Undeterred by a strong wind that seemed to mess with the Air Raid all day, the Washington State Cougars used a dominant performance by their defense to stifle the Colorado Buffaloes and march to a 31-7 victory in Boulder.
The Cougs, ranked No. 8 in the College Football Playoff, matched last season’s win total by moving to 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the Pac-12. The Buffaloes suffered their fifth straight defeat, falling to 5-5 and 2-5.
Gardner Minshew II didn’t have his most prolific performance, but it was certainly good enough: 35-of-58 (60.3%) for 335 yards and three total touchdowns, including one on the ground. Dezmon Patmon led the receivers with eight catches for 103 yards.
But the focus really should be on the defense, which turned in a special effort. Colorado gained just 297 yards overall, and perhaps more importantly, the Cougars took the ball away a trio of times.
The Cougars led by just three points at halftime as they struggled to move the ball consistently. It was a windy day in Boulder, and it really seemed to screw with Minshew’s throws early. With the wind blowing across the field, a handful of throws to one side sailed; a handful of throws to the other side seemed to flutter.
Meanwhile, the Buffs were putting on some pressure on the strength of one 64-yard run by Travon McMillian that brought Colorado to the WSU 3-yard-line. McMillian punched it in on the next play, and the Buffs had a 7-0 lead.
The result of the conditions was that Minshew seemed to not always trust his eyes. A handful of throws that could have resulted in explosive touchdowns were just a tad late and/or affected by the wind, and the offense could score just one lone touchdown: A 28-yard swing pass to Max Borghi, which gave WSU a 10-7 lead.
The teams traded a half-dozen punts, WSU failed to convert on fourth down for the second time in the half, and the Cougs took a three-point lead into the break.
The second half, though, started much more fortunately for the Cougs, thanks to one of those aforementioned turnovers. On the second play of the half, Jahad Woods stripped McMillian and Peyton Pelluer recovered at the Colorado 32.
That was what the offense needed to get going a little bit. With the exception of a 12-yard gain by Patmon, it was small gains that took WSU down to the Colorado 1. That’s when Minshew found Renard Bell — who had saved the drive by recovering a Borghi fumble on the play before — on a his signature goal line out route for a TD that gave WSU a 17-7 lead.
Turns out, that would be more than enough, thanks to the defense. The Cougs forced punts on Colorado’s next three drives — meanwhile the offense had scored another TD on a tremendous scramble from Minshew — before generating yet another turnover when Laviska Shenault Jr. dropped the ball in space and Pelluer pounced again.
Speaking of Shenault, the Cougs did a great job of limiting him, too. He did have 10 catches for 102 yards and another run for 18 yards, but he never had a play longer than that 18-yarder.
WSU would tack on another TD on the following drive to erase any doubt — as if there was any — when James Williams took it in from three yards out to cap a 13-play, 64-yard drive that took more than six minutes.
In all, WSU out-possessed Colorado more than two-to-one, holding onto the ball for more than 40 minutes.
The Cougars now return home to face the Arizona Wildcats, time and broadcast outlet still to be announced.