PULLMAN — Anthony Gordon’s success rate at nabbing Pac-12 Player of the Week awards isn’t quite as high as his completion percentage.
But it’s pretty good. His coach chalks it up partly to resilience.
The Washington State quarterback made it 2-for-3 on Monday, drawing Offensive Player of the Week honors from the conference after the Cougars’ 31-24 win Friday night at Houston.
The 19th-ranked Cougs (3-0) begin their Pac-12 schedule Saturday (7:30 p.m., ESPN) at home against UCLA (0-3). Washington State is favored by 19½ points.
The Cougars also learned Monday their game at Utah on Sept. 28 will start at 7 p.m. and will be aired on Fox Sports 1.
The first time Gordon won the weekly Pac-12 award, he had completed his first 15 passes in a season-opening 58-7 romp against New Mexico State. This time he needed more patience. The Cougars went scoreless on three of their first four possessions against Houston, fell behind 14-7, then produced back-to-back touchdowns to start the second half.
“I think he’s a pretty good self-evaluator,” WSU coach Mike Leach said Monday at his weekly news conference. “He certainly wasn’t perfect last game, but if something doesn’t go right he doesn’t beat himself up. He doesn’t go through some of that pouty, mopy 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.”
Gordon, a senior who had never started for WSU before this season, boasts a .787 completion percentage, third-best in the nation, and is averaging 48 more passing yards than anybody else in the country. In the Houston game he passed 36-for-48 for 440 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
In making their season road debut at an NFL venue in Houston, the Cougars were too keyed-up in the first half, Leach said.
“We went out there and everybody was highly motivated,” he said, “and sometimes some of the older players were the ones that really tried to make too much happen. And then when we relaxed and settled down, we played a lot better.”
Even when the pickings were slim for Gordon, he got reliable support from slotback Brandon Arconado, who made repeated over-the-middle catches and, on one second-quarter play, clung to the ball despite an emphatic, well-timed hit by safety Gleson Sprewell.
On a team loaded with talented receivers, the former walk-on owns 23 catches as a senior, seven more than any other Cougar, and is tied for eighth in the country in receptions per game.
“I think Brandon was a late developer,” Leach said when asked about Arconado’s work habits of recent months. “Some of the things went beyond the offseason. The offseason was a huge part of it, and without his work and dedication there’s no chance whatsoever he’d be where he’s at.
“But he came as a walk-on and he was short and skinny. He worked hard and could always catch the ball and was sort of elusive and had such a great attitude, such a great team guy. And then he’s gotten better and better and better. And somewhere in there was a little bit of a growth spurt. So he’s taller, thicker and faster than he’s ever been.”
Leach also likes the recent progress of outside receiver Tay Martin, whose five-reception, 76-yard evening was notable chiefly for his after-the-catch bursts.
“The last couple of games, he’s been playing pretty good,” Leach said. “Anytime he plays fast and excited, he’s pretty explosive. I really think most of the season he has.”
Among the Cougars to receive kudos from the coach was true freshman defensive lineman Cosmas Kwete, who played well in limited playing time and recovered a fumble caused by Bryce Beekman to set up a late field goal.
“Twelve plays, three tackles, a fumble (recovery),” Leach said of Kwete’s stat line. “That’s a better production than anybody (on the team) had.”
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