Arrow-right Camera
Go to e-Edition Sign up for newsletters Customer service
Subscribe now
Sports >  WSU football

Minshew’s magic 13: One defining play from each of Gardner Minshew’s games as Washington State quarterback

UPDATED: Mon., Jan. 21, 2019

Maybe it isn’t sufficient to pick out a single highlight from each game Gardner Minshew played in a Washington State uniform this season.

Some quarterbacks need four years to manufacture the type of highlight reel or compile the type of statistical résumé Minshew built in just 13 games as WSU’s starter. Granted, the graduate transfer may have waited that long for his opportunity, but once he got it, Minshew never wavered.

In one year, the Brandon, Mississippi, native blossomed into a Heisman Trophy candidate, the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner, the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year and the conference record-holder for single-season passing yards.

Now that the most productive season by a Washington State quarterback is over, it’s time to look back at some of its highlights. Here are 13 of them – one from each game he played in – displaying a year’s worth of Minshew excellence.

♦  ♦  ♦

Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) looks for an open teammate against Wyoming during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, September 1, 2018, at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, Wyo. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) looks for an open teammate against Wyoming during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, September 1, 2018, at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, Wyo. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

1. Washington State at Wyoming

The play: 2-yard touchdown to James Williams

The first of many. The Minshew era at WSU was only about 12 minutes old when the new starter uncorked his first touchdown. Two personal foul penalties on Wyoming gave the Cougars 30 yards and the running backs – Max Borghi and James Williams – ran for 17 and 18 yards to put the offense inside the 5-yard line. Minshew scooted out of the pocket, then threw off his back foot to Williams, who made an acrobatic mid-air catch before tapping his left tow inside the end zone to complete the play. There were two more TD passes for Minshew that day in Laramie and 35 more throughout the remainder of the season.

(play at :18)

♦  ♦  ♦

Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) throws during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, September 8, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) throws during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, September 8, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

2. San Jose State at Washington State

The play: 1-yard touchdown run

Zone read? In the Air Raid? It isn’t the first option in Mike Leach’s playbook and it was a foreign concept during the Luke Falk era at WSU. But Minshew called his own number in the second quarter against San Jose State to put the Cougars up 24-0. Inches from the goal line, the quarterback motioned a handoff to Borghi, then pulled the ball back into his arms as five Spartans leapt at the freshman running back. Minshew beat one more defender to the end zone for the second of four rushing touchdowns he’d score on the year.

(play at 1:35)

♦  ♦  ♦

Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) throws the ball during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, September 15, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. WSU won the game 59-24. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) throws the ball during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, September 15, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. WSU won the game 59-24. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

3. Eastern Washington at Washington State

The play: 26-yard pass to Dezmon Patmon

The Cougars had essentially put the Eagles away by the fourth quarter, and an intermediate throw to Patmon wasn’t terribly important in the grand scheme of things. But the precision and touch Minshew showed on a 26-yard toss was impressive. He looked off three receiving options to his left with a pump-fake, then opened up his body and went right to Patmon, who was streaking down the sideline, with a spiral only the 6-foot-5 “Z” receiver could reach. Tightly covered, Patmon gripped the ball out of the air and got four more yards before being tugged down.

(play at 2:42)

♦  ♦  ♦

Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) runs the ball against USC during the second half of a college football game on Friday, September 21, 2018, at LA Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, Calif. USC won the game 39-36. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) runs the ball against USC during the second half of a college football game on Friday, September 21, 2018, at LA Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, Calif. USC won the game 39-36. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

4. Washington State at USC

The play: 4-yard touchdown pass to Easop Winston Jr.

He’d lament a few missed opportunities in a 39-36 loss to the Trojans, but Minshew’s personal line was still impressive: 37-of-52 passing, 344 yards, three touchdowns. The score had already changed four times when Minshew worked some hocus pocus magic in the pocket for his third TD of the game and second to Winston, which would give the Cougars a 37-31 edge. With no options to his right, the QB scrambled left, made one defender whiff then shuffled away from another before finessing a pass to Winston in the back left corner of the end zone.

(play at 6:02)

♦  ♦  ♦

Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) looks for an open teammate against Utah during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, September 29, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. The game was tied 21-21 at the half. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) looks for an open teammate against Utah during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, September 29, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. The game was tied 21-21 at the half. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

5. Utah at Washington State

The play: 89-yard touchdown pass to Winston

Winston hauled in 17 passes from Minshew for 357 yards over a three-game stretch in late September/early October – none of them more consequential than the 89-yard catch-and-run that allowed the Cougars to beat the Utes 28-24 in a tense back-and-forth game at Martin Stadium. Minshew’s offense lined up at the left hash, giving Winston enough real estate to beat his cover, Utah corner Julian Blackmon, before he reached the sideline. Minshew’s pass soared over the top of Blackmon and fell into Winston’s hands. Corrion Ballard attempted to close down Winston’s lane, but the receiver cut inside forcing the Utes safety to bite, then jolted back to the sideline and legged out the game-winner.

(play at :35)

♦  ♦  ♦

Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) throws for a touchdown against OSU during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, October 6, 2018, Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Ore. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) throws for a touchdown against OSU during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, October 6, 2018, Reser Stadium in Corvallis, Ore. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

6. Washington State at Oregon State

The play: 38-yard touchdown pass to Tay Martin

Minshew had already developed a connection with Washington State’s top returning receiver when fall camp opened. On day one, he told reporters, “Throwing the ball to Tay Martin, that’s pretty easy,” and it sure looked that way on a 119-yard, two-touchdown day for the sophomore receiver in Corvallis. The highlight came early in the second quarter when Minshew bombed a pass to Martin down the left sideline, who made an impressive basket catch with OSU’s Kaleb Hayes draped over him. The Cougars took a 21-14 lead and cruised to a 56-37 win.

