From GameDay to game time, dawn until dusk — and well afterward, no doubt — a magical Saturday in Pullman is now complete and the western hills of Washington may never be the same for it.
Though it wasn’t easy at times, No. 25 Washington State held the lead from start to finish of a 34-20 upset over No. 12 Oregon to set off a raucous celebration for the Cougars across Martin Stadium as Mike Leach’s band of underdogs temporarily took control atop the Pac-12 North and capped off a historic day for the school.
Following up a historic visit from ESPN’s College GameDay in the morning for the first time ever in the show’s history, the Palouse was rocking for one of the biggest games in years and the Cougars didn’t disappoint outside of an early interception on their first drive. Aside from that mistake though, QB Gardner Minshew was phenomenal running the Air Raid under the primetime lights and introduced the rest of the country to his amazing ‘stache and quick release with a 323 yard effort with four touchdowns and a final tally of two picks. While his opposite number came in as the darling of NFL scouts, it was the East Carolina graduate transfer who took center stage and was able to spread the ball around quite effectively with nine different players recording a catch.
His two teammates in the backfield also played a big role too as Max Borghi had 91 total yards (one receiving score) and starter James Williams added 95 more with a touchdown on the ground where he missed a good six tackles before diving past the pylon. All-in-all, an incredible effort for Wazzu on both sides of the ball even if things slipped a bit in the second half after heading into the locker room at the break up 27 points.
While the Cougars celebrated amid a full on field storming after the game, their opponents have to rue another missed opportunity to make a move in the conference just a week after celebrating a massive win of their own against Washington. QB Justin Herbert threw for only 270 yards and a touchdown (along with one on the ground) but essentially was the entire offense for the Ducks and was unable to lean at all on any sort of run game. CJ Verdell rushed for only 55 yards and star receiver Dillon Mitchell had one of his quietest nights of the year with just seven catches for 47 yards.
Factor in the loss to Stanford earlier on and the result likely ended any hopes of making it to Santa Clara for the conference title game for Mario Cristobal’s club and certainly put to bed that faint talk of the team being a College Football Playoff sleeper.
While it’s too early to start dreaming of a visit to Levi’s Stadium just yet for Leach’s squad, the team will make the trek to the Bay Area next weekend in a big test to see just how well they can handle this kind of success. The Cougars have now won four straight over Oregon and that Apple Cup to end the regular season is looming larger and larger both in the Pac-12 and nationally given the way October has shook up the standings in one of the wilder divisions in college football.
Coug fans can ponder all that later — Saturday night in Pullman was all about celebrating a day that will be fondly remembered in school history for years to come.