Gardner Minshew found a rhythm in Washington State’s quarterback-friendly offense on Saturday in the Cougars’ season-opening 41-19 win over host Wyoming at War Memorial Stadium.
Wyoming (1-1) struggled to sustain anything on offense and finished with only 206 total yards. Freshman quarterback Tyler Vander Waal hit on only 8 of 20 passes for 67 yards.
The Cougars (1-0) weren’t explosive against a seasoned Cowboys’ defense that was one of the best units in the country in 2017, instead letting Minshew get acclimated to Wazzu coach Mike Leach’s air raid offense.
Minshew, a transfer from Southern Miss who landed the starting job after a battle with two other players, passed for 319 yards with three touchdowns and distributed the ball to nine different receivers.
The Cougars pounced on top 10-0 with a 24-yard Blake Mazza field goal on the opening series of the game and Minshew’s 2-yard pass to running back James Williams at the 3:28 juncture of the first period.
Before WSU could pull away further, though, a bad punt snap flipped momentum in Wyoming’s favor. The Cowboys got a safety on that play and surged in front by halftime, 16-13, on touchdown runs from Nico Evans and Avante’ Cox.
Cooper Rothe extended the Wyoming lead to 19-13 with a 30-yard field goal at the 8:48 mark of the third quarter, the cap to a 13-play, 62-yard drive that was the bulk of the Cowboys’ second-half offensive production.
Washington State controlled most of the rest of the game, with a big connection between Minshew and Jamire Calvin providing a key turning point.
A Cougars’ drive was on the verge of stalling when they went for a first down on fourth-and-six. Minshew sidestepped trouble and lofted a pass to the left side that Calvin corralled from his backside on a slide for a 9-yard gain.
Four plays later, Minshew slipped a pass to Max Borghi on the right flat, and the freshman back carved out the rest of the 6 yards for a touchdown to complete a 75-yard scoring drive. Mazza’s extra point put the Cougars in front for good with 3:51 to go in the third quarter.
After that, the Cougars churned out a trio of fourth-quarter scoring drives, with Minshew zipping a 7-yard pass to Easop Winston, Borghi blasting 14 yards into the end zone and Williams scoring in the closing minute for the final dagger.
—Field Level Media