Max Borghi had more than a few positive moments in his return to the field for Washington State.
There was also a glaringly negative moment he’d prefer to forget.
The junior running back, playing for the first time in nearly a calendar year because of a back injury sustained during fall camp, started for the Cougars in Saturday’s 45-28 loss to Utah and mostly looked like himself, rushing 10 times for 95 yards and a touchdown.
But Borghi also lost a fumble for the second time in his standout career and it came at a critical juncture of the season finale at Rice Eccles-Stadium. With the game tied at 28-28 in the fourth quarter, Borghi broke off a 13-yard run before colliding with Utah defensive back Vonte Davis, who managed to pop the ball out of the running back’s arm. Clark Phillips recovered and the Utes scored on the very next play, taking a 35-28 lead on Ty Jordan’s 13-yard touchdown run.
Though it could’ve kept WSU’s drive going, it was one of four turnovers committed by the Cougars in the fourth quarter, and came at a point when the Utes had all the momentum.
Before that, Borghi gave fans their first glimpse of how seamlessly he fits into Nick Rolovich’s run-and-shoot offense, and what that offense could be next season if the junior decides not to leave early for the NFL.
“He’s a great weapon and having him and Deon (McIntosh) together, that’s a solid pair as any on our team at that position,” Rolovich said. “I think it meant a lot to him to get out there, he worked hard to get back. Patience, frustration and I think everyone got the chance to see his talent level.”
Even with runs of 4 yards and 1 yard, Borghi’s first five carries of the game went for a combined 71 yards. The Colorado native bounced to the edge for an 8-yard score in the second quarter and broke off a 37-yard play before halftime. Borghi also caught one pass for 7 yards.
“I’m happy for him,” right tackle Abraham Lucas said. “I’m not going to say I pick one over the other in terms of Max versus Deon. We’ve got a lot of great running backs, even ones that don’t see as much time, but I’m happy we have two solid running backs that we can rely on. If Max is out, Deon’s in. If Deon’s out, Max is in. That’s a great feeling to have, knowing you’ve got to dynamic running backs in the backfield and knowing you don’t have to worry about them.”
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