Arrow-right Camera
Sports >  WSU football

Mike Leach praises Oregon QB Justin Herbert but ‘very pleased we have ours instead’

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert passes against Washington in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert passes against Washington in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

PULLMAN – If tossing four more touchdowns and clamping down his fourth win as Washington State’s starting quarterback didn’t do enough for Anthony Gordon’s confidence heading into of the bigger games of the 2019 season, perhaps an encouraging comment from Cougars head coach Mike Leach will do the trick.

Saturday’s game between WSU and No. 11 Oregon in Eugene pits the Pac-12’s most productive signal-caller against the conference’s most highly touted quarterback.

Anthony Gordon and his FBS-leading 2,981 passing yards take on Justin Herbert and one of the country’s best touchdown-to-interception ratios. Through seven games, the Ducks’ strong-armed senior quarterback has tossed 21 touchdowns and just one interception. Ohio State’s Justin Fields is the only other player in the country with at least 20 touchdowns and just one pick.

“I just think he’s talented, I think he’s a talented guy,” Leach said of Herbert. “But I’m very pleased we have ours instead.”

Herbert could’ve been the first quarterback taken in the 2019 NFL Draft, but the Eugene native elected to return to the Ducks for his senior season. He’s still considered the best pro prospect at his position and will have a chance to end his career with a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.

But while Herbert may be the front-runner for Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year honors, Gordon will have a strong case to bring the award back to Pullman after Gardner Minshew claimed it last season. As long as he isn’t injured, the redshirt senior who bested Gage Gubrud and Trey Tinsley for the starting job this fall will finish the season with stronger numbers than Herbert running Leach’s Air Raid offense.

Gordon’s 29 touchdowns are tied for the most in the country with LSU’s Joe Burrow, considered by some to be the Heisman frontrunner, and he’d need just 14 more to match Jake Browning’s single-season Pac-12 record. That would require him to throw for 2.8 per game if the Cougars don’t qualify for the postseason, 2.3 if they do. The Pacifica, California, native has thrown for fewer than three touchdowns just once this season (one at Utah) and has at least four TDs in four of the seven games.

While Gordon has been intercepted seven times this season – something that could come into play against an Oregon defense that’s tied for second nationally with 12 picks – Leach reminded that his QB’s interception-to-attempt ratio is still strong. Gordon has attempted 347 passes, 64 more than Hawaii’s Cole McDonald, which means he’s being intercepted just once every 49 pass attempts.

“Well, Anthony, per attempt, has thrown less than most people in the country,” he said. “So we’re going to just to go ahead and try to do the best we can.”

Washington State Cougars wide receiver Dezmon Patmon (12) high fives quarterback Anthony Gordon (18) after they scored a touchdown during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, October 19, 2019, at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars wide receiver Dezmon Patmon (12) high fives quarterback Anthony Gordon (18) after they scored a touchdown during the first half of a college football game on Saturday, October 19, 2019, at Martin Stadium in Pullman. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Subscribe to the Cougs newsletter

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

You have been successfully subscribed!
There was a problem subscribing you to the newsletter. Double check your email and try again, or email webteam@spokesman.com