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Sports >  WSU football

Business as usual? Washington State players preaching that message while trying to embrace GameDay appearance

Oct. 16, 2018 Updated Wed., Oct. 17, 2018 at 9:45 a.m.

Washington State  quarterback Gardner Minshew, right,  celebrates with defensive lineman Nick Begg  after  the Cougars scored a touchdown during the second half  on  Oct. 6 at Reser Stadium in Corvallis. WSU won  56-37. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew, right, celebrates with defensive lineman Nick Begg after the Cougars scored a touchdown during the second half on Oct. 6 at Reser Stadium in Corvallis. WSU won 56-37. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review) Buy this photo

PULLMAN – Gardner Minshew was trying to recreate his mustache and aviator shades look on a Halloween pumpkin when the Washington State quarterback and three teammates found the Kirk Herbstreit video that was spreading ferociously through crimson Twitter spheres.

Not much would get in the way of the competitive pumpkin-carving exhibition between Minshew, Kyle Sweet, Peyton Pelluer and Nick Begg. But the four WSU seniors, who together have played 20 college football seasons, are wise enough to grasp and celebrate big moments when they happen.

So Herbstreit’s announcement that ESPN’s College GameDay show would be visiting Pullman on Saturday was enough of a reason for the Cougars’ quartet to drop the pumpkin knives and revel in a moment for which WSU fans have waited for decades.

“I was in the middle of carving a mustache into a pumpkin,” Minshew said. “But I put the knife down and then I celebrated pretty hard. We’re very excited, very proud of this team to bring it to Pullman for the first time. It’s definitely an honor.”

But the show, its pageantry and all the excitement it’ll be sure to generate over the next four days will only be significant to the QB under one condition.

“It’s only going to be fun if we win,” Minshew said.

The 25th-ranked Cougars (5-1, 2-1) host the 12th-ranked Ducks (5-1, 2-1) Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Martin Stadium in a pivotal Pac-12 North game. What happens between the white lines is what will have the team’s attention this week. But there’s also no avoiding the bearish presence the nationally renowned GameDay show will have on campus – especially for a school that’s waited so long for its arrival.

“It’s been a really exciting thing,” said Begg, a fifth-year senior defensive lineman. “We’ve been around a lot of teams that have had potential for that opportunity and it’s a good thing for the program and the administration and the school, honestly, and the fans. So we’re really happy for everyone here.”

Begg said it’s possible for the Cougars to embrace the show’s presence without letting it interfere with their game prep.

“I feel like you’ve got to let it drive you and not distract you,” he said. “If you use it in a good way, use it to excite you and not really think about it. You use just the excitement about it to drive your workouts and drive you to get at practice and bring energy, I think it’s a good thing.”

Every week the show enlists the help of a guest picker, usually someone with a direct tie to the host school or its area.

Current U.S. President Donald Trump, whom Leach had befriended and would later endorse as the Republican party’s presidential candidate, guest-appeared on a 2005 ABC broadcast of a game in Lubbock, Texas, between Leach’s Texas Tech team and Oklahoma. In the celebrity introduction, Trump wished Leach and the Red Raiders good luck and picked them to beat OU.

Tech won the game 23-21.

“His introduction on TV, which of course I saw afterward, was classic,” Leach said. “I don’t want to jinx anything, so he’d be a good one to have again based on the results of the last one.”

Minshew, a graduate transfer who’s only been in Pullman since May, has apparently already spent time brushing up on his knowledge of notable WSU alumni. His suggestion for Saturday’s celeb picker?

“I was thinking Drago, that’d get me pretty fired up,” Minshew said, referring to the fictional Rocky IV character portrayed by WSU graduate Dolph Lundgren. “So if they could make that happen, I’d like to see that.”

Asked the same question after Tuesday’s practice, Sweet and Begg unsurprisingly shared an identical answer. Both are graduates of Southern California’s Santa Margarita Catholic High, the same school that produced Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson, and they’d beam with pride if the former WSU sharpshooter squeezed in a few hours between Friday and Sunday NBA games to return to Pullman.

“I’m a Coug and I’m a Santa Margarita Eagle, I want my boy Klay Thompson,” Begg said. “I’d be happy with whoever, but double alumni right here, so my boy Klay.”

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