Freshman running back James Williams runs for three touchdowns during Thursday Night Football

PULLMAN – Thursday Night Football turned into a dogfight that the offense won with big plays, but the defense wouldn’t go quietly as they made some nice plays of their own. As for quarterbacks, it was more of the same story for Peyton Bender, Tyler Hilinski and Christian Jorgenson.

Bender's struggles continue, while Hilinski shined and Jorgenson showed good poise and consistency.

Bender started the first drive, but didn't finish it. Following a third-down conversion, the offense struggled to find a rhythm. Then there were three consecutive incompletions, so first down was reset. Bender couldn't get the offense going. It moved to the defense's 35, but the play wasn't pretty, and coaches weren't happy with the inconsistent, sloppy execution. Frankie Luvu was able to get a sack, and soon after the offense was doing up-downs as punishment.

It’s unfair to hang it all on Bender. He works with the second team O-line and a mix of starting and backup wide receivers on Tuesday and Wednesday. In TNF Bender plays with the scout WRs. But Bender can't be completely forgiven, either. The second-year freshman does struggle with his accuracy at times, but there are chemistry issues because he doesn’t often get reps with the TNF receivers. Nonetheless, Bender was subbed out, and Hilinski took the reins.

Near the 30, Hilinski faced his third down, and relied on Madigan Taulelei to get the yardage. Later in the drive, a fourth down faced Hilinski, but he turned to a familiar face for TNF fans, James Williams. The true freshman busted through for a 10-yard gain to the 9. One play later, Williams finished the drive with a 9-yard run. 

Hilinski stayed in at quarterback as the field was reset at his 25. Welcome James Williams again. On third-and-3, Williams took a handoff, cut to the right and busted 68 yards to the house.

The coaches liked what Hilinski and Williams were doing so much, the quarterback stayed in the game for another drive. This time it was Hilinski's time to shine. Hilinski had some misfires, but a 15-yard pass to Kaleb Fossum put the ball at midfield. After that, Fossum ate up 16 yards with a bubble screen, then Nick Begg pulled in a 14-yarder.

Williams then made his presence felt, breaking out of a would-be tackle by Ngalu Tapa behind the line of scrimmage to set up a first-and-goal. The defense denied another score, however, even though the coaches gave the offense five chances to punch it in. Among those on defense that stood tall were Greg Hoyd III and David Bucannon.

Jorgenson's crack was next. Calvin Green welcomed the young QB back to TNF by intercepting the first play of the drive. After Green’s high-jump pick and a Logan Tago sack, Jorgenson settled in. Around midfield, Jorgenson faced a fourth down — that if the defense had stopped would likely have ended the night -- but the true freshman scrambled and ran seven yards for a first down. A few plays later, the offense reached the red zone. James Williams finished the drive, once converting a fourth down, then eventually scoring his third TD of the night with a 5-yard run.

It may just be Thursday Night Football, but if Williams gets to play this year, good luck to the Pac-12 stopping four dynamic Cougar backs. If the Cougs elect to wait until next year -- the likely scenario -- then it will be fun to watch a four-headed monster next year.

The biggest standout for the defense was easily Bucannon. The fourth-year junior had several tackles and passes defensed, causing the defensive players and coaches to go wild with “BUC!” cheers and praising Bucannon’s stellar play from the sidelines.

Notable Notes:  Check out the video above for Thursday’s Notable Notes

Offensive Thursday Night Football

QB: Peyton Bender / Tyler Hilinski / Christian Jorgenson

RB: James Williams / Alijah Lee

LT: Andre Dillard / Cedric Bigge-Duren

LG: Cody O’Connell / Noah Osur-Myers / Drew Norvell

C: Sam Flor / Carlos Freeman 

RG: Moritz Christ / Chris Paz

RT: B.J. Salmonson / Davis Perrott

X: Erik Anderson / Kaleb Fossum

Y: Kyle Sweet / Madigan Taulelei

Z: Xavius Boone / Nick Begg

H: D.J. Thompson / Kainoa Wilson

Defensive Thursday Night Football

DE: Kingston Hernandez / Jacob Laird

NT: Ngalu Tapa / Devonte McClain / Austin Brown

DT: Hunter Mattox / Kingston Hernandez (when Laird at DE)

Rush LB: Nnamdi Oguayo / Logan Tago / Dylan Hanser /

WIL LB: Frankie Luvu / Paris Taylor

MIKE LB: Chandler Leniu / Triston Brock

NICKEL CB: Treshon Broughton / Colton Teglovic / Darius Lemora

CB: Kirkland Parker / Willie Roach

CB: David Bucannon / Deion Singleton / Aaron Hecker

FS: Hunter Dale / Skylar Cracraft

SS: Calvin Green / Kameron Powell

Offensive 1s

QB: Luke Falk

RB: Gerard Wicks / Keith Harrington / Jamal Morrow

LT: Joe Dahl

LG: Gunnar Eklund

C: Riley Sorenson

RG: Eduardo Middleton

RT: Cole Madison

X: Dom Williams

Y: River Cracraft

Z: Gabe Marks

H: Robert Lewis


Defensive 1s

DE: Darryl Paulo

NT: Daniel Ekuale / Robert Barber

DT: Destiny Vaeao

Rush LB –Ivan McLennan

WIL LB – Jeremiah Allison

MIKE LB – Peyton Pelluer

NICKEL: Parker Henry

CB: Charleston White / Kirkland Parker

CB: Marcellus Pippins

FS: Taylor Taliulu

SS: Shalom Luani 

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