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TV Take: Gardner Minshew a witness to Washington State’s improbable loss to UCLA

The definition of #Pac-12AfterDark? It showed up Saturday night in Martin Stadium as UCLA rallied from down 32 points behind sophomore Dorian Thompson-Robinson for a 67-63 win in a game enjoyed by an ESPN national audience. As long as everyone stayed awake.

If they did, they were treated to Beth Mowins’ concise play-by-play, Anthony Becht’s succinct analysis and the occasional appearance by Rocky Boiman from the sidelines. They saw a Bruins second-half offensive explosion, capped by a 15-yard touchdown pass with 67 seconds left.

Oh, and there were multiple Gardner Minshew sightings.

What they saw

• It’s not every day you see a 0-3 team score six consecutive times it touched the ball. And it’s not every day you see a quarterback throw for a school-record eight touchdowns and it’s not enough for his school to lead.

But both were in play in this one late in the fourth quarter.

Then Anthony Gordon tossed his ninth touchdown pass, a 65-yard pass-and-run to Max Borghi. With 6 minutes left. It gave WSU a 63-60 lead.

Mowins may have summed up best what those minutes meant for the Bruins.

“It may be a program-building turning point for Chip Kelly,” she said, “if they can come all the way back.”

The Bruins did. Despite failing on a late fourth-down play. And thanks in part to a fumble by Easop Winston, the Cougars’ fifth turnover. That led to Thompson-Robinson’s quick screen to Demetric Felton. It was his 25th completion for 507 yards.

• Becht said more than once how much he loved Gordon’s play. But he wasn’t monogamous. He also professed the same feelings about WSU’s offensive line. And Thompson-Robinson, though that infatuation came after halftime.

Why not?

Gordon was 41-of-61 passing for 570 yards and a school-record nine touchdowns. It was part of the Cougars’ 720 yards of total offense, which is a result, in large part, of the play of the guys up front. And it wasn’t enough, thanks to six turnovers.

The record Gordon broke was set by Minshew last year against Arizona.

• It’s not every day you get to see Minshew. Not on TV, I mean. But it was possible Saturday night in Pullman, as the one-year wonder returned for a quick visit paid for by the American Football Coaches Association.

Minshew was somewhat like Elvis walking through the crowd, which is appropriate in that they came from the same state. And caught America’s fancy.

The first notice TV viewers received he was in town came on the pregame scoreboard show. Those in the stands – we were in Pullman and watched the ESPN broadcast on our computer – got to follow his path throughout the pregame, wandering around the field, hugging Dezmon Patmon, talking with Mike Leach and basically being Pullman’s guest.

“Gardner’s there,” Matt Barrie said on the scoreboard show. “That’s all you need to know.”

“Minshew mania is back in town,” Mowins said as the game came on the air. “The moustache is loose on the Palouse.”

Minshew, wearing jorts, sunglasses and a headband, received at least half-dozen ovations, the biggest of which came when he presented the AFCA trophy to the Martin Stadium crowd during a second quarter time out.

“It’s Gardner Minshew’s world,” Mowins said. Well, at least his town.

What we saw

• What’s a Pac-12 game without a controversial call? It didn’t happen until Washington State had built a seemingly safe 49-24 lead late in the third quarter, but it happened.

Rodrick Fisher caught a short pass from Gordon. He was stood up by four Bruins and pushed back. As his right elbow hit the ground, the ball came out. It was ruled it a fumble.

Becht was having none of it as the replay rolled, wondering why the play wasn’t blown dead and pointing out the elbow looked to be down. No one on the officiating crew agreed with him as the called stood.

Less than 10 seconds later, UCLA had scored on Thompson-Robinson’s 37-yard toss to Chase Cota. That turned the momentum. Thanks in part to another Cougars fumble, UCLA scored 29 points in 4 minutes, 20 seconds.

Gordon answered with a 75-yard, 4-minute drive that ended in a 33-yard scoring toss to Winston.

“In a night Gardner Minshew was in the house, Gordon takes one of his records away,” Mowins said.