Two years ago, Colorado traveled to Pullman on a rainy Saturday in late October. Quarterback Steven Montez was awful, the Buffaloes’ offense was inept and Washington State earned a four-touchdown win.
The game, broadcast by ESPN, helped the Cougars bounce back from a road loss.
Déjà vu anyone?
OK, so those Cougars had only lost once, not three consecutive times like the 2019 group. And Saturday’s game was carried by ESPNU, not the flagship. But on the field? It was similar, down to the rain and Montez’s struggles.
Those watching at home listened to Ray Philpott describe the action, Lauren Sisler endure the downpour for her sideline reports and former NFL backup quarterback Kelly Stouffer entertain with his analysis in Washington State’s 41-10 victory.
What they saw
• Stouffer, who played his college football at Colorado State and much of his short NFL career with the Seahawks, expressed his love with WSU’s quarterback from the start.
“Anthony Gordon’s release is, quite frankly, one of the prettiest, most-mesmerizing release of the football that I’ve seen in college football in long, long while,” said Stouffer, who was the sixth player taken in the NFL Draft when he came out college in 1987, during the Cougars’ first possession.
And that was just the beginning.
During the third quarter, Stouffer gushed again after one of Gordon’s 35 completions (on 51 attempts). Those throws were good for four touchdowns and 369 yards.
“If you want to do a video on how to throw the football from a release standpoint,” he said, “put this guy front and center.”
After a quick video presentation of Gordon’s feet and balance, highlighting his quick release, Stouffer said, “It’s magical.”
• Don’t think Stouffer was all rainbows and unicorns, though. When Gordon threw a late interception on an ill-considered decision, Stouffer called it “a greedy mistake.”
• On the other side, the ESPNU folks pulled no punches about Montez’s play. Throughout the game, Stouffer analyzed not only his mechanics – and explained what was behind his problems, mainly his anxiousness in the pocket – but his mental makeup as well.
“That’s a horrific red-zone decision,” Stouffer said after Montez’s throw-it-up end-zone pick late in the second quarter.
“Another inaccurate pass of the high variety,” Stouffer said later. “Steven Montez just isn’t comfortable.”
And, when Montez lost his cool late in the game, pushing a Cougars defensive lineman, Stouffer talked about it, and the cameras followed the fifth-year senior to the bench, after which Sisler reported he had words with some WSU fans.
Montez finished 16 of 30 for 129 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions before being replaced with 7:29 left. Two plays later, the Cougars (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) had their third pick of the game.
What we saw
• As much as Stouffer expressed his love for Gordon, there were a couple of first-half decisions by the quarterback that may have stilted WSU’s momentum.
Leading 21-3, head coach Mike Leach decided to go for a fourth-and-2 at the Colorado 44. It was the right call if you consider Brandon Arconado, returning from an injury that’s kept him out during the losing streak, ran a near perfect route and came open on the left side. But Gordon had already vacated the pocket to the right, despite little pressure. He ended up trying to run and didn’t make the line to gain.
Five minutes later, with the score the same, Gordon faced a third-and-2 at the WSU 28. With six Buffs in the box, he gave the ball to Max Borghi, which was not a bad decision most of the game. But Liam Ryan doubled the left defensive end and let linebacker Nate Landman run free. Colorado’s leading tackler – by a lot – made the stop.
• The Cougars’ defense, which has endured changes in the coaching staff and has been porous throughout the three-game losing streak, was a focus for the broadcast crew early. As the game went on, they praised its play, especially in the red zone and with turnovers.
After going 166 minutes of game play, Sklyer Thomas stepped in front of Tony Brown and grabbed a Montez pass in the first quarter.
“You can’t say enough about Wazzu’s defensive effort tonight,” Philpott said as time ran down.
• Gordon’s targeting preference was emphasized early in the week, with stats showing he tends to favor the right side. Against the Buffaloes (3-4, 1-3), Gordon threw 23 of his passes outside the right hash marks, 17 over the middle and 11 to the left side.
The leading receiver was Borghi, who had nine receptions for 57 yards to go along with his 105 yards rushing on 12 carries.
Arconado stepped right back in and caught five passes, including a 44-yard touchdown pass, the same number of receptions as Easop Winston, Jr.
Subscribe to the Cougs newsletter
Get the latest Cougs headlines delivered to your inbox as they happen.