SALT LAKE CITY – Washington State lost its best pound-for-pound player on the first snap of the second quarter – no doubt a major factor in the Cougars’ ineffective offensive showing during their 24-13 defeat Saturday at Utah.
Senior running back Max Borghi found a seam to his right and was met in a gap by Utah freshman linebacker Karene Reid.
Borghi stuck out his left hand and palmed Reid’s facemask with a stiff-arm, but the defender got a grip on the WSU star’s collar and dragged him down. The full force of Reid’s helmet landed on Borghi’s left hand/wrist.
Borghi clutched his left arm, clearly in pain. He quickly went to the Cougars’ injury tent, then to the locker room. Borghi could be seen on the Cougars’ sideline after halftime in street clothes with some sort of brace or sleeve on his left arm.
WSU coach Nick Rolovich said the “X-rays are negative,” but he’s unsure of Borghi’s status going forward.
Through one quarter of play, the Cougars had totaled 56 rushing yards on 13 carries for an average of 4.31 yards per attempt. Borghi had accounted for 42 yards on six carries. He was bouncing outside with ease, and picking up chunks.
From Borghi’s exit to the bitter end, WSU rushed for 75 yards on 19 carries (3.94 average) – not counting yardage lost from sacks.
WSU had established an rushing flow with Borghi hitting the outside and Deon McIntosh churning between the tackles.
With Borghi sidelined, the