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No. 8 Washington State survives pesky Cal team with last minute drive to move to 8-1

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After ascending to No. 8 in the polls last season, Washington State went on the road at Cal and ran into a buzzsaw during a brutal loss where they didn’t play particularly good in any phase of the game.

After ascending to No. 8 in the polls this season, the Cougars played host to a pesky Bears team and very nearly ran into the same kind of buzzsaw, needing a last minute scoring drive to secure a sloppy 19-13 win and keep whatever slim hopes of a College Football Playoff appearance there is for the Pac-12 alive.

This was, no exaggeration, one of the worst games to watch of the season so far and a very, very dark edition of Pac-12 After Dark. Despite there incredibly being only two 3-and-outs the entire ballgame, there were four combined turnovers (two apiece) and just eight 3rd down conversions. The two sides dropped passed, made mind-numbing play calls, had issues in the red zone and generally played the anthesis of the wide-open football we normally find out West.

Wazzu QB Gardner Minshew was not as sharp as he has been in rolling through conference play but came up big in the final minutes when his team needed it most. Throwing darts on the final drive, he needed just six plays to cover 69 yards before finding Easop Winston in the corner of the end zone. That naturally delighted the home crowd, who sat through plenty of boring football in the three quarters prior to the stakes getting turned up a few notches for the final frame.

All told, the mustache-laden signal-caller threw for 334 yards and that one score while also tossing an interception on the third series of the game. The Cougs run game was not all that consistent against a tough Bears front and even short passes over the middle were a struggle compared to some of the team’s recent outings. Gardner still found 11 different receivers by the time the clock had expired, with Winston leading the way with 92 yards and the one score while tailback James Williams added 10 receptions to go with five carries for 34 yards on the ground.

The loss will be one that Cal head coach Justin Wilcox won’t enjoy watching back in the coming days. While his defense did play well, the offense punted four times, turned the ball over twice, missed a field goal and saw time expire on them at the end of the game. In fact, their most consistent form of picking up first downs might have been penalties on their opponents that gave them a free one.

The coaching staff did rotate quarterbacks as they have done in past games but they strangely took out the hot hand under center at the time — Chase Garbers, who had 127 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT and led the team with 67 yards rushing — for a backup during a key late drive. Brandon McIlwain entered late in the fourth quarter and wound up throwing an interception in the end zone on a bad decision — only bailed out when WSU missed a field goal after promptly marching down the field themselves.

There is a thought that surviving and advancing at this point in the college football season is all that matters and Washington State has to hope the Selection Committee doesn’t mind them doing just that against a Cal team that is still looking for that elusive sixth win for bowl eligibility. The Cougars didn’t play well at all but a win is a win and they might benefit from chaos elsewhere across the country on Saturday to even move up a spot or two in the rankings from where they sit now.

No. 14 Washington State takes control of the Pac-12 North with shootout win over No. 24 Stanford

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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.

No. 24 Stanford, No. 14 Washington State staging a shootout in wild first half on the Farm

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Stanford head coach David Shaw is not one to get excited at the prospect of a shootout but he and the No. 24 Cardinal found themselves locked into one on Saturday evening as they lead No. 14 Washington State 28-17 at halftime of a critical Pac-12 North showdown.

Quarterback K.J. Costello was already up to 192 yards passing, recording three touchdowns in a far more wide-open version of Shaw’s offense than we’ve gotten used to seeing over the years. One of those scoring strikes naturally went to top target JJ Arcega-Whiteside, who once again posted up a defensive back in the end zone for the first points of the ball game before finishing with six catches for 56 yards. Tight end Kaden Smith had the other touchdown, smartly leaving his block when Costello started to scramble and winding up walking across the goal line nearly untouched as a result.

Maybe the most encouraging sign however was the play of oft-injured running back Bryce Love. The one-time Heisman contender rushed for 50 yards and looked a bit like last year’s version by breaking off a 43-yard run with plenty of burst and speed to the outside. Trent Irwin did a little bit of everything with 46 yards receiving and had a huge 39 yard punt return as well.

The effort was far from the Cougars’ best as they look to follow up their huge victory over Oregon last week with another on the Farm. Mike Leach’s side was already up to seven penalties for 69 yards in the first half and improbably had two three-and-outs on offense among their six drives.

