Behind near flawless quarterbacking from new starter Anthony Gordon, the No. 23 Washington State Cougars had little trouble in their season opener, flattening the New Mexico State Aggies, 58-7.
All eyes were on Gordon from the start, and when he said earlier in the week that he was “starving for this opportunity” and ready for his moment, he definitely wasn’t kidding: Gordon finished the first half 22-of-23 for 330 yards and four touchdowns (to four different receivers), leading the Cougars to TDs on all five of their drives (Max Borghi punched in the other one).
For a minute, it appeared Gordon would threaten Luke Falk’s record for consecutive completions (21), as Gordon delivered dart after dart to his receivers, but a drop by Brandon Arconado midway through the second quarter ended that.
The most noteworthy part of Gordon’s performance is the ease with which he orchestrated it. He was quick and decisive on his throws, and it wasn’t like he was just throwing to safety — this was his first TD:
4️⃣1️⃣ yards.— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) September 1, 2019
The Anthony Gordon era is off to a hot start.
Watch @WSUCougarFB ➡️ https://t.co/wKz7fK5zeh pic.twitter.com/uQMfR9nykx
Yes, that was to Rodrick Fisher, whose strong fall camp paid off with the first start of his career — and first catch, and first touchdown, all on the first drive.
He also had touchdowns of 48 yards ...
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) September 1, 2019
No one catching Dezmon Patmon! #Pac12FB
Watch @WSUCougarFB ➡️ https://t.co/wKz7fK5zeh pic.twitter.com/XVYOz3ARF2
... and 56 yards:
Does @WSUCougarFB know how to NOT score touchdowns?— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) September 1, 2019
Watch #NMSUvsWSU ➡️ https://t.co/wKz7fK5zeh pic.twitter.com/KgZKEYebJH
The defense, meanwhile, looked ... shaky. It wasn’t bad, per se, but the defensive line was getting pushed around a bit, the receivers had some space to work, and players seemed to be out of position at times. The Aggies only scored one touchdown — and even that shouldn’t have been allowed to stand, since the ball popped out after the runner’s forearm hit the ground at the half yard line, only to be recovered and run in by the QB — but WSU’s defense gave up close to 200 yards in the first half.
It wasn’t enough to keep NMSU in the game, but it was enough to make fans feel a little uncomfortable with the showing early on.
After the break, the defense settled in, but the offense started to cool — it seems, mostly, due to what appeared to be a cut on the tip of Gordon’s middle finger on his throwing hand that necessitated tape after he got drilled by an unblocked blitzer. Gordon then missed a handful of throws, including overthrowing a wide open Renard Bell in the end zone from about 30 yards out.
He exited the game midway through a drive late in the third quarter, giving way to Gage Gubrud’s debut at WSU. Gordon — who apparently was fine, despite the odd timing of his departure — finished 29-of-35 for 420 yards with five touchdowns and zero interceptions to stake his claim to the Pac-12 offensive player of the week award.
Gubrud went on to play a handful of series, completing 9-of-11 passes for 76 yards and a TD. Trey Tinsley played one series, completing 1-of-3 passes for 11 yards.
Dezmon Patmon led the Cougs in receiving with 103 yards on 7 catches, including the above touchdown, while Max Borghi piled up 128 yards on the ground on just 10 carries, including an electric 54-yarder. Ten different receivers caught passes
On the down side, linebacker Jahad Woods left the game with an apparent shoulder injury. He did not return and the extent of the injury is not known.
The Cougs will welcome FCS Northern Colorado in game two next Saturday for a 2 p.m. kickoff, also on Pac-12 Network. New Mexico State heads to Tuscaloosa to face the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Oh, and Clay Markoff had five carries for seven yards. I’ve never been so happy to lose a bet. Go Cougs!