HOUSTON – After two blowout victories, 20th-ranked Washington State improved to 3-0 with a 31-24 victory over the Houston Cougars on Friday night at NRG Stadium, wrapping up its nonconference slate with a win against its most formidable challenge so far this season.
Redshirt senior quarterback Anthony Gordon threw for 440 yards and completed 36 of 48 passing attempts for three touchdowns and one interception. He was sacked twice and hit just four other times, while also showing escapability: Gordon ran seven times for 29 yards.
Once again Brandon Arconado was his favorite target. The redshirt senior caught a career-high nine passes for 115 yards, the second time in as many weeks Arconado went for more than 100.
Just as it has all season, Washington State used a strong third quarter to change the tenor of the game. Trailing 14-7 at half, Washington State outgained Houston 158-53 and outscored Houston 14-0 in the third quarter to take a 21-14 lead heading into the fourth. Washington State has yet to allow a point in the third quarter this year.
Houston answered with a field goal that made it 21-17. The partisan crowd ramped up again when Max Borghi struggled to control the ensuing squibbed kickoff. Borghi recovered it, but he was tackled at the 5-yard line, and on the first play of the drive, Gordon’s high throw to Borghi in the flat was nearly intercepted.
Yet Gordon settled in from there, leading Washington State on an eight-play, 95-yard scoring drive capped by a 7-yard touchdown throw to Travell Harris. That stretched its lead to 28-17.
On Houston’s first play of the ensuing drive, safety Bryce Beekman popped the ball out of Marquez Stevenson’s arms, and Washington State recovered it. That set up a 22-yard Blake Mazza field goal to give Washington State a 31-17 lead.
Houston scored a touchdown on its next drive to pull within seven points with 2 minutes, 21 seconds left, but Washington State got two first downs to run out the clock.
Borghi scored a touchdown for the third straight game, finishing with nine carries for 42 yards and six catches for 61 more. Senior receivers Dezmon Patmon (two catches, 52 yards) and Easop Winston Jr. (five for 70) caught touchdown passes for Washington State.
Washington State overcame 11 penalties that cost it 132 yards, the Cougars’ most since being flagged 11 times for 118 yards against USC last season.
Washington State returns home next week to open its Pac-12 Conference schedule against UCLA. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. – Dan Thompson, For The Spokesman-Review
Highlights: Washington State 31, Houston 24
Pac-12 Networks / YouTube
10:39 – WSU 0, Houston 0: Washington State is forced to punt on the game’s opening drive after Anthony Gordon is unable to connect with Brandon Arconado on 3rd and 10.
WSU converted a 4th and 1 from its own 43, but then tossed three straight incompletions. Oscar Draguicevich III came on and hit a 40-yard punt to pin Houston at its 11.
Gordon was 3 of 6 on the drive for 15 yards.
5:24 – WSU 0, Houston 0: An ugly first drive for Houston ends with a missed 48-yard field goal attempt by Dalton Witherspoon.
The Cougars were flagged for four penalties on the drive – three holds and a false start, but were able to move the ball from their own 11 to the WSU 31 thanks to some spotty Washington State tackling.
7:33 – Houston 7, WSU 0: Houston strikes first as D’Eriq King caps a 15-play, 82-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Marquez Stevenson.
Houston racked up 41 yards rushing on the drive and are now up to 92 yards for the game.
King ran for 31 yards and threw for 31 on the drive. He has 123 total yards after Houston’s first two drives.
5:36 – WSU 7, Houston 7: Washington State pulls back even as Anthony Gordon lofts a 39-yard touchdown pass to Easop Winston Jr.
Winston found himself behind the Houston defense and Gordon floated the ball right into his stride for the senior receiver’s fourth TD of the season.
The Cougs covered 72 yards in just five plays in the drive. Gordon completed his four pass attempts on the drive for 74 yards. He is up to 127 yards on 12-of-15 passing.
2:27 – Houston 14, WSU 7: Houston QB D’Eriq King continues torment the Washington State defense, this time plunging in for a 1-yard touchdown run to give UH the lead back.
King is now 10-of-14 passing for 105 yards and 1 TD, and has nine carries for 65 yards and a score on the ground.
An unnecessary roughness penalty on WSU helped get Houston deep in Coug territory.
0:24 – Houston 14, WSU 7: The Houston defense bends, but does not break right before the half.
Anthony Gordon drives WSU deep into Houston territory, but his third-down throw intended for Rodrick Fisher is intercepted in the end zone by Houston safety Gleson Sprewell.
Gordon finishes the half with 163 yards on 15-of-20 passing, including a touchdown and a pick.
Easop Winston Jr. leads the Cougs receiving corps with three catches for 55 yards and a score.
7:30 – WSU 21, Houston 14: Washington State takes the lead as Anthony Gordon finds Dezmon Patmon open for a 39-yard touchdown pass.
Gordon moved the Cougs 91 yards in four plays for their first lead tonight. He completed all four of his pass attempts and benifited from a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty. The senior QB is now up to 282 yards on 23-of-29 passing.
Brandon Arconado had three catches on the drive and now has 7 receptions for 73 yards to lead WSU.
10:24 – WSU 14, Houston 14: Washington State’s Max Borghi scores on a 1-yard touchdown run to tie the game.
Borghi was featured prominently on the Cougs’ first drive of the second half, catching three passes for 31 yards and the TD run. He now has scored in the first three games of the season and has four rushing touchdowns.
The Cougs started at the Houston 44 after UH failed to convert a 4th-and-1 on their opening drive of the half.
10:45 – WSU 21, Houston 17: Dalton Witherspoon connects on a 42-yard field goal and Houston has cut the WSU lead to 4.
Two long runs to start the drive got Houston into WSU territory to set up Witherspoon.
Houston QB D’Eriq King missed on both his pass attempts on the drive and is at 116 yards passing for the game. He also has 82 yards rushing.
6:43 – WSU 28, Houston 17: Washington State extends its lead to 11 as Anthony Gordon puts a stamp on a 95-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Travell Harris.
Gordon completed five passes on the 8-play drive. He now has 417 yards on 34-of-44 passing.
3:50 – WSU 31, Houston 17: Washington State takes advantage of great field position after a Houston giveaway to extend its lead to 14 with a 22-yard field goal by Blake Mazza.
Houston’s Marquez Stevenson fumbled at his own 25 and WSU’s Cosmas Kwete fell on it.
2:22 – WSU 31, Houston 24: Houston quarterback D’Eriq King keeps it himself for the 12-yard rushing touchdown to trim Washington State’s lead.
The Coogs went 75 yards in 6 plays to cut WSU’s lead in half.
King now has 3 touchdowns in the game and has 222 total yards.
Washington State recovered the ensuing onside kick.
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