LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — Washington State’s starting quarterback wasn’t publicly known until the offense took the field Saturday against Wyoming.
But graduate transfer Gardner Minshew knew he was the starter and responded by throwing for 319 yards and three touchdowns as the Cougars gained a 41-19 season-opening win over the Cowboys.
Minshew, who transferred from East Carolina, completed 38 of 57 attempts.
He had TD passes of 2 yards to James Williams, 6 yards to Max Borghi and 7 yards to Easop Winston. Minshew threw one interception.
Cougar coach Mike Leach had kept his starting quarterback a secret until the game started, but Minshew said after the game that he knew he was the starter a couple of weeks ago.
Williams rushed 16 times for 82 yards and one score for Washington State (1-0). He also caught 10 passes for 53 yards.
Washington State trailed at halftime but the Cougars scored touchdowns on four of its five possessions in the second half.
“I thought the first half we were trying to do too much, focusing on trying to be perfect,” Leach said.
Leach said Minshew was “slow at delivering the ball” but was more decisive in the second half.
Minshew said the offense simply did a better job in the second half.
“The receivers caught the ball really well in the second half, and I just started throwing the ball better,” he said. “I was making better decisions.”
Wyoming (1-1) was led by Nico Evans, who ran for 89 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game during the Cowboys’ first series of the second half because of an unspecified rib injury.
The Cowboys offense was limited to 206 total yards, including just 67 passing yards.
Wyoming led 16-13 at the half but managed only a 30-yard field goal in the second half.
The Cowboys hurt themselves with penalties, committing 13 infractions for 109 yards.
“If you’re going to play against a good team, you can’t shoot yourself in the foot, and I think we did that,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said. “The margin for doing that is pretty slim, and we didn’t get it done.”
Washington State: Entered the game having lost seven straight season-openers played on the road. The Cougars’ last season-opening win on the road was in 2004 when they beat New Mexico 21-17.
Wyoming: The Cowboys have lost 13 straight games against Power 5 conference opponents. Their last victory against a Power 5 team was in 2007 when they beat Tennessee 13-7.
Minshew follows in the footsteps of Luke Falk, who threw for 3,593 yards and 30 touchdowns last season for the Cougars. Falk was released by the NFL’s Tennessee Titans on Saturday. After last season, Tyler Hilinski was expected to start at quarterback this season, but he took his own life in January.
Wyoming’s offense struggled early on against the Cougar defense. The Cowboys had no first downs and just 9 total yards in the first quarter. Tyler Vander Waal, who attempted four passes in the first quarter, didn’t complete his first pass until Wyoming’s first possession of the second quarter.
Washington State: Home opener next Saturday against San Jose State. The Cougars were 7-0 at home last season
Wyoming: Play their second road game of this season when they visit Missouri on Saturday. It will be the first meeting between the two schools in football.