PULLMAN – Mike Leach settled on a starting quarterback toward the end of fall camp at Washington State and Anthony Gordon reaffirmed his decision was the right one in the season opener, completing 29-of-35 passes for 420 yards and five touchdowns in a 58-7 victory against New Mexico State.
But who’s No. 2 on the depth chart?
Well, the chart itself doesn’t offer much clarity. There, the names of Gordon, Gage Gubrud and Trey Tinsley are still separated by the word “OR” – a classic Leach tact that probably won’t change at any point throughout the season.
However, the coach did offer some information about WSU’s backup quarterback role Monday during his news conference after using both Gubrud and Tinsley in relief after Gordon helped the Cougars get out to a 48-7 lead against the Aggies.
It’s still a close race between Gubrud, the Eastern Washington graduate transfer, and Tinsley, the redshirt senior who’s been with the Cougars since 2016, according to Leach, and it’s unclear which player he’d use if pressed to replace Gordon at any point.
“It appears to me they’re pretty neck-and-neck,” Leach said. “I think they’re pretty close. I think Gordon’s clear-cut ahead, but I think Gage and Tinsley are pretty close.”
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Gubrud replaced Gordon midway through a drive near the end of the third quarter. He was unable to field a poorly-executed snap from center Fred Mauigoa, causing a 14-yard loss on his very first play, but rebounded with a pass completion to Kassidy Woods for 26 yards. Eventually, Gubrud got WSU into the end zone on a 9-yard pass to Renard Bell.
“I thought the result of the drive was good, I just think he’s got to improve on communication and reading the field,” Leach said. “But it was competitive, overall it was pretty good. I thought Trey was pretty sharp. The penalty hurt us and so did the dropped ball. One ball, a guy wasn’t looking and another ball the guy dropped. But I think he’s sharp, communicates well.”
Gubrud finished 9-of-11 passing for 76 yards and a touchdown, while Tinsley was 1-of-3 for 11 yards, playing one series midway through the fourth quarter.
The importance of depth at the quarterback position was reinforced throughout the Pac-12 Conference Saturday. Three starters, Stanford’s K.J. Costello, Oregon’s Justin Herbert and USC’s JT Daniels all left their games with injuries. Daniels is out for the remainder of the season, but Oregon and Stanford have yet to provide updates on Herbert and Costello.
“Well, you better have a backup,” Leach said. “You try not to get (the starter) injured, but you better have a backup.”