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TV Take: Gardner Minshew draws heaping portion of praise in Washington State’s win over Utah

If there is a star of the Pac-12 Networks’ football’s coverage, it may just be Yogi Roth.

And to think, unlike the star of its basketball coverage, Bill Walton, he didn’t play in the conference. Or talk about the Mayan calendar or the reproductive cycle of the honeybees.

All Roth does, whether it is in the studio or as a game analyst, is explain the game. That skill was on display Saturday afternoon during Washington State’s 28-24 Hhomecoming victory over Utah at Martin Stadium.

What they saw …

A late fourth-quarter 89-yard touchdown pass from Gardner Minshew to Easop Winston Jr. was the difference. Leave it to Roth to explain what happened between Winston and Utah defensive back Julian Blackmon, who Roth referred to often as one of the Pac-12’s best.

“It’s an easy read and look at the throw, it’s exactly how you coach it up,” Roth said. “And then look at the finish is just brilliant. … That’s just a little bit better of an athlete running downhill.

“And how about his release?” Roth asked before explaining how Winston kept his leverage on the sideline.

But what would you expect? That’s what Roth does.

Early in the game, Utah’s Tyler Huntley faked a handoff, started to run and then threw a pass. Throughout the first part of the season, an acronym, “RPO” would have been thrown out by the analyst.

Not this time.

Roth, the former Pittsburgh receiver and USC assistant coach, described the “run/pass game.” And later, when he talked of it again and used the RPO acronym, he followed up with “run/pass option” again.

If you didn’t know what the term before the game, you did after.

You also knew this one was a contrast in styles.

Roth and veteran play-by-play announcer Ted Robinson pointed it out before the game and, every time the offensive statistics popped up on the screen, mentioned it again.

In this case, it was a bit of overkill. Which goes well with some hyperbole that wormed its way into the booth after halftime.

Robinson, who has done everything from Grand Slam tennis to San Francisco 49ers radio play-by-play, was praising Minshew’s outstanding first half – 22 of 37, two touchdowns, 286 yards – but went a bit overboard.

“That’s about as impressive of a half from a quarterback, and there have been some good ones here, that’s as impressive as I can recall,” Robinson said coming into the third quarter.

It was less than a year ago that Tyler Hilinski threw for 440 yards in the second half against Arizona. Connor Halliday threw for 397 in the second half against California four years ago.

Then again, Robinson and Roth were right to harp on a series of Cougar pass drops that reached six in two possessions sandwiching the first half. It killed momentum and may have contributed to WSU’s offensive struggles throughout the second half. And harp on them they did.

Talk about contributing to offensive struggles, Utah had an injury that did. To her credit, sideline reporter Jill Savage did her job early in the second half when she noticed it. Center Lo Falemaka was helped to the sidelines and then to the locker room with a knee injury. He didn’t return. Neither did the Utes’ running game.

What we saw …

One of the best parts of the broadcast occurred even before the first snap. The Pac-12 Networks’ pregame show set up camp across Stadium Way from Martin Stadium, the Cougar statue over Evan Moore’s right shoulder.

The football talk was in-depth, as you might expect from Moore, a former Stanford tight end, and Nigel Burton, whose most recent coaching stop was at Portland State.

The highlight? It was Burton, a former defensive coach, explaining the Cougars’ shifts, or “stemming,” and their purpose.

Then Roth, who was on set for the segment, pointed out the penalties called last week, adding, “It’s the umpire who makes that call. It’s a judgment call. If you believe the defense is drawing the offense offsides, then you’re going to throw the flag.”

Moore’s following comment, however, was a little off base, talking about the calls the defense makes prior to the shift.

“The offensive players are waiting for a sound,” Moore said. “(They react to) the first sound they hear.”

The logical conclusion? The defense couldn’t talk. That isn’t true.

But the strength of the pregame show is the off-field features.

Ashley Adamson, the only member of the crew without a Pac-12 connection prior to joining the conference’s network, gets the best assignments. Not only is she the host, she had the opportunity to host Mike Leach’s first trip to Ferdinand’s, Washington State’s ice cream store.

Maybe he’ll head there Monday to celebrate the win.