WSU moved to 4-3 overall and 1-3 in the Pac-12, while Colorado dropped to 3-4 and 1-3.
The most noteworthy development of the game was the return of excellent play from the defense. Despite giving up a modicum of yards at various moments, WSU avoided the huge plays that had plagued them and held the Buffs to just 320 yards overall and took the ball away three times, as Colorado was never really in the game.
Fans clamoring for more of Max Borghi got their wish, as the sophomore from the state of Colorado turned 21 touches into 167 yards and two touchdowns, with 105 of those yards coming on the ground — his third 100-yard rushing game of the season, making him the first Coug to do that in one season since Jerome Harrison in 2005.
Anthony Gordon, meanwhile, threw for another 369 yards on 35-of-51 with four touchdowns and an interception. Brandon Arconado returned to the lineup to lead the Cougs with 109 receiving yards and a TD. Dezmon Patmon and Tay Martin each also hauled in touchdowns.
The game got off to the best possible start for WSU. Colorado elected to receive, drove just 39 yards, then settled for a field goal attempt that was pulled to the left. The Cougs moved down to the Buffaloes’ 4-yard line thanks to 30-yard gain by Easop Winston Jr., and three plays later Gordon found Borghi in the flat as he trotted into the end zone.
Colorado’s second drive ended on just its second play and in the most improbable way: Skyler Thomas jumped in front of a sideline route to grab just the fourth interception of the season for the Cougs, setting up the offense on the Buffs’ 26-yard line. A holding call by Liam Ryan on first down upped the degree of difficulty, but Gordon found Arconado for 13 yards, then Patmon took a slant to the house from 22 yards and it was 14-0.
Down two touchdowns, the Buffs felt the need to go into their bag of tricks — they used Laviska Shenault Jr. in the wildcat to convert a third down, then used a flea flicker to pick up 29 yards down to WSU’s 20. After giving up a first down run on the next play, the Cougs came up big, allowing the Buffs to gain just three yards. Colorado coach Mel Tucker elected to kick a field goal from WSU’s 7-yard line, and it was 14-3.
That was a bad choice, because five plays later, Borghi was back in the end zone again — this time on a 47-yard run in which he bounced it outside, stepped out of a tackle or two, and dragged a defender over the goal line. Leading 21-3, WSU’s offense was gaining 11.1 yards per play and appeared to be unstoppable.
It would end up not being unstoppable, but that wasn’t nearly the problem on Saturday that it had been in the past three games because the defense — yes, the defense — stepped up, looking like it had in past years, giving up yards but using timely negative plays to prevent points.
Colorado drove down to WSU’s 28, but a sack by Karson Block put the Buffs in 3rd-and-17, then more pressure forced a throw away before James Stefanou missed another long field goal. The offense had a chance to truly put some distance between themselves and their opponents, but the drive stalled out when Borghi was stopped for a loss on 3rd and 1 and then Gordon’s scramble came up a few yards short.
But the defense did it again: After the Buffs used a power running game to again get into the red zone, 3rd-and-7 turned into a disaster when Steven Montez rolled out to the right to escape pressure and heaved a ball into the end zone, which George Hicks III picked off to end the threat.
Each team traded three-and-outs — if you’re keeping track, that was five of the first six drives resulting in zero Colorado points! — and WSU had one more chance to get into the end zone again before half. The result was a quick drive down to Colorado’s 3-yard-line that featured 30 yards on four touches by Borghi, a 25-yard catch and run by Arconado, and a 12-yard catch and run by Travell Harris. It looked as if the TD was secured when Tay Martin beat his defender, but Gordon’s pass whistled through his hands. Two incompletions later, WSU settled for a short field goal to take a 24-3 lead into the locker room.
The weather got a little worse in the 3rd quarter, and so did the offenses, which went punt-punt-punt before the Buffs finally found the end zone on their ninth drive of the night. It was keyed by a Shenault 24-yard catch-and-run that was spurred on by a missed tackle in space, then was finished off a few plays later when Shenault again took the direct snap and ran it in from 6 yards out.
With Colorado closing to within two touchdowns, 24-10, the Cougs finally woke back up on offense. They took it from their own 19 into Colorado’s territory without ever facing a third down, then Gordon found Arconado over the top on a slant-and-go for a 44-yard TD. Colorado went three-and-out on the next drive after being unable to get out of a hole created by a holding penalty, and WSU went right back to work from its own 35-yard line.
What ensued is one of the most clinical Air Raid drives you’ll ever see. It started with an incompletion and then went:
- Gordon to Borghi for 9
- Gordon scramble for 4
- Gordon to Patmon for 8
- Borghi for 3
- Gordon to Harris for 17
- Gordon to Bell for 11
- Gordon to Bell for 12
- Gordon to Martin for 1 — TOUCHDOWN
And, at 38-10, the rout was finally on.
Up next for the Cougs is a trip to Eugene to face the Oregon Ducks. That game will kick off next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. PT on ESPN.