Note … Previews for CU’s opponents will be posted each week leading up to the start of Fall Camp … Previously posted: Colorado StateNebraskaAir ForceArizona StateArizonaOregon

2019 Game Seven – Colorado at Washington State, October 19th

Related … “Mike Leach has Washington State rolling” … from the Daily Camera

From the Daily Camera … A year ago, expectations were low for Washington State’s football team.

After losing the program’s all-time leading passer and featuring the Pac-12’s least experienced team, the Cougars seemed destined for their worst year since 2014.

Instead, head coach Mike Leach and quarterback Gardner Minshew directed the Cougars to a program-record 11 wins.

Minshew is gone after his one spectacular season on the Palouse, but Leach has got his program humming along entering his eighth season. This month, is previewing each of Colorado’s opponents, with this installment focusing on Washington State, which will host the Buffaloes on Oct. 19 in Pullman, Wash.

After years of struggles, Wazzu has become a consistent winner under Leach. The Cougars are one of only four teams in the conference to reach bowls in the last four years, along with Stanford, Utah and Washington. They have more wins in the last four years (37-15) than in the 10 years before that (36-85 from 2005-14).

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Last game between Colorado and Washington State – November 10, 2018

… Washington State 31, Colorado 7

Game Story … Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew completed 35-of-58 passes for 335 yards and two touchdowns, running for a third, leading the No. 10 Cougars to a 31-7 win over Colorado in Boulder.

The Cougars held the ball for 41:46 of game clock (to 18:14 for the Buffs), going for 477 total yards. The Buffs were held below 300 yards (297), and turned the ball over three times. Steven Montez went 20-of-35 for 199 yards, but was ineffective against the Cougar defense. Wide receiver Laviska Shenault returned for the first time in a month, collecting ten receptions for 102 yards, but had drops when the game was still in doubt, and later fumbled the ball away for the first time all season.

“Washington State is good team,” said Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre. “Minshew made some plays like he always does. I thought our guys came out and played extremely hard. I feel like if we had been able to get something going offensively, it might have been a different story.”

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… Essay for the game … “Win Out or Find A New Head Coach … I’ll Be Happy Either Way” … can be found here

2018 Washington State results – 11-2 (7-2 in Pac-12 play)

– 2018 Washington State National Rankings (Offense)

— Scoring – 15th (1st in the Pac-12) … 37.5 points per game  (Colorado scoring defense – 70th … 27.3 points per game)

— Rushing – 129th (last in the Pac-12) … 77.7 yards per game   (Colorado rushing defense – 44th … 145.6 yards per game)

— Passing – 1st (1st in the Pac-12) … 373.8 yards per game   (Colorado passing defense – 74th … 234.7 yards per game)

— Total – 27th (2nd in the Pac-12) … 451.5 yards per game  (Colorado total defense – 52nd … 380.3 yards per game)

– 2018 Washington State National Rankings (Defense) …

— Scoring – 42nd … 23.3 points per game  (Colorado scoring offense – 79th … 27.1 points per game)

— Rushing – 38th … 141.5 yards per game (Colorado rushing offense – 99th … 143.0 yards per game)

— Passing – 56th … 218.1 yards per game (Colorado passing offense – 45th … 249.6 yards per game)

— Total – 42nd … 359.5 yards per game  (Colorado total offense – 74th … 392.6 yards per game)

Washington State storylines … 

– Now starting at quarterback for the Cougars: (Fill in the blank) … 

Can Mike Leach pull it off again?

Under Leach, Washington State has gone from obscurity to a team which has made it to bowl games five of the past six seasons.

Quarterback play has been the key to the Cougars’ success, with Gardner Minshew’s one-year run last season a record-setting success. If one graduate transfer can produce the Pac-12’s single-season passing record, why not try again?

This year the job will most likely fall to Gage Gubrud, a former FCS All-American who accumulated over 11,000 yards of offense and over 100 touchdowns for Eastern Washington. Twice a Walter Payton Award finalist (the FCS Heisman), Gubrud already has experience playing in Pullman … in his first career start at Eastern Washington, he lead the Eagles to an upset win over the Cougars.

If Gubrud isn’t the answer, holdover seniors Anthony Gordon and Trey Tinsley are ready to step in. The pair duked it out this spring as Gubrud recovered from a foot injury.

