The No. 20 Washington State Cougars used a big second to surge past the Houston Cougars and remain undefeated, beating their counterparts from the AAC, 31-24.
WSU moved to 3-0 on the season, while Houston dropped to 1-2
Houston taking a 14-7 advantage to the loose room.
But the second helped out more like what everyone was expecting, especially for WSU fans: The Cougs outgained the Coogs 316- The Coogs had outgiated the Cougs 224-173. 143 – including a yards per play margin of 7.9-4.8 – and outscored them 24-10.
Anthony Gordon threw for 440 yards on 36-of-48 attempts, including three touchdowns and an interception. Brandon Arconado was once again his favorite target, hauling in 9 receptions for 115 yards, both a team high.
D'Eriq King, meanwhile, finished with just 128 yards passing but 94 yards on the ground for Houston.
If Houston had a script for how it hoped it would go, it probably would not be all that different than how the first half actually went.
WSU struggled to find some kind of early rhythm offensively. The first two drives produced just 44 yards over 16 plays – a 2.75 yards per play that a far cry from the 9.62 average the Cougs carried into the game. Both drives ended in punts.
Meanwhile, Houston controlled the clock and the game with a methodical running attack, moving in the same way that fans were afraid of after the WSU rush defense proved to be shaky last week. The Coogs had just three drives, and each covered at least 58 yards.
The first one ended in a missed field goal, but the second and third ended with touchdowns. King did plenty of damage, but maybe no play was bigger than the first third of the second drive. Facing 3rd-and-5 from his own 34, King dropped back to pass. WSU dialed up a perfect lightning. However, King escaped a pair of tacklers in the backfield, and instead of WSU ending the drive with a three-and-out, Houston found himself in the end zone 11 plays later.
WSU found his footing on his third drive, though – Gordon found a trio of receivers to pick up 35 yards on the first three plays, then a short Max Borghi capped it off with a gorgeous 39-yard bomb to make Winston Jr. to the game.
After Houston was out in front again, WSU had about 2:30 to try and tie it. After a good return from Travell Harris, the Cougs quickly drove from their own 43 to the Houston 21 on a trio of Gordon completions. But then Gordon made his first major mistake of the night: Rodrick Fisher had a good time, but Gordon never saw the cover 2 safety who easily drifted over to pick it up. The Cougs came off empty and trotted into a touchdown.
Things immediately got better in the third quarter. Houston started with the ball, but King's third scramble down on the opening set 44. The Coogs are to be taken, but not without a bit of confusion, and their snap for the QB sneak with just a second on the play clock was mishandled, and WSU was in business.
Gordon found Borghi three times in the first four plays to the Houston 13, then Tay Martin took a shot down to the 1. Borghi finished it off with a trademark goal line run to tie the game at 14
Houston picked up a first down on his next drive, but could not do more than that, giving the ball back to WSU after four plays. Gordon went straight back to work, finding Arcona on three consecutive passes (with a roughing the passer thrown in) to cover 52 yards as Houston did not come to the middle of the field. Dezmon Patmon on the next play, beating the Coogs over the top for a 39-yard TD to give the Cougs their first lead of the game, 21-14.
WSU got another stop on the next drive and Gordon elected for a fade on 3rd and 1, which he overthrew.
Houston could not make anything of the next drive as WSU continued to dial up the pressure. That's when WSU had come up with the death blow: Gordon hit Borghi again, this time on a beautiful wheel route to the sideline, and Borghi outraged the 76-yard TD ,
Five plays later, WSU punted. The chance to put maximum pressure on Houston had passed, but the catcher was denied field position. But the best they could do was a field goal after gaining 20 yards to cut the margin to 21-17.
WSU was finally able to extend the margin to two scores on the next drive. WSU hurt Arizona with last year – the Cougars broke through. Borghi's finger tips and nearly intercepted, but Gordon moved to the front of the chair with a scramble drill and 33 yards to Tay Martin on an inside screen (with a blocking assist from Renard Bell) and then 19 more yards to Martin. Travell Harris in the back with a flick of the wrist to make it 28-17.
The Cougs had another chance to put the game out of reach when Houston turned WSU excellent field position. Two plays later, WSU was on the Houston 3-yard line, but the drive stalled out and the cougs settled for a field goal to make it 31-17.
Houston took advantage of some soft coverage on the next drive to gash WSU in the middle of the field with run to the TD, but on the other hand, Borghi picked up the two first downs WSU needed with 17 and 10 yards to run out of the clock.
WSU returns home to face UCLA next Saturday in a 7:30 pm PT kickoff from Martin Stadium.