(play at 2:47)

♦  ♦  ♦

Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) looks for an open teammate against Oregon during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, October 20, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) looks for an open teammate against Oregon during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, October 20, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

7. Oregon at Washington State

The play: 37-yard pass to Travell Harris

After trailing 27-0 in the first half, the Ducks had tightened the gap to seven points with under seven minutes to go in the fourth quarter when Minshew, always one to store faith in his receivers, floated up a deep pass to Harris in double coverage. Oregon safety Jevon Holland initially clamped the ball, but the shorter, smaller Harris stripped it before somersaulting over Holland to the ground. Minshew fired a touchdown pass to Patmon a few plays later to seal WSU’s fourth straight win over Oregon. Students poured onto the turf and the “Mississippi Mustache” was carried off as a hero.

(play at 3:58)

♦  ♦  ♦

Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) throws under pressure against Stanford during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, October 27, 2018, at Stanford Stadium in Stanford, Calif. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) throws under pressure against Stanford during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, October 27, 2018, at Stanford Stadium in Stanford, Calif. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

8. Washington State at Stanford

The play: 35-yard pass to Jamire Calvin

Deservedly, the game’s hero was Blake Mazza, who was responsible for knocking in the game-winning 42-yard field goal. But while Mazza delivered the decisive kick, it couldn’t have happened without a decisive throw from Minshew. The Cougars had third-and-2 from their own 25-yard line when their QB spotted a small window and dialed up a pass to Calvin on a seam route over the middle. With two Stanford defensive backs in the area – one in front of Calvin and one behind him – an underthrown or overthrown pass may have been picked off. Instead, WSU moved the chains with a long completion and Mazza’s toe won the game a few plays later.

(play at 1:38)

♦  ♦  ♦

Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) runs the ball against Cal during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, November 3, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) runs the ball against Cal during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, November 3, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

9. California at Washington State

The play: 10-yard touchdown pass to Winston

If Minshew and Winston hadn’t already cemented their status as the Pac-12’s best fourth-quarter QB-WR duo, the senior signal-caller and his junior receiver did it with 32 seconds left in the fourth quarter of a defensive stalemate against Cal. It was as simple as pitch-and-catch gets – Winston broke past his defender and Minshew dropped his pass into the bucket to give the Cougars the go-ahead touchdown.

(play at 8:25)

♦  ♦  ♦

Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) throws under pressure against Arizona during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, November 17, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) throws under pressure against Arizona during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, November 17, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

10. Arizona at Washington State

The play: 9-yard touchdown pass to Winston

Amid a season of dizzying passing numbers, Minshew hit a new milestone when Arizona came to town for a chilly mid-November game. The quarterback already had six passing touchdowns – two to Calvin Jackson Jr., one to Patmon, one to Calvin, one to Martin and one to Williams – when he unleashed his seventh midway through the fourth quarter. Minshew bided his time in the pocket before lasering a pass to Winston on a crossing pattern to set the school’s single-game TD record. Seventh heaven? Indeed.

(play at 3:41)

♦  ♦  ♦

Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, November 10, 2018, at Folsom Field in Boulder Colo. WSU won the game 31-7. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) during the second half of a college football game on Saturday, November 10, 2018, at Folsom Field in Boulder Colo. WSU won the game 31-7. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

11. Washington State at Colorado

The play: 10-yard touchdown run

The Buffaloes dropped eight players into coverage on second-and-10 from the 9-yard line, so Minshew turned to his instincts. And his moves. After sitting in the pocket briefly, the QB broke away and scampered to his right. His first obstacle, Dante Wigley, bit on a pump fake, giving Minshew the first down. Rick Gamboa was in position to make the tackle, but the QB used a hesitation move to evade Colorado’s All-Pac-12 linebacker. Minshew couldn’t sneak his feet into the end zone, but he reached the ball in to make it 24-7.

(play at 1:33)

♦  ♦  ♦

Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) throws against UW during the second half of a college football game on Friday, November 23, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. Washington won the game 28-15. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) throws against UW during the second half of a college football game on Friday, November 23, 2018, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash. Washington won the game 28-15. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

12. Washington at Washington State

The play: 7-yard pass to Calvin Jackson Jr.

There weren’t many offensive highlights for WSU in a sixth consecutive Apple Cup loss and there were even fewer for Minshew, who passed for just 152 yards. There were no touchdowns for him in this one, but Minshew did his part to set one up in the second quarter. On fourth-and-4, his blockers held off UW’s three-man rush long enough, allowing Minshew to shuffle away from the pocket and rifle a pass through the snow to Jackson on a short drag over the middle. The play moved the sticks and Williams pranced into the end zone four plays later to cut the deficit to 14-7.

(play at 15:35)

♦  ♦  ♦

Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) runs the ball against the Iowa State Cyclones during the first half of the 2018 Alamo Bowl on Friday, December 28, 2018, at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio, TX. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) runs the ball against the Iowa State Cyclones during the first half of the 2018 Alamo Bowl on Friday, December 28, 2018, at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio, TX. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

13. Washington State vs. Iowa State

The play: 7-yard touchdown run

And for the closing act? Four Iowa State defenders were charging at Minshew when he made the escape of the season to give the Cougars a two-touchdown buffer in the Alamo Bowl. On second-and-goal, Minshew scanned the right side of the field to see all three receivers covered. Another Cyclones defender took away his checkdown option, so the QB stepped forward into the pocket, spun out of a tackle and slipped back out before darting to the end zone. Minshew jumped to avoid Anthony Johnson’s shoestring tackle, landed on his left foot and tucked the ball as he dove across the goal line.

(play at 3:12)

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Cougs newsletter

Get the latest Cougs headlines delivered to your inbox as they happen.