At War Memorial Stadium, Laramie, Wyoming
LARAMIE, Wyo. – There was nothing perfect about it, and who anticipated it would be for a team that faced as much offseason attrition, and has as much to replace as much as the Washington State Cougars?
No Luke Falk. No Hercules Mata’afa. No Cody O’Connell. No Alex Grinch. No problem – at least not yet – for Mike Leach and the retooled Cougars.
Gardner Minshew tossed three touchdowns in his first start as a Pac-12 quarterback, all-purpose tailbacks James Williams and Max Borghi combined to score three times and the WSU defense, under the direction of first-year coordinator Tracy Claeys, held Wyoming’s offense at bay more times than not, allowing the Cougars to pull away for a 34-19 victory in the season opener at War Memorial Stadium.
Minshew endured a shaky second quarter to finish 38-of-57 passing for 319 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Williams carried the ball 16 times, gained 82 yards and scored a touchdown, while catching 10 passes for 53 yards and a touchdown. Borghi, a true freshman playing in his first college game, caught a 6-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter and rumbled for a 14-yard rushing TD in the fourth.
Claeys’ defense made things challenging for Wyoming QB Tyler Vander Waal, who finished with fewer than 100 yards and completed less than 50 percent of his throws. Nico Evans contributed 89 rushing yards for the Cowboys in 3 1/2 quarters, and scored one of their two touchdowns, but the senior running back left the game before the fourth with a chest injury.
The Cougars (1-0) continue nonconference play next Saturday at home against San Jose State (0-1) in a late-night 8 p.m. game at Martin Stadium (Pac-12 Networks).
Minshew had to wait four plays to throw his first c pass for the Cougars. Uncharacteristically, Leach opened WSU’s first offensive drive with three straight run calls for junior James Williams, which netted 24 yards, and Minshew threw 9-yard pass to Jamire Calvin to move the Cougars past midfield. After a 36-yard hookup with Calvin, Minshew and the offense were stopped in the end zone and had to settle for a 24-yard field goal from Arkansas transfer Blake Mazza.
WSU’s defense, in its first game under new defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys, got three straight stops in the first quarter and Minshew fired his first touchdown as a Cougar, for 10 yards to Williams, to make it 10-0.But the Cougars were eventually buried under their own miscues – a fumble fro Max Borghi that led directly to a rushing touchdown from Nico Evans and a Minshew interception that eventually turned into Wyoming’s second TD, a 23-yard jet sweep from Avante’ Cox.
The Cowboys dialed up two more points when WSU long snapper Kyle Celli fired a snap over Oscar Draguicevich III’s head, forcing the Cougar punter to chase it down. When Draguicevich III landed on the ball near the 1-yard line, he was tackled and the ball squirted into the end zone.
But after trailing 19-13, the Cougars, behind Minshew’s arm and the tailback duo of Williams and Borghi, managed to outscore the Cowboys 28-0 the rest of the way and capped the dominant win with a 3-yard scoring burst from Williams with 4:12 left in the game. – Theo Lawson
WSUCougarAthletics / YouTube
Q4 0:44: WSU 41, Wyoming 19: James Williams finishes off his solid game with a 3-yard touchdown run. Williams racked up 135 total yards of offense.
Q4 5:50: WSU 34, Wyoming 19: Max Borghi powers 14 yards up the gut for his second touchdown of the game to put an exclamation point on a six-play, 54-yard drive. Gardner Minshew connected on 4 of 5 passes on the drive to get the Cougs into the red zone.
Q4 10:55: WSU 27, Wyoming 19: After a James Williams run to open the drive, Gardner Minshew connects on three straight passes, the last one a 7-yard touchdown strike to Easop Winston in the back corner of the end zone. A solid three-and-out from the Cougs defense on Wyoming’s previous possesion provided WSU with great field position to start the drive, at Wyoming’s 48.
End of Q3: Cougars rally to take the lead. James Williams has 87 yards of total offense.
Q3 3:51: WSU 20, Wyoming 19: A eventful drive ends with Gardner Minshew finding Max Borghi out of the backfield for a 5-yard touchdown pass. The Cougs converted a fourth and 6 when Minshew floated a pass to Jamire Calvin for 9 yards. WSU also broke out a new formation, which resembled something out of a sandlot game, with Kyle Sweet snapping the ball with offense to his left. Both angled snaps went to James Williams who carried for 5 yards on the first play and 4 on the second.
Q3 8:48: Wyoming 19, WSU 13: A 30-yard field goal by Cooper Rothe pushes the Cowboys lead to 6. A 23-yard catch-and-run from Raghib Ismail Jr., on third and 21 pushed Wyoming deep into WSU territory.
Halftime: Wyoming 16, WSU 13: The Cougars started fast, jumping out to a 10-0 lead behind Gardner Minshew and James Williams. Wyoming hung tough and eventually capitalized on a WSU special teams mistake and two Cougs’ turnovers. Minshew is 17 of 30 passing for 128 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Williams has 56 yards of total offense and a 2-yard TD reception. Wyoming has rushed for 89 yards and two touchdowns. Nico Evans (57 yards) powered in for the Cowboys’ first TD before Avante’ Cox took his only carry off tackle for a 23-yard score.
Q2: Wyoming 16, WSU 13: Another Cougars turnover leads to another Cowboys touchdown. This time it’s Avante’ Cox carrying it in for Wyoming on a 23-yard run off a fly sweep. Gardner Minshew’s pick and Max Borghi’s fumble making an impact in Laramie.
Q2: WSU 13, Wyoming 9: Cougs respond to Wyoming’s touchdown with Blake Mazza’s second field goal of the game, this one from 41 yards out. The big strike of the methodical, 9-play drive was Tay Martin’s 31-yard reception on third and six to get the Cougs into Wyoming territory.
Q2: WSU 10, Wyoming 9: Cowboys capitalize on Cougars turnover with running back Nico Evans bulldozing his way in form 8 yards out. The 30-yard drive pulls Wyoming within 1.
End of Q1: Cougars lead by 8. QB Gardner Minshew is 9 of 14 passing for 74 yards and one TD.
Q1: WSU 10, Wyoming 2: An error by the WSU special teams gets Wyoming on the board.
Q1: WSU 10, Wyoming 0: Cougs finish a 10-play drive with a two-yard touchdown pass from Gardner Minshew to James Williams. Minshew continues to carve up the Cowboys defense from the pocket. The East Carolina transfer is 8 of 11 for 70 yards. Williams has 58 yards of total offense.
Q1: WSU 3, Wyoming 0: Cougs jump on the board first with a nine-play, 68-yard drive capped by a 24-yard field goal by Blake Mazza. WSU QB Gardner Minshew completed 4 of 4 passes for 52 yards, but had to settle for his checkdown on third and goal.
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