The Oregon State Beavers threw everything they had on offense and special teams at the Washington State Cougars on Saturday night, and for a while, it kept them close. But there’s no way to trick your way to defense, and the Air Raid scored touchdowns on its final five possessions as the Cougs rolled to a 56-37 victory in Corvallis.
WSU is now 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-12 as it heads into its bye week. OSU drops to 1-5 and 0-3.
Gardner Minshew II threw for 430 yards and five touchdowns on 30-of-40 passing as the WSU offense racked up 530 yards and scored TDs on seven of its nine possessions. Tay Martin caught eight passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns and James Williams gained 134 yards from scrimmage on 14 touches with a touchdown. Easop Winston Jr. caught seven passes for 99 yards.
The defense? Well ... let’s just say the WSU defense did enough to let the offense win the game and leave it at that, considering the Cougs only outgained the Beavers by 32 yards.
Oddly, the contest couldn’t have started much better for the Cougs than it did, who marched down the field in just three plays on their first drive to score the game’s first touchdown, capped by Minshew finding Renard Bell all alone in the back of the end zone.
WSU’s defense held OSU to a three and out on the ensuing possession, and then this happened:
BLOCKED. TOUCHDOWN.@WSUCougFB doin' work early— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) October 7, 2018
Watch #WSUvsOSU on us: https://t.co/1PXHqxK9Vd pic.twitter.com/rODP2gToY2
It was the first career punt block for Kainoa Wilson, and the first career TD for Tristan Brock. According to WSU’s sports information department, it was the first blocked punt returned for a touchdown since 2003, when Jeremy Bohannon returned a Jason Hill blocked punt four yards for a TD.
But then, as always seems to happen when WSU travels to Corvallis, things got weird as OSU coach Jonathan Smith pulled out every single high variance trick he could think of to try and pull off the upset.
The Beavers answered with 14-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in which they converted a pair of fourth down chances, including an 11-yard completion on 4th-and-10 from the WSU 29. The Cougar offense, which hadn’t seen the field in about seven minutes of game time, misfired and went three and out.
OSU could only move just across midfield on the next drive and initially looked to be going for it again on 4th-and-7 from the WSU 47, but Conor Blount dropped back a few yards for the quick kick. Caught with their defensive personnel on the field, WSU safety Jalen Thompson dropped deep to try and field the punt. That turned out to be a really bad decision; his lunching attempt failed, OSU recovered at WSU’s 7. One play later, Jermar Jefferson was in the end zone for the second time.
The Cougs figured it out the next drive, covering 80 yards in just seven plays, capped by this beauty from Minshew to Tay Martin:
Do your thing Martin! #GoCougs pic.twitter.com/EKFpAO9w0L— WSU Cougar Football (@WSUCougFB) October 7, 2018
On the next kickoff, Smith — who was the offensive coordinator under Chris Petersen at Washington — went to his bag of tricks:
How's this for a special teams wrinkle?#GoBeavs pic.twitter.com/LLcCP871Io— Oregon State Football (@BeaverFootball) October 7, 2018
That led to a short drive and a field goal, cutting the WSU lead to 21-17. The Cougars gave the ball right back after a three and out, and after Wilson aided them with a questionable personal foul — the whistle calling the returner out of bounds was late, and Wilson had already begun his hit — Smith went back to the tricks.
How 'bout a little @BeaverFootball Trickeration?— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) October 7, 2018
The double handoff leads to Trevon Bradford's 56-yard run. (Capped off with Jermar Jefferson's THIRD touchdown of the half, of course )
Watch: https://t.co/1PXHqxK9Vd pic.twitter.com/7Yt1doiGJf
Two plays later, Jefferson was in the end zone a third time.
But the Jekyll and Hyde WSU offense was back on its good stuff again, as the Cougars closed out the half with a 12-play, 78-yard touchdown drive — one that looked like it was in big trouble after a fumbled QB/RB exchange led to 2nd and goal from the OSU 15 — that ended with this spectacular effort from James Williams:
We see you Williams #GoCougs pic.twitter.com/eEqoM6jeA1— WSU Cougar Football (@WSUCougFB) October 7, 2018
Despite all of the baloney Smith threw at WSU — and despite the fact that the WSU defense couldn’t do anything to get off the field, giving up conversions on seven of 10 chances to end OSU drives — the Cougs still held a four-point lead at the half, 28-24.
The baloney didn’t stop after halftime, though. OSU returned the kickoff to WSU’s 43, then went on to march 43 yards in eight plays for — what else? — a Jefferson TD, his fourth of the game. There were a pair of times it appeared WSU might have generated a turnover in the red zone — once when Peyton Pelluer jumped a bubble screen and it appeared the ball was traveling backward, later when Jahad Woods appeared to dislodge the ball as Jefferson was falling to the ground inside the five — but neither were called fumbles on the field, and the video evidence wasn’t compelling enough to overturn either of them.
But the special teams juju turned in favor of WSU. OSU missed the PAT, and then on the ensuing kickoff, a 15-yard face mask penalty set the Cougs up in excellent field position. The sledding was a little tougher this time around — WSU averaged a whopping 8.8 yards per play in the first half — but WSU still found the end zone, covering 56 yards in 11 plays. It looked precarious when Easop Winston Jr. dropped a sure touchdown in the end zone, leaving WSU with 4th-and-1 from the OSU 4. But Max Borghi converted, and he was in the end zone from one yard out on the next play.
The WSU defense finally was able to get a stop, and the WSU offense continued its roll, hitting four plays of 13 yards or more on their way to yet another TD — a beautiful slant from Minshew to Travell Harris on a man beater where Jamire Calvin ran a nice little bit of interference:
Another one...we don't mind! #GoCougs pic.twitter.com/8RtTQNWMm2— WSU Cougar Football (@WSUCougFB) October 7, 2018
Again, OSU refused to back down. On the first play, the Beavers went with a deep drop play action and Blount found Timmy Hernandez behind Darrien Molton — who was picked on by OSU all night — for a 46-yard gain. But the Beavers’ fumble luck finally ran out, as Taylor Comfort stripped Jefferson inside the 10-yard line and Thompson recovered the ball in the end zone.
With an opportunity to take any further drama out of the game, WSU delivered. First, Minshew found Bell for 33 yards, then — after a short run and a couple of short completions picked up a first down — Minshew found Martin in the end zone for the second time in a remarkably similar fashion: One-on-one, back shoulder.
Gardner Minshew— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) October 7, 2018
Tay Martin for the TD@WSUCougFB extends their lead! Watch on us: https://t.co/1PXHqxK9Vd pic.twitter.com/Orjs92m0In
Borghi then finished the night with another TD:
Another one for Borghi! #GoCougs pic.twitter.com/Q1CHJpft6G— WSU Cougar Football (@WSUCougFB) October 7, 2018