No. 19 Washington State seeks 3rd straight win over UCLA
(AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
Washington State coach Mike Leach appreciates that quarterback Anthony Gordon doesn't get all moody when things go bad.
Of course, things have yet to go bad for Gordon or the Cougars.
Thanks to Gordon's stellar start, the Cougars are off to a 3-0 start heading into Saturday night's Pac-12 opener against UCLA.
Gordon has twice been named Pac-12 offensive player of the week. He's thrown for at least 400 yards in each game.
And one more big game against the Bruins will set up a major showdown at No. 10 Utah next week.
"He certainly wasn't perfect last game, but if something doesn't go right he doesn't beat himself up," Leach said. "He doesn't go through some of that pouty, mopey stuff, which really drives me crazy when players do that.
"He's able to get back on track really fast, which I think is an incredible strength. And also I think it rubs off on the other players."
While Gordon and the 19th-ranked Cougars are flying high, especially after last week's 31-24 win over Houston in their first test of the season, UCLA is at the other end of the spectrum.
The Bruins have scored just 14 points per game in each of their three losses, and were blown out 48-14 last weekend by Oklahoma. If the offensive woes aren't enough, the Bruins allowed more than 600 yards of offense to the Sooners.
"There are times that I thought we were good on offense and we moved the ball," UCLA coach Chip Kelly said. "We've got to strive for consistency."
The task won't get any easier with the numbers Washington State is putting up.
Gordon spent three years backing up current NFL starters Luke Falk and Gardner Minshew before winning the starting job in fall camp.
His work leading Leach's offense is made easier because the Cougars have a typically deep and talented receiving corps.
The leading receiver is Brandon Arconado, who has caught 23 passes for 308 yards in three games. Last year, Arconado did not have a single reception, but he is tied for the Pac-12 lead in catches this season.
Leach said Arconado benefited from playing behind past receivers Kyle Sweet and River Cracraft.
"It's been kind of rough watching for the past three years," Arconado said. "Finally we're getting our opportunity to shout out."
Kelly would like to see more out of quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson for the Bruins. Thompson-Robinson threw for 201 yards and a pair of TDs against Oklahoma and also gained 48 yards on 10 carries.
"He does have that ability to effect the game with his legs," Kelly said. "That is an aspect of his game that will continue to grow for us."
Other things to watch when the Bruins visit the Cougars:
The Bruins are 3-15 in two seasons under Kelly, who enjoyed great success at Oregon and then moved to the NFL before returning to the college ranks. Asked if he would try to install his high-flying offense from Oregon, Kelly was dismissive. "Oregon was a long time ago," Kelly said. "I don't look back at the Oregon offense and study tape and say that's something we could do here."
Clearly the offense is a problem. The Bruins are the only Pac-12 team averaging less than 300 yards per game at 263.
NUMBERS OF INTEREST
UCLA leads the series 40-20-1, but Washington State has closed the gap and leads 8-7 in the past 15 games. ... Washington State has started 3-0 for the third consecutive season, a first since the 1907-09 campaigns. ... Washington State leads the country in total passing (476.0), is sixth in total offense (567.0) and ninth in scoring (49.3).
The Cougars will honor 2019 College Hall of Fame inductee Dennis Erickson during the UCLA game. Erickson spent just two seasons as coach of the Cougars, but they were memorable. His 1988 team posted nine wins, including an Aloha Bowl victory over Houston, and Erickson was named the conference coach of the year.
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Updated September 20, 2019