PULLMAN — From the start, Washington State’s game against Colorado figured to be a Max Borghi showcase.
On a second-and-2 dive play in the first quarter, he demonstrated why.
A helicoptering linebacker knocked him off-stride, but he kept his balance and popped outside.
A fast-collapsing safety tried a torpedo tackle but whiffed badly.
A rover looking to play catch-up abruptly saw the quest as hopeless and made a fruitless dive at his feet.
Finally, the free safety glommed onto him at the 5-yard line and tried to yank the ball loose, but Borghi held strong and lunged for the goal line. Adding a cherry on top as he descended, he twisted his body into the safety so that Borghi’s knee never landed on the turf, removing all doubt in the officials’ minds as the ball crossed the plane.
Touchdown, 47 yards.
It stretched Wazzu’s lead to 18 points Saturday and pointed a soul-searching team toward a 41-10 win at Martin Stadium. The Cougs snapped a three-game losing streak marked by a pervasive sense their dynamic sophomore running back wasn’t getting enough touches.
“Getting him the ball early, getting him involved, getting him into some run checks early, making sure he touches the ball, we knew good things would come of it,” WSU quarterback Anthony Gordon said. “And then seeing him busting through on that was pretty nice.”
The Cougars (4-3, 1-3) now face one of their toughest challenges of the season, playing at No. 11 Oregon (6-1, 4-0) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (ESPN) in Eugene, Ore.
Entering the Colorado game, there were several reasons to anticipate Borghi Time:
It rained from start to finish, resulting in several receiver drops and a few errant throws. Borghi offset that by rushing for 105 yards, also catching nine passes for 57 yards. He’s up to 512 yards rushing this season, averaging 7.3 yards per carry, and is the team’s second-leading receiver with 36 receptions.
The Buffaloes had suffered a rash of injuries in their secondary and didn’t want to apply extra pressure on their young replacements. On Borghi’s 47-yard romp, an extremely light run box prompted Gordon to audible to a dive.
Borghi, who grew up 20 miles from the CU campus, originally had committed to the Buffaloes, and always seems to play well against Colorado schools. His 28-yard scoring catch had given the Cougs the lead in a 31-7 win last year in Boulder, Colo.
“Obviously, I’m from Colorado, so it’s something I mark on the calendar,” Borghi said after the game. “I take it week by week, but when this comes up, it’s always an exciting week for me. I’m just happy with how the team played tonight.”
NEW NICKELBACK — Making a surprise appearance for the WSU defense against Colorado was Trey Davis, a transfer from USC who had seemed destined for a season on the scout team. The true freshman from Federal Way, Wash., backed up Armani Marsh at nickelback and recorded four tackles.
Davis had enrolled early at USC, participated in spring drills, decided to transfer and eventually walked on at WSU. Noting he had been with the Trojans so briefly, the Cougars applied to the NCAA for a waiver that would exempt him from the usual one-year transfer exile. The waiver eventually was granted and Davis made a cameo appearance in an Oct. 12 loss at Arizona State.
“As far as stacking the eligibility paper, I thought we could have gotten that done sooner,” WSU coach Mike Leach said. “I don’t know what all went into that, but it took a while to get that straightened out. The unfortunate fact is we didn’t know if he was going to be eligible this year or not, and it sure would have been nice to know sooner.”
Leach said he’s not sure what kind of role Davis will play in the Cougars’ final five games. He’s still eligible to redshirt. In any case, he probably won’t be a walk-on for long.
“He’s young, he’s real physical, he’s real fast,” WSU safety Skyler Thomas said. “I like how he moves out there, I like how he plays. He has a pretty good understanding of the game, for being a freshman. I feel he can help our team win.”
NEW O-LINEMAN — The Cougars have remained notably healthy along the offensive line, but a young backup saw a chuck of meaningful action against Colorado anyway.
Jarrett Kingston, a second-year freshman listed at 6-foot-5 and 296 pounds, relieved senior left guard Robert Valencia on a couple of possessions, apparently for no other reason than his own rapid progress. It evidently had nothing to do with Valencia’s play.
“Valencia did a real good job — graded out the best of our offensive linemen,” Leach said. “But Kingston is right behind him and there have been some weeks where we’ve thought about whether we start Kingston or Valencia. But Kingston plays at a high level, he’s quick and he just loves football. He’s the type of guy that’s disappointed when practices and games are over and wishes they’d started sooner.”
Grummert may be contacted at email@example.com or (208) 848-2290.