Gardner Minshew was still efficient exploiting the underbelly of the Stanford defense, throwing for 191 yards and a touchdown while tailback James Williams took one across the goal line on the ground while recording 72 total yards.

The winner of this game will take their place atop the Pac-12 North standings ahead of a big stretch of conference games for both sides. We’ve seen some wild second half finishes out West already today, could there be another one in store? It’s trending that way.

King shines as Houston sends No. 21 South Florida tumbling from unbeaten ranks

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Houston did not have perhaps the best player in college football in uniform Saturday as All-American defensive tackle Ed Oliver was held out with a knee contusion. The Cougars still had the best player on the field in quarterback D’Eriq King, and that was more than enough.

The junior quarterback accounted for seven of Houston’s eight touchdowns as the Coogs blasted previously unbeaten No. 21 South Florida, 57-36.

King posted a career day, hitting 28-of-40 throws for 419 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions (one of those being an end-of-half Hail Mary) while rushing 12 times for a game-high 132 yards and two touchdowns.

In all, the Cougars rolled up 678 yards of total offense, averaging 7.79 yards on their 87 snaps while obtaining 35 first downs and converting 13-of-17 third downs.

Houston jumped out to a 14-0 lead before South Florida forged ties of 14-14 and 21-21 in the second quarter. Each time the Bulls pulled close, however, King was there for an answer. After the 14-14 tie, King found Marquez Stevenson for a 38-yard touchdown, their second such connection of the first half. When USF pulled even at 21-21, King hit Courtney Lark for a 30-yard touchdown with a minute left in the first half.

After South Florida lodged a safety and a field goal to pull within 28-26 early in the third quarter, King led the Cougars on an 8-play, 75-yard drive, capped by a 36-yard scoring rush, his second of the day.

South Florida responded with a 25-yard field goal to make the score 35-29, but King hit Jeremy Stevenson for a 52-yard touchdown pass, and Stevenson then caught the ensuing 2-point conversion to push the lead to 14.

Blake Barnett (288 total yards, one touchdown) closed the third quarter with a 39-yard scoring strike to DeAngelo Antoine to pull South Florida back within 43-36 to close the third quarter, which is seemingly where the Bulls wanted the game. South Florida entered Saturday 4-0 under Charlie Strong when trailing entering the fourth quarter.

But King engineered another 75-yard touchdown drive, this time allowing running back Mulbah Car to cross the threshold on an 11-yard rush.

King then added the capper at the 8:05 mark of the third quarter, hitting Raelon Singleton for a 27-yard touchdown pass.

The win announces Houston (7-1, 4-0 AAC) as a legitimate contender with No. 10 UCF in the American, while USF (7-1, 3-1 AAC) suffers the first loss they’ve spent all season flirting with.

Houston jumps up early, but No. 21 South Florida climbs back in it

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Houston jumped out to an early lead and looked like it would leave No. 21 South Florida in its dust.

The Cougars’ offense never really slowed down in the first half, but the Bulls’ attack picked up and the score sits 28-21 in Houston’s favor at the break.

Houston’s first two drives were nearly the same; the first covered 75 yards in seven snaps, the second 74 in eight. Both also ended in D’Eriq King touchdowns, first a 47-yard run and then a 15-yard toss to Marquez Stevenson.

After punting on its first three possessions, South Florida tied the game with consecutive scores. Jordan Cronkite punctuated a 15-play drive with a 1-yard plunge to pull the Bulls within seven at the 10:33 mark of the second quarter. South Florida needed only two plays to tie it from there — the first a Mekhi LaPointe interception of King, then, one play later, a 32-yard Johnny Ford run.

Houston then see-sawed back in front with the second pay dirt pass from King to Stevenson, this one 38 yards, but USF pulled even with another Ford touchdown run.

The Cougars closed the half with King’s third touchdown pass of the second half, a 30-yard fade to Courtney Lark. King closed the half hitting 16-of-22 passes for 232 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions (one on an end-of-half Hail Mary) while rushing a team-high seven times for 74 yards and a score.

South Florida will receive to open the second half.