Louisiana.
But that’s all right. The Cougars still pushed their overall record to 10-1 and improved their Pac-12 mark to 7-1, dominating an Arizona team that beat them by three touchdowns a year ago.
Quarterback Gardner Minshew continued to polish his Heisman Trophy résumé, completing 43 of 55 passes for 473 yards and a school-record seven touchdowns. Junior college transfer Calvin Jackson Jr. caught his first and second touchdown passes in a WSU uniform and Tay Martin led the receivers with seven catches for 124 yards and one touchdown.
The Cougars’ multipurpose running backs also had a hand in making this the highest-scoring game of the Mike Leach era. James Williams had one touchdown rushing and another receiving, bringing his season total to 14, while Max Borghi rushed for 50 yards and a first-quarter touchdown and caught six passes for 65 more yards.
The Cougars didn’t need a ton of help on a night in which their offense generated 605 yards. The offensive line bought Minshew eons of time in the pocket and opened up running lanes for the tailbacks, who finished with 111 yards and 5.8 yards per carry.
The Wildcats (5-6, 4-4) constantly stubbed their toe, too, committing six first-half penalties for 72 yards. They also turned the ball over four times.
Rather than stage a major upset of the country’s eighth-ranked football team, Arizona, whose chances of a Pac-12 South title were dashed earlier in the afternoon when Utah beat Colorado, often looked like a team more interested in returning to the sunny Tucson desert as fast as humanly possible.
The Cougars were already leading comfortably, 14-0, when the Wildcats finally got first-down yardage on their third offensive possession. Williams had scored WSU’s first touchdown on a 1-yard run, and the Cougars got the ball back in quick succession when cornerback Marcus Strong made an impressive play while backpedaling to intercept Arizona quarterback on Khalil Tate.
WSU scored two touchdowns in a span of four seconds in the second quarter. After Minshew fired to Jackson, making it 34-14, the Cougars recovered Jack Crane’s ensuing kickoff, which rolled into the end zone after two players attempted to corral it.
Kainoa Wilson eventually pounced on the ball for the special-teams touchdown, making it 41-14.