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TV Take: It took until the end, but ESPN’s swooning over Gardner Minshew pays off in Washington State win

UPDATED: Sat., Nov. 3, 2018

If there is one thing you can count on the past few weeks watching Washington State football, it is the announcing crew is going to gush over quarterback Gardner Minshew.

Oh, and his mustache. And his Cougars having a chance to play in the college football playoffs.

Though maybe we can put that last one on the back burner.

After all, WSU struggled with middle-of-the pack California before scoring late – on a Minshew-to-Easop Winston 10-yard touchdown pass with 32 seconds left – and pulling out a 19-13 victory before a Dad’s Weekend crowd at Martin Stadium.

What they saw …

The Cougars are 7-0 when anyone else besides Dave Pasch, Greg McElroy and Tom Luginbill comprise the broadcast team. They are 1-1 with that group, as they were also the trio that brought us the 39-36 loss at USC.

Which is too bad. The trio is at the top of the game, even if the Minshew mania stuff is starting to sound a bit cliché-ish.

Pasch keeps the play-by-play moving quickly, McElroy adds insight as a former quarterback should and Luginbill, though on the sidelines, acts as the third member of the booth. And the group has fun.

There was little they missed, either, though if they did, ESPN’s paucity of replays at times made us want for more.

There were a couple of great catches that seemed to disappear into the past without a second look. There was the occasional questionable call that begged a replay. And there were one or two ball marks that we would have liked to see again.

For example, there was an early play in which it looked as if Spokane’s Evan Weaver may have grabbed a facemask taking Winston to the turf.

Pasch said, “That was a clean tackle.”

Maybe, but without a replay we didn’t know for sure.

However, the greatest invention since fire – the DVR – allows the viewer at home to be their own director.

That was especially important on Weaver’s second interception in two weeks.

McElroy dissected it well, pointing out the tip at the line of scrimmage – one of four Minshew passes that was hit – and Weaver being in the right place. But, by using the DVR’s rewind function, you could see receiver Tay Martin stop his route, taking away any chance Minshew had of completing the throw.

And midway through the third quarter, with WSU trying to convert a third-and-4, Minshew’s pass bounced in front of Travell Harris. McElroy tried to point out how Harris was held as he tried to come back to the ball, but the replay was so quick as to be almost impossible to see if he was right.

What we saw …

There may be horses for course, as your grandfather might have said, but there are also defenses for the Air Raid offense. And Justin Wilcox, since taking over at California as head coach, seems to have figured out Mike Leach’s offense.

More than anything, Wilcox’s scheme made the Cougars’ offense a bit pedestrian – and boring.

And that might be the cardinal sin.

No, that would be what happened last year, when Luke Falk threw five interceptions.

Or maybe it is making an interception and what would have been a game-changing touchdown in the third quarter. That’s what Willie Taylor did, leading to California’s then game-tying field goal.

“If it’s 20-10 Washington State, given Cal’s struggles on offense, that might be enough,” was Pasch’s view. Instead, seven plays later the game is tied.

One aspect that the group didn’t seem to focus upon enough was the steady rain that seemed to affect Minshew’s ability to consistently make his usually accurate throws – and may have played a role in Taylor’s fumble along with Jahad Woods’ inability to corral the loose ball.

But as McElroy said following a Skyler Thomas fourth-quarter interception that kept Cal from the end zone, “Momentum is a remarkable thing in college football.”

The last change went WSU’s way.

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