Mike Leach began the season with an opening at quarterback, questions about his staff, and a host of preseason expectations saying his team would fall flat in a deep Pac-12. The old pirate, it seems, is about to have the last laugh however.
No. 14 Washington State and their merry band of underdogs continued their winning ways on Saturday night to move to 7-1 on the season, capping off a wild 41-38 shootout with No. 24 Stanford to take firm control of the Pac-12 North in the process.
Quarterback Gardner Minshew was once again in the middle of things when the Cougars needed a big play, throwing for 438 yards and three touchdowns while moving the sticks with his legs on a critical fourth down conversion on the go-ahead drive. He was particularly lights out after halftime, going 24-of-27 in the final two quarters as the Air Raid got turned up to full blast as the game went on. James Williams was also fantastic out of the backfield, rushing for 30 yards and a pair of scores while catching nine passes for 79 yards.
Dezmon Patmon was Wazzu’s leading receiver with 10 receptions for 127 yards as the ball was spread around quite a bit considering there were 10 pass catchers in total.
The thrilling comeback by the visitors spoiled a pretty good offensive show from the home team. While Bryce Love was limited as he dealt with injuries and rushed for only 53 on the ground, K.J. Costello put together one of his best performances of the season. The young signal-caller threw for 323 yards and four touchdowns all told, dropping back a very un-Stanford-like 43 times in the game. JJ Arcega-Whiteside had a pair of his trademark box-out touchdowns to go with 111 yards while tight end Kaden Smith was a problem all night for the WSU defense with 112 yards and a score of his own.
The Cardinal wound up with 443 yards of total offense and averaged nearly seven yards per play but couldn’t get a second half stop as they blew an 11 point halftime lead.
The victory helps re-shape the entire division on a wild day in the Pac-12 North where another top 25 team, Washington, lost to Cal across the bay minutes beforehand. Washington State will wrap up the first few months of the season in first place and a clear path to Santa Clara for the conference title game if they can avoid a letdown and beat the Huskies in Pullman for the Apple Cup. Stanford will travel to Seattle next weekend in a game that was billed to be for the division title but will instead be a contest for second place at best as each tries to keep pace with the Cougars.
This is not at all a place many expected WSU to be in but here they are — possibly to stay — as they hit the first set of College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday with plenty of momentum and a ton of good wins in their pocket.