So that one didn’t exactly go according to plan. But the difference between this year’s WSU team and WSU teams of the past seems to be that when things don’t go the way the Cougs want, it’s not a guarantee to sink them. This team has resilience, and it was on full display Saturday night.
Gardner Minshew had one of his worst games, which tells you just how good he’s been. When 35-of-51 for 334 yards, one touchdown, and a pick is one of your worst days throwing the ball, you’ve been doing something right. As he’s done basically all year, when it mattered the most, Minshew made a big play, connecting with Easop Winston, Jr. for the game-winning touchdown with under a minute to go.
Part of the reason the Cougs struggled so mightily to pull away in this game was thanks to a second opponent: the referees. Cal received drive-extending penalties six times when it looked like the Cougs would get off the field, and it felt like roughly half of them were legitimate penalties. The officiating probably took away a good two or three possessions from the Cougs, allowing Cal to drain clock while still being too inept to score.
The worst play of the night, though, had nothing to do with the officiating, and looked like it might be the best moment of the night when it started. I’m talking of course bout Willie Taylor’s interception, which looked like it was going to be a pick-six, which turned into a fumble that looked to be certainly recovered by WSU, before rolling out the back of the end zone for a touchback. It was a crushing momentum swing that gave California the ball at their own 20 on a drive that resulted in them kicking a game-tying field goal.
While WSU fans might have thought “here we go again”, Gardner Minshew’s calm demeanor and off-the-charts confidence seems to be infectious and rub off on other players. The defense continued to make good plays, even when they were the victims of drive-extending penalties. We discuss how his leadership has impacted the team and why we believe it’s true when he says he always expects the team to pull through at the end.
Some of that is thanks to the defense, who seem to have a knack for allowing just the right amount of points for the offense to score a few more. The Cougs have rarely won by blowout when facing tougher competition, but the defense has always held just tight enough to give Minshew and the offense an opportunity to win the game at the end.
Around the Pac-12, chaos continues to be the name of the game in the south–Arizona State beat Utah and injured Tyler Huntley in the process, USC beat the Beavers to give themselves a 4-3 conference record, and Arizona won a back-and-forth affair with Colorado to keep their Pac-12 title hopes alive. In the North, Oregon doubled up on UCLA in a laugher, and UW held off a Stanford comeback to keep pace with the Cougs.
We spent some time commenting on fans taking shots at college athletes, and why we don’t like it, what it means for the Cougs when they’re able to win a game when all the bounces seem to go against them, and discuss where we think they’ll be when the next batch of College Football Playoff rankings come out.
Looking ahead to Colorado, it would be unwise to write them off as a serious opponent just because they appear to be in a bit of a free fall, losing their last four after opening the season with five wins. Steven Montez is a legitimately good quarterback, and Laviska Shenault, Jr. may play, and is a threat against any defense. Colorado’s defense has struggled some in recent weeks, but they are playing at home, and should present the Cougs a strong challenge. As always, we end with our score predictions. Let’s barbecue some Buffalo meat this Saturday. Go Cougs!