There may be no quarterback west of Alabama that has played better this season than Washington State’s Gardner Minshew.
There isn’t a college football analyst working today who is better than Brock Huard. And there is no “may be” about it.
Huard was on top of his game Saturday for ESPN in the networks’ coverage of WSU’s 31-7 win over Colorado from Boulder.
But as a quarterback is only as good as the players around him, Huard was helped by the understated delivery of play-by-play man Bob Wischusen and the occasional information from sideline reporter Allison Williams.
What they saw …
The trio certainly didn’t see Minshew on the top of his game.
The senior, who leads the nation in passing, struggled with his accuracy in the windy conditions at Folsom Field.
When Wischusen asked Huard, the former University of Washington quarterback, if the wind was a factor in Minshew’s completion percentage in the low 50s at halftime, Huard answered as simply as you will hear an analyst be.
“Yes,” he said.
It was the right answer at the right time. The wind on the field didn’t need any help from the booth.
The viewer could see the ball wasn’t coming out of Minshew’s hand with the same tight spiral it usually does. Until after halftime. And Huard was right on it.
After Colorado (5-5, 2-5 in Pac-12 play) handed the 10th-ranked Cougars the ball with a fumble at the Buffs’ 32-yard line, Minshew’s first pass was an out to Dezmon Patmon.
“That ball whistled a bit, didn’t it?” Huard said, noting how the spiral was tighter and the ball got to Patmon quicker. It was something Minshew was going to have to concentrate in the second half, Huard said.
Williams had reported, coming out of intermission, that Washington State coach Mike Leach had noted the wind’s effect on Minshew’s throws. But his ire, Williams added, was reserved for the receivers and their drops.
Minshew finished 35 of 58 for 335 yards and two touchdowns, though at least four of those incompletions could be in the receivers’ categories. Great stats for most quarterbacks, below average for him this season.
What we saw …
The wind wasn’t the only naturally occurring phenomena that seemed to bother the Cougars (9-1, 6-1). The Folsom Field grass seemed to be slowing down them as much as the Colorado defense.
It was just the third time they have played on natural grass this season and their second win. Just a reminder: The Pac-12 title game and the Rose Bowl are played on grass.
The Heisman Trophy is awarded in a carpeted room, however, and after Minshew’s 10-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run, in which he jumped and tucked the ball inside the pylon, Huard expressed his thoughts the quarterback should be there.
“That sure looks like it crossed inside the pylon, and that sure looks like a Heisman moment to me,” he said as the replay official examined the evidence. “This kid deserves to be in New York City.”
Huard went on to explain why. He talked about how he’s lifted the Cougars after an offseason of woe. How he’s shared the ball. And how his mustache seems to be a rallying point.
After the game ended, Minshew stepped up to Leach while he was doing his postgame interview and pasted a fake moustache on Leach’s face. As Wischusen said, it’s not something he has seen in his two decades of calling games.
But the fun stuff – the broadcast crew at one point all donned those fake moustaches – never overshadowed the group’s ability to give the viewer precise and concise analysis.
No segment illustrated that better than an early second-quarter stretch that preceded Max Borghi’s homecoming touchdown.
As Minshew tried to run for a first down, he was struck in the head and neck area by Colorado linebacker Nate Landman. Targeting was called. It was confirmed by replay.
Huard didn’t like the call, not because it was the wrong call, but because Minshew had ducked down before the hit occurred. He and Wischusen discussed the mechanics of the play, before finally agreeing Landman lowered his head and led with the crown of his helmet.
The next play was an out route from Minshew to Calvin Jackson that was originally ruled incomplete. It went to review. It looked as if Jackson’s lead foot was out of bounds. But Huard and Wischusen noticed Jackson’s back foot had dragged inbounds. So did the replay official.
The broadcast crew didn’t miss much.