PULLMAN – Washington State’s offense woke up from its second-half slumber with four minutes to play in the fourth quarter and Gardner Minshew threw an 89-yard touchdown pass to Easop Winston to guarantee the Cougars would walk out of Saturday’s Homecoming game against Utah with a 28-24 win at Martin Stadium.
WSU extended its home winning streak to 10 games and improved its season record to 4-1 and 1-1 in Pac-12 Conference play. Utah, coming off a bye week, dropped to 2-2 and 0-2 in league play.
Minshew, Winston and the Cougars offense went scoreless on their first four drives coming out of halftime, but the senior quarterback and the junior outside receiver hooked up on the second play of the fifth drive to give the home crowd life with 4:14 to play in the game.
Winston got a step on his defender and Minshew placed a perfectly thrown ball into his receiver’s arms. Then, Winston made a move on Corrion Ballard, broke to the sideline and outraced the Utes secondary to finish off the long touchdown.
Utah and dynamic junior quarterback Tyler Huntley made it past midfield on their final drive, but penalties proved fatal for the Utes, who were flagged twice, for holding and a false start. Huntley’s fourth-and-20 pass fell short of its intended target, allowing the Cougars to grab their first Pac-12 win of the 2018 season.
Minshew and the offense found some cracks in Utah’s top-rated defense on the game’s first drive and the WSU QB completed four of his first five pass attempts before Corrion Ballard intercepted his sixth attempt on the 17-yard line.
Three plays later, it appeard the Cougars had regained possession when Skyler Thomas jarred the ball loose from Utah receiver Britain Covey and Darrien Molton recovered. That would’ve given WSU possession on the Utes’ half of the field, but officials determined Thomas led with his helmet and ejected the Cougars’ leading tackler for targeting. Huntley then ran in a 24-yard Utah touchdown on an option keeper to make it 7-0.
Utah’s run-pass option schemes baffled the Cougars all half and the Utes piled up 154 rushing yards before the break. Likewise, the visitors couldn’t seem to get a handle on WSU’s Air Raid attack, and Minshew completed 22 passes in the half for 286 yards and two touchdowns.
On one of those, a Utah safety flew right by Dezmon Patmon after the Cougars receiver hauled in a ball from Minshew on a post route, then jogged through the open field for a 65-yard score – Patmon’s second in as many games.
Minshew’s escapability came into play during WSU’s first scoring drive of the second quarter. The graduate transfer extended one play to hit Travell Harris for 18 yards, setting the Cougars up in the red zone. On the next, Minshew dashed into the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown.
After the teams generated 42 points in the first half, both defenses straightened out in the third quarter. The Cougars were held scoreless and Utah’s only points came on a 41-yard field goal from reigning Lou Groza Award winner Matt Gay, who gave the Utes a 24-21 lead. – Theo Lawson
12:50 – WSU 0, Utah 0: Gardner Minshew is intercepted by Utah’s Corrion Ballard deep in Utah’s territory. Minshew moved WSU from its own 25 down to the Utah 17 with four consecutive completions.
8:22 – Utah 7, WSU 0: Tyler Huntley keeps it on the read-option and runs for a 24-yard touchdown. Huntley ran for 35 yards and passed for 9 on the drive. On the third play of the drive WSU appeared to have recovered a fumble, but, after review, Cougars safety Skyler Thomas was called for targeting and ejected.
5:07 – WSU 7, Utah 7: Gardner Minshew finds Tay Martin open on the slant route and the wide receiver does a fine job to haul in the defelected pass for a 4-yard touchdown. Minshew, coming off the interception last possession, was shaky early in this possession as well. His first pass was fired high of the target and almost intercepted by the Utah saftey. After the play Utah was called for taunting, moving the Cougs into Utes’ territory. Minshew then found his touch, making a big throw on 3rd and 9 to get the Cougs inside the Utah 5.
1:07 – Utah 14, WSU 7: Zack Moss powers in for the 6-yard touchdown run and Utah takes the lead right back. The Utes went 65 yards in 10 plays, passing only once. Moss has racked up 44 yards on the ground so far.
11:47 – WSU 14, Utah 14: Gardner Minshew scrambles in for the 10-yard rushing touchdown and the Cougs have again pulled this game back level. Minshew completed six passes for 65 yards on the 12-play drive and appears to be back on top of his game after the early interception.
9:03 – WSU 21, Utah 14: Gardner Minshew hits Dezmon Patmon on the seam route for a 65-yard touchdown pass and the Cougars have the lead. Patmon was left all alone as he darted up field from his slot receiver spot. Minshew hit him in stride and the receiver raced it in untouched for his second touchdown in two games. Minshew is now 16 for 25 for 241 yards.
6:01 – WSU 21, Utah 21: Utah QB Tyler Huntley punches it in on the 1-yard keeper to tie the game up. Utah, still finding success on the ground against the WSU defense, picked up some yards through the air on this drive. Huntley found Jaylen Dixon on a 2nd and 3 for a 38-yard completion to get the ball to the WSU 6. Utah is up to 128 yards rushing.
10:39 – Utah 24, WSU 21: Matt Gay makes a 41-yard field goal to give the Utes the lead. Utah took the opening drive of the second half 52 yards on 10 plays.
7:47 – Utah 24, WSU 21: After multiple drops on the possession, the Cougars settle for a 52-yard field goal attempt that is blocked.
13:12 – Utah 24, WSU 21: Gardner Minshew is sacked for just the fourth time this season and the Cougars are forced to punt from their own end zone. That makes it now three possessions in the second half for WSU with zero points scored.
4:14 – WSU 28, Utah 24: Better late than never. Gardner Minshew goes deep down the right sideline and connects with Easop Winston for the 89-yard touchdown. The Cougars, who had struggled to move the ball the last few possessions, finally hit a big play in the second half. Winston got behind the corner and then turned the safety inside-out before leaving the Utes’ defense in his wake.
The Cougars will be sporting their gray helmets, anthacranite tops, gray pants and crimson socks in their homecoming game.
The Utes will be decked out in white jerseys with black helmets and socks.
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