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The Good, Bad and Ugly of WSU’s win over Stanford

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Let me know if you’ve begun to breathe yet.

Washington State v Stanford Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Letdown? Letdown??!! I’ll tell where you can go and stick your letdown. Your Washington State Cougars went down to Palo Alto to face the Stanford Cardinal on Saturday afternoon and, for the second straight time, left with a victory. The beginning and end were pretty darn good. That middle, though, was fraught with peril. There were times when it felt like the Stanford receivers were the junior high kids who showed up at the elementary school dodge ball game and threw face shot after face shot at the little kids.

As we’ve seen all season, however, this is one resilient WSU football team. Despite the fact that they seemed nearly helpless to stop Stanford in the first half, and despite the fact that the offense went into an incredibly ill-timed lull simultaneously, the Cougs battled back behind their equal parts ballsy/fearless/talented leader, Gardner Minshew II. My man just does not care what the score or situation is. He’s gonna take his team down the field and get points. It’s an amazing thing to watch.

Saturday night cemented it for me - this is my favorite Cougar team since the 1997 Rose Bowl squad. There have been some good ones between then and now, but I love these guys. Let’s get to it.

The Good

  • Can’t say enough how proud I am of this team’s resiliency.
  • That starts with the head coach and the quarterback. I wrote earlier this week that if Mike Leach won this game, he’s the Pac-12 Coach of the Year. You will not get me off that stance.
  • Gardner Minshew, I ran out of superlatives for you a couple weeks ago. You are simply incredible. 19 straight completions to open the second half? Not bad!
  • That third down pass to Jamire Calvin was a perfect example of Minshew’s chutzpah. He had Renard Bell open for a first down and was like “nah, I’m going deep.”
  • Ok a little more - I’d prefer that you not try to hurdle anyone, Gardner, but the fourth down sneak, when you appeared to be stopped and plowed forward, was a thing of beauty.
  • Related - I am not about to mess with Flint Minshew. Dude looks like he can handle himself.
  • Welcome back to the spotlight, Jamire Calvin. Two of his three catches were gigiantic. His pinball job late in the first half set up a field goal that would prove critical. Then he got open on WSU’s winning drive and made a tough catch in traffic. So happy he got a shot to make some plays.
  • Speaking of making plays, Dezmon Patmon is a damn beast on the outside. With Paulson Adebo locking down the other side, Minshew went to Patmon repeatedly, and Patmon delivered.
  • Another great performance by the offensive line. Yeah, there were a couple penalties that need to be avoided, but only one sack allowed, and Minshew had an eternity on several passes.
  • The notorious third quarter blues were not nearly as bad Saturday. WSU scored on its opening drive out of the locker room, and ended the quarter on the Stanford 28, enroute to the tying touchdown.
  • That play design on the Max Borghi touchdown was pure artistry. Stanford pinched down to blitz, and they never had a chance. Perfect block by Easop WInston, too, but the play was so wide open that Borghi probably walks in regardless.
  • Two more rushing touchdowns inside the five. It’s really hard to run down there, and WSU continues to do it effectively.
  • Finally won the turnover battle, and that one turnover the defense generated was a biggie.
  • 10 players had at least two catches. Let’s do a little Air Raid’n!
  • In a game that featured offense upon offense, it felt like the defense just needed to get one darn stop. When Stanford decided to go for it at the WSU 32, tied at 31, I thought they’d convert easily. But the defense bowed up when it had to, getting that one stop and helping WSU get back in the lead.
  • For being relatively undersized, the Cougar defense sure performed well in short yardage.
  • Misiona Ailoupotea-Pei has really started to play well inside.
  • Peyton Pelluer was once again the defense’s best player. So happy he got another year.
  • Great to see Nnamdi Oguayo back out there. Please stay healthy, Nnamdi.
  • Only 10 points allowed in the second half after a ghastly first half. The defense somehow finds a way after halftime.
  • If Gardner Minshew II has balls the size of church bells, Blake Mazza’s are at least next door in the chapel tower.

The Bad

  • Not sure if I should start with the defensive backs or the officials. The latter wins. I understand that WSU’s DBs were overmatched, and I concede that there were a few instances where they clearly interfered. But it quickly devolved to the point where a Stanford receiver would maul a WSU DB, and the WSU player would get flagged. There was at least one other where the ref clearly anticipated interference that never occurred, but he threw a flag anyway. Complete incompetence.
  • Stanford had six rushing first downs, one more than they received via penalty.
  • And now, the defensive backs: We knew going in to this game that WSU was going to have a tough time in this area. It didn’t help that their best cover corner, Sean Harper Jr., was out once again. But there were still several instances where even decent coverage would have been enough. Darrien Molton continues to panic when the ball is in the air, and somebody completely blew the coverage on Stanford’s final touchdown. There’s no excuse for letting Stanford’s best receiver, who is like nine feet tall, get so wide open.
  • Stanford’s offensive line isn’t what it was, and WSU had a nearly nonexistent pass rush.
  • Nit-picky, but there were multiple instances during that offensive lull where Stanford was begging WSU to run the ball, and WSU said “nah.”
  • Great punt by Oscar Draguicevich, until the part where Stanford returned it 39 yards. Kyle Celli, stop running straight down the field with your head down. You could have prevented the whole thing.

The Ugly

  • Great for WSU, ugly for Stanford - David Shaw, your offense couldn’t be stopped in the first half. All you had to do was keep throwing vertically up the seams and along the sidelines. It was almost guaranteed to either result in a catch or a flag. You outsmart yourself more than any other coach.

And with that, our beloved Cougars sit at 7-1, alone in first place in the Pac-12 North, and the only one-loss team in the conference. I’m not sure even the most myopic among us could have foreseen this. There’s another tough test just around the corner, though, as Cal comes to town fresh off a defeat of Washington. You think Minshew cares? Me neither. Go Cougs.

Football

Analysis: No. 14 Washington State uses second-half surge to claw back, top 24th-ranked Stanford | The Spokesman-Review
WSU quite easily could’ve been the next victim on a bizarre day for the Pac-12 – one that saw Cal upset No. 15 UW, Oregon State stun Colorado for its first road win in four years and USC lose in the Coliseum for the first time in 19 games.

In aerial showcase, Washington State edges Stanford on late field goal - SFGate
“Crunch-time situation — give it to Minshew,” Stanford head coach David Shaw said. “That’s an unbelievable throw down the middle. About 6 inches off either way, and it’s incomplete.”

Stanford opens it up, but falls short - SFGate
Amid the cries of triumph from Washington State players making their way to the locker room, one in particular stood out. "Mazza, baby!”

Saturday Night Five: Upsets rule a wild day in the Pac-12
Washington State rallied from a 28-14 deficit to outlast Stanford and collect its third consecutive win in the series.

No. 14 Washington State takes control in Pac-12 North
Cougars' win over No. 24 Stanford, combined with No. 15 Washington's loss to Cal, puts them alone atop division

John Blanchette: In unpredictable Pac-12, Washington State continues to be the cream of the crop | The Spokesman-Review
There were a lot of 6-6s projected, or maybe five wins and you could even find a 3-9 prediction or two out there, though that seemed the fuzziest of math when you looked at Wazzu’s nonconference schedule.

Washington State’s Blake Mazza nails first game-winning field goal of career in win over Stanford | The Spokesman-Review
“I’ve been screaming all week, preparing Mazza – Blake Mazza – in practice,” Borghi explained. “We were actually screaming at the kickers to give them that pressure feeling and I was going at it there.”

This Week in Parenting

Mrs. Kendall reports that the seven year-old showed immense bravery while getting his flu shot. And by “showed immense bravery” I mean acted as if he were just handed a blindfold and cigarette. Things got better when the Halloween costumes came in the mail.

Beer

Best beer I had this week: It was this one, and not just because it was the Victory Beer! Cigar City’s Marshall Zhukov’s Imperial Stout is actually really good. I found it in a box in the beer store and pulled one out before they even had a chance to put it on the shelf. I ain’t scared.

The Best 18 Beers of 2018 | Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine
We were busy this past year tasting beers that were sent to our office, shared at a bar, brewery or pub, and poured at festivals around the world. It’s difficult but rewarding work and we’re pleased to present our editors picks for top beers of 2018.

Non-Sports

A ‘Sugar Date’ Gone Sour - The New York Times
In the fuzzy space between jobs and relationships, there’s a lot that can go wrong.