The No. 22 Washington State Cougars rolled up another easy victory to move to 2-0 on the young season, cruising past the Northern Colorado Bears, 59-17.
Although the offense was still plenty explosive — Anthony Gordon threw for 11.9 yards per pass on his way to 464 yards and four touchdowns as the Cougs bested their TD output from a week ago — this one was a little rougher around the edges than the opener against the New Mexico State Aggies, as Gordon threw his first interception, there were a couple of drops, and the defense suffered from a plethora of missed tackles.
The defense wound up giving up 355 yards and a couple of touchdowns, including more than 200 yards on the ground (although UNC needed 54 carries to get there), so it was hardly the step forward many were hoping for after NMSU moved the ball effectively at times last week.
And yet, as expected, the Cougars were never really in danger of being threatened. The Cougs went up 7-0 when Gordon capped WSU’s first drive with this short TD to Easop Winston Jr.:
The Bears came back to score on the next drive to tie the game, though, fueled by two things: A busted play by Marcus Strong, who overran a receiver and allowed a 37-yard gain, and then the legs of running back Milo Hall — the 5-foot-8 dynamo proved extremely difficult for the defense to bring down, rushing for 33 yards on the drive. That included an 11-yard TD run in which the Cougars looked like they — if you didn’t know any better — were actually trying to let him score.
But WSU came right back when Max Borghi capped an 8-play, 75-yard drive with this familiar sight:
UNC moved the ball again on the next drive, but the magical Mike Leach defense timeout worked, and Jahad Woods stripped the ball — even as he was badly out of position — and Ron Stone Jr. recovered the ball to end the threat. It was one of four fumble takeaways for the Cougs.
Gordon put his foot on the gas, finding Tay Martin for 25 yards, then two plays later finding Brandon Arconado for 39 yards, then Borghi did his thing again, punching it in from two yards out to give WSU a 21-7 lead.
It felt like if the Cougs could get a stop, it might turn into the runaway train it was last week. And that’s exactly what WSU got, forcing a punt, but the Cougs misfired on the next drive, and the rest of the half was full of fits and starts for both teams — a short punt from Oscar Draguicevich III followed by a short drive from UNC led to a long field goal to close the gap to 21-10, the next WSU drive ended with Gordon’s first interception when he never saw the dropping middle linebacker, but UNC gave the ball back in its own territory with a fumble just a few plays later.
WSU had a chance to put some more space between it and the Bears by halftime, but with 51 seconds remaining, the Cougs couldn’t quite get there: Gordon drove them down to the 3-yard line, but he overthrew Brandon Arconado in the end zone, and Blake Mazza hit a 20-yard field goal to make the margin 24-10.
If anyone was uncomfortable, or if the Bears were entertaining any serious thoughts of an upset, the Cougars put that to rest in the first half of the third quarter.
First WSU drive: Seven plays, 75 yards, touchdown — the Cougs find the end zone on a beautiful fade from Gordon to Easop Winston Jr. to make it 31-10.
First UNC drive: Three plays, minus-6 yards, punt.
Second WSU drive: Five plays, 50 yards, touchdown — Gordon found Fisher for 18 yards to get to the 3-yard line, and the Cougs again found the end zone on the next play when Borghi powered in to make it 38-10.
Second UNC drive: Three plays, 24 yards, turnover.
Third WSU drive: Three plays, 49 yards, touchdown — after two passes to Winston totalling 44 yards, Gordon finally got Arconado his TD from five yards out to make it 45-10.
Third UNC drive: Nine plays, 69 yards, turnover on downs when the Cougs stoned them on the one-yard line.
Whatever drama was left was gone at that point.
The Cougs would score a couple of more TDs — Trey Tinsley’s first and then Deon McIntosh’s first, an electric run from 32 yards out that made him WSU leading rusher, oddly enough — and UNC would add another touchdown when Cole Ingersoll busted through WSU’s third and fourth stringers for a 28-yard scamper.
Arconado, by the way, had the best day of his career, catching eight passes for 127 yards and a touchdown, while Winston also went over the century mark with 113 yards to go with his pair of touchdowns.
The Cougs now have a short week before heading south to face the Houston Cougars on Friday night. The game kicks off at 6:15 p.m. PT and it will be broadcast on ESPN.