While none of those names are familiar to most casual fans, opposing coaches know what magic Mike Leach can produce from the position.

After all, it was just last off-season when everyone was certain that Washington State would take a step back in 2018, due to the loss of longtime starter Luke Falk.

Players make plays

Quarterback Gage Gubrud (or Anthony Gordon, or Trey Tinsley) will have plenty of help in their attempt to fill Minshew’s shoes, with seven of WSU’s top eight receivers returning, including Dezmon Patmon (816 receiving yards, five touchdowns) and Davontavean Martin (685 receiving yards, eight touchdowns) leading the deep receiving corps.

As to the rushing attack, well, there isn’t much of one … at least on paper.

Max Borghi, a CU commit for four months two years ago, will be the feature back on an offense which finished second-to-last in the nation in rushing in 2018.

But the rushing totals don’t tell the whole story. In Mike Leach’s offense, pass receptions by the running backs (Borghi had 53 receptions for 371 yards and four touchdowns) are just as important as the handoffs (72 carries for 366 yards and eight touchdowns).

To put it simply, if teams are going to beat Cougars, they will have to out-score them … and that won’t be easy.

The often overlooked reason for Washington State’s recent run of success has been the improvement of the defense. Last year, for the fourth straight season, WSU trimmed the opponent’s scoring average, and improved in almost every other major statistical category.

True enough, one star is gone. After six years and 54 games, linebacker Peyton Pelluer has finally moved on. The Cougars do gain, however, nose tackle Lamonte McDougle – a freshman All-American at West Virginia who sat out a transfer year in 2018. Defending the back end is safety Jalen Thompson, a three-year starter at safety.

How the Buffs fit into the Cougars’ 2019 schedule

Washington State has a history of stumbling out of the gate, losing unexpectedly to inferior opponents in non-conference play.

If that happens in the first two games this year, Mike Leach may have to give up his springtime job of teaching the “Insurgent Warfare and Football Strategies”, as the Cougars are taking on New Mexico State (3-9 last season, with wins over UTEP, Liberty, and Alcorn State) and Northern Colorado (2-9 in 2018).

No chance WSU loses either of those games.

The schedule then gets a little dicey, with five of the next seven games on the road. In game three, the Cougars will take on the other Cougars, the Houston variety, a team which finished 8-5 last season (but returns only five starters on defense) as their other non-conference game.

Washington State opens Pac-12 play at home against UCLA in a game which will tell us a great deal about both teams. After the game against the Bruins on September 21st, however, the Cougars don’t play at home again until November 16th.

Check that … the Cougars do have one home game in that stretch of eight weeks, and that will be against the Buffs on October 19th (with two bye weeks). Two road games, against Utah and Arizona State, followed by two more road games, against Oregon and Cal, sandwich the CU game.

So, that’s the teams which finished first and second in the South last year, both on the road, then CU, then a game against Oregon on the road.

If you were a Cougar fan, which of those would you see as the guaranteed win?

Bottom Line

Bar bet winner: Which team in the Pac-12 currently has a three-game winning streak over Stanford and a four-game winning streak over Oregon?

Yup. Washington State.

But for a six-game losing streak against Washington, the nation would be falling all over itself in praise of the budding dynasty Mike Leach is building in the Palouse.

Want another stat to impress your friends?

In the last four seasons, Washington State has won 37 games.

In the previous ten seasons, Washington State won 36 games.

Colorado fans can only hope for such a turnaround in Boulder under Mel Tucker (in case you were wondering, CU has won 42 games in the past ten seasons).

The odds seem stacked against Colorado defeating Washington State in Pullman this October. The current Colorado defensive lineup doesn’t stack up well against the Washington State offense, and the Buff offense has struggled recently against the Cougar defense (exactly seven points in the past two games).

That being said, you don’t know what condition the teams will be in come October 19th. Washington State could be reeling from road losses to Houston, Utah and Arizona State, or could be caught looking ahead to their Pac-12 North tilt on the road against Oregon.

Plus, there’s this from the “who knows what will happen” file.

Under Jon Embree in 2012, the Buffs hit their nadir, going 1-11.

The one win?

Against Washington State in Pullman.


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