Quarterback Peyton Bender got things started, and he could not be stopped.
On his first drive, he guided the offense 75 yards on nine plays to paydirt, ended his first drive of the night a perfect eight-for-eight for 76 yards, capped by a 20-yard touchdown to Erik Anderson. The reason Bender had with 76 passing yards was because RB James Williams lost a yard before Bender went up top again.
The coaches let Bender stay in to start the next drive but DL Hunter Mattox greeted the second-year freshman with a "sack" and loss of eight yards on the opening play of the second drive. Nnamdi Oguayo brought pressure, forcing a third-and-18. But here Williams made his mark catching a pass out of the backfield and high tailing it downfield. The catch-and-run covered 57 hashes all the way down to the defense's 26-yard line.
Tyler Hilinski then took over under center. On the night, Bender was a nifty nine-of-10 for 133 yards with one touchdown, one sack and no picks.
Hilinski struggled at first, throwing two incompletions to Alijah Lee and nearly being sacked by Ngalu Tapa. However, Hilinski was able to get the offense to the seven-yard line.
The d-line stuffed Williams and fired Joe Salave’a in the process. On fourth down, Williams scampered to the three and punched it into the end zone two plays later.
Hilinski started the next drive but it would be short lived. The young QB threw an incompletion and then Kingston Fernandez and Oguayo "sacked" Hilinski on back-to-back plays ending the QB’s night.
Hilinski finished two-of-six for 20 yards with the two sacks and no INTs. Mike Leach said earlier in the week it's never just the QB when it comes to sacks, and the o-line got in their up downs following the two QB takedowns.
Christian Jorgenson came in and played pretty well, though he couldn't take the offense in for a score. He relied on Williams for a nice third down conversion before Tapa again added to his sack total.
D.J. Thompson brought an explosive play to the mix with a 28-yard catch-and-run to get the offense into enemy territory.
Williams hurdled Willie Roach for another first down but the drive stalled. Two incompletions and two short gains by Kaleb Fossum and Erik Anderson, and another Thursday Night Football was in the books.
Jorgenson finished five-of-seven for 47 yards, with no picks and one sack.
Usually, Williams turns heads on TNF with his carries but he showed his receiving ability and patience on this Thursday.
He finished with six rushes for 17 yards and a touchdown -- and six receptions for 90 yards.
His 57-yarder saw him break at least five tackles, ran parallel across the field at one point to avoid tacklers before finally being brought down -- he probably covered close to 80 yards all told.
Fossum and Thompson each finished with four receptions, with Thompson posting 54 air hashes compared to Fossum’s 32. Anderson finished with 24 yards and the TD grab from Bender.
The Cougs continued the Thursday tradition of going heavy on the special teams work. Assistant coach Eric Mele ran through several different drills for kickoffs and punts, including the customary “buzzer beater” field goal attempt. Erik Powell nailed the time-ticking-down boot from about 45 yards.
Before TNF began, defensive backs Charleston White, Calvin Green and Hunter Dale were among the defenders pulling down interceptions for the D.
After facing the scout team, the Cougar offense did four up-downs before TNF started.
Offense, Thursday Night Football
QB: Peyton Bender / Tyler Hilinski / Christian Jorgenson
RB: James Williams / Alijah Lee
LT: Andre Dillard / Cody O’Connell (when Cedric at LG) / Cedric Bigge-Duren (when Noah LG)
LG: Cody O’Connell / Cedric Bigge-Duren / Noah Osur-Myers
C: Sam Flor / Carlos Freeman
RG: Drew Norvell / Noah Osur-Myers
RT: B.J. Salmonson / Brandon Evers
X: Erik Anderson / Kaleb Fossum
Y: Xavius Boone / Nick Begg
Z: Kainoa Wilson / Madigan Taulelei
H: D.J. Thompson
Defense, 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 / Nate DeRider
MIKE LB: Chandler Leniu / Triston Brock / Greg Hoyd III
NICKEL CB: Treshon Broughton / Colton Teglovic / Darius Lemora
CB: Willie Roach / Dakota Sinchak
CB: Deion Singleton / Aaron Hecker / David Bucannon
FS: Hunter Dale / Skylar Cracraft
SS: Calvin Green / Kameron Powell
NOTE: If you’re wondering where our customary listing of the first string offense and defense has gone, WSU has made it clear all interview access to coaches and players will be denied if we continue to publish who is running with the 1s.