An incredibly fun first half gave way to a multitude of nervous moments in the second half, but the Washington State Cougars held on to defeat the Iowa State Cyclones in the 2018 edition of the Valero Alamo Bowl.
As he has done all season, Gardner Minshew paced the Cougar offense, throwing for 299 yards and two touchdowns and adding another via his feet. He even finished the game as the leading rusher for the Cougs. True to the Air Raid, nine different receivers caught passes, with Dezmon Patmon leading the charge at 73 yards receiving, including a touchdown and the game-clinching catch in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, the Cougars forced three turnovers; two were via interceptions of Brock Purdy passes, and the third was an outright robbery by Peyton Pelluer of David Montgomery. The Cyclones running back ran for 124 yards, and the Cougar defense had no answer for Hakeem Butler, ISU’s standout wide receiver, who finished with nine catches for 192 yards. Purdy eclipsed 300 through the air and hurt the Cougs on the ground as well, scrambling for forty-six yards and scoring twice. But in the end, timely plays by the Cougar defense and just enough offense gave the Cougs the win in San Antonio.
The opening drive for the Cougs started with promise, before James Williams was stripped from behind and the Cyclones recovered at their own 45. Two plays later, #SpeedD responded with a Jalen Thompson pick of Purdy. An uncharacteristic drop by Easop Winston led to a three-and-out. Oscar Draguicevich drilled a beauty of a punt that was downed at the three yard line.
After a pass interference got the Iowa State offense out of jail, Purdy found Hakeem Butler for a big play across the middle. The Cyclones were on the cusp of field goal range when Marcus Strong jumped a route and picked off Purdy. After a penalty on the return (because football gods forbid a college kid have fun in a bowl game) the Cougs got the ball on the 20. Facing 3rd & 12, Gardner Minshew found Renard Bell all alone in the end zone for the opening points of the game.
The Cougar defense would yield a first down to a Brock Purdy scramble, but then used a Misiona Aiolupotea-Pei sack and a fantastic TFL by Hunter Dale to force an ISU punt. The ISU defense returned the favor, forcing a second Draguicevich punt. After Iowa State put together a nice drive, a huge sack by Marcus Strong put the Cyclones out of field goal range and bringing out the ISU punter again.
The next Cougar drive was highlighted by a chunk play to Dezmon Patmon across the middle and an appearance by AIR BOOBIE. It was also lowlighted by Minshew absorbing a targeting call that extended the drive. The Mississippi Mustache got his revenge later as he pulled a Houdini act to escape the pocket, then dove into the end zone for the second Wazzu score of the night.
Iowa State responded quickly, on a drive that belonged to Hakeem Butler. Two big catches put Iowa State on the doorstep, and Brock Purdy would find paydirt on a zone read. Travell Harris would jump start the subsequent Cougar drive by returning the kickoff to near midfield. A pair of Max Borghi catches combined with a Jamire Calvin catch-and-run put the Cougs in the red zone, where another targeting penalty set ISU coach Matt Campbell’s world on fire, and the two penalties put the Cougar offense at the four. A couple of negative plays gave Minshew enough room to find Patmon above and behind the ISU defense at the back of the end zone. The touchdown pass was the 38th on the season for Minshew, tying the single season record held by Luke Falk, who was pretty decent at the whole quarterback thing himself.
Iowa State kicker Connor Assalley closed out the first half with a 50-yard field goal, and the Cougars took a 21-10 lead into the locker room at the conclusion of a very entertaining first half. In addition to tying the passing touchdown record, Minshew would also leap Falk for the single season records in completions and total touchdowns before heading in for orange slices. Pretty okay body of work, IMO.
The Cyclones made quick work of the Cougar defense on their opening drive of the second half, with David Montgomery finding the end zone from eight yards out with less than three minutes having come off the clock. A weird chop block penalty scuttled the Cougs’ first drive of the half, and the Cyclones took over on the twenty after a well-placed Draguicevich punt just trickled into the end zone. Iowa State put together a long, time-consuming drive that ended with a 23-yard Assalley field goal, putting the score at 21-20 as the third quarter expired.
Iowa State put together another nice drive before #SpeedD finally decided to make an appearance in the second half, leading to a 49-yard field goal attempt that Assalley doinked off the upright. The offense could not capitalize, however, with a second consecutive three-and-out. The defense again rose to the occasion as Peyton Pelluer ripped the ball away from Montgomery for a turnover.
This time the offense was able to take advantage, but only after a touch of Mississippi Magic. Spinning out of a sack, Gardner Minshew flipped the ball forward to a crossing Davontavean Martin, who sprinted down the sideline to the ten.
Max Borghi did Max Borghi things on the next play, extending the Cougar lead to 28-20.
A questionable incomplete ruling led to a three-and-out for Iowa State, but a booming punt along with a penalty on the return set the Cougars up with less than ideal field position at the five. James Williams picked up a first down on the ground, but that was all the offense could muster, giving the ball back to ISU at its own 26. A well-designed fake QB power then pop pass to Montgomery put the Cyclones on the doorstep, and Brock Purdy would eventually punch it in to bring ISU within two. A procedure penalty on the ensuing conversion attempt backed ISU up to the eight, and David Montgomery was unable to escape the grasp of Willie Taylor, leaving the Cougars up two with four minutes to burn off the clock.
Two passes to Tay Martin gave the Cougars one first down, then a juggling catch by Dez Patmon on a back shoulder throw gave the Cougars the last first down they needed. (THE CLOCK RUNS WHEN YOU COMPLETE PASSES AIR RAID FOREVER.) It was Victory formation from there.
For the first time in program history, the Washington State Cougars have won 11 college football games in a single season. This season has been fun, controversial, cathartic, uplifting, maddeningly close to perfect, and downright amazing. It’s been a blast, and the Alamo Bowl victory is certainly the cherry on the top.
August 31, 2019, can’t come soon enough.