PULLMAN – Honed on Thursday night, perfected on Saturday night.
While the innate connection Anthony Gordon and Brandon Arconado share may be on display to Washington State fans for the first time this football season, it’s something that’s been years in the making.
Over the years, as Luke Falk and Gardner Minshew were throwing practice passes to WSU’s starting wide receivers, the backup passers and pass-catchers were usually delegated to scout team work, with just one small window to actually refine their skills.
The hour-long “Thursday Night Football” scrimmages held every week for young players and sparingly-used reserves were crucial for Gordon and Arconado, who came in together as junior college transfers and are now seeing the fruits of the labor they put in behind the scenes.
Tens of thousands of WSU fans are seeing it now, too.
Arconado returned after missing two games with a lower body injury and helped jolt the Cougars’ offense in a 41-10 win over Colorado Saturday night. Gordon found his trusty “Y” receiver five times for 109 yards and threw to Arconado for a 44-yard touchdown to give WSU a three-score advantage in the third quarter.
“Arconado’s real consistent, he’s decisive with everything he does and he’s real good with the ball in his hands,” Gordon said. “Once you get it to him, he’s quick at going upfield. Me and him have just built a connection throughout our Thursday night times where we just have a good feel of the middle of the field together and he does a great job finding the open holes and getting the ball.”
WSU’s offense staggered in the first game Arconado missed, producing just 13 points in a 35-point loss to Utah, and while the Cougars were much-improved last week in a 38-34 loss to Arizona State, they were still unable to generate much production out of Arconado’s “Y” slot receiver position.
But, the former walk-on returned for Saturday’s game against Colorado, and the offense produced at a higher clip – especially on third down, a scenario where Gordon often finds himself looking for the crafy, sure-handed Arconado.
“Having him back’s good,” Gordon said, “more or less a security blanket, I guess.”
Arconado said it was painful to watch WSU’s road Pac-12 losses from home in Pullman. It’s not a relaxing experience, certainly, and the receiver often found himself pointing out plays he thought his teammates should be running, or defensive coverages the Cougars maybe weren’t seeing from the field.
“I’m watching with the other hurt guys and one of them is a quarterback (John Bledsoe),” Arconado said. “So we’re like, ‘Oh they called this play, they should throw it here,’ or ‘the defense is doing this, so the ball should be going here.’ It’s fun watching but it does suck not being there.”
On the 44-yard touchdown, Arconado lined up out wide and ran a vertical route, only needing to escape one Colorado safety – sitting on the hashmarks – to get free.
“I don’t know,” he said, “the quarterback just had his mind on the same thing I did … then he just let it rip and you know Gordo can get it down field. Just got past that safety and he put the ball in my hands.”
No surprise, those two being on the same page. Throw an assist to the Thursday Night Football sessions for that.
“Thursday night’s big, it really gives you a chance to run your plays,” Arconado said. “Thursday night’s huge, because you start building your connection with the quarterbacks. … We’ve just been running our same plays, talking about what he likes and what I like and what he sees. … Yeah, Thursday night was huge for us.”
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