Tay Martin hadn’t been quite as dynamic, quite as flashy or quite as productive in Washington State’s recent games against USC and Utah.
But not necessarily because the sophomore wide receiver had regressed any, or hit some sort of midseason slump. Teams just began to key in on the Cougars’ top wideout more -- understandably so -- and the right side of the field became a more viable option for Gardner Minshew than the left.
So the WSU quarterback kept going there.
During that two-week span against the Trojans and Utes, Minshew completed 21 passes to his “Z” receivers, Easop Winston Jr. and Dezmon Patmon, for a total of 425 yards and four touchdowns. And Martin’s numbers dipped as a result. Playing opposite Winston and Patmon, WSU’s No. 1 “X” receiver had just eight catches for 31 yards and one TD.
Sometimes being a wideout in Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense is just a waiting game.
“I’m not looking to be the go-to guy,” Martin said. “I’m just trying to help my team as much as possible.”
Though more often than not for Martin, helping the team is synonymous with being the “go-to guy.” That was certainly the case for the sophomore Saturday in a 56-37 win over Oregon State at Reser Stadium. Martin caught a team-high eight passes and finished with 119 receiving yards and two touchdowns as the Cougars improved to 5-1 on the season and 2-1 in Pac-12 Conference play.
“I thought this was one of his best games,” Leach said. “It might be the best game Tay Martin’s played this year. Because with press coverage, he’s also sort of a marked guy, but did a really good job of finding the end zone.”
Martin entered the OSU game as WSU’s leader in total receptions, but came out of it as the Cougars’ leader in all three major receiving categories: receptions (40), receiving yards (440) and touchdowns (6).
Winston, who was 1 yard shy from his third straight 100-yard receiving game, is close behind his teammate with 29 catches, 426 yards and five touchdowns in 2018, and Patmon gives the Cougars another threat on the outside. He’s already up to 25 receptions for 370 yards and two touchdowns.
“It makes it tough for defenses, I feel,” Minshew said. “With Easop and Tay, and really we’ve got a bunch of guys that can make plays and I trust any of them in one-on-ones. Tay had a great night, I guess it was just his night to get more balls and I was really proud of what he could do.”
Martin’s length, athleticism and ball skills make him a tricky cover for opposing defensive backs and the 6-foot-3, 185-pound wideout won a one-on-one matchup with Kaleb Hayes to haul in a 38-yard touchdown pass from Minshew in the second quarter of Saturday’s game. He beat OSU’s redshirt freshman for another ball in the fourth quarter, then high-stepped into the end zone for a 27-yard score.
“I’ve just got confidence in myself and I’ve got confidence in Gardner that he’ll put it in the right spot, so I have a better chance to win that ball,” Martin said.
But the humble underclassman says he’s perfectly fine doing the little things, too, even if it means he isn’t featured as much.
“If that means I’m blocking, anything else,” Martin said. “I’ll stand on the sideline, I just want to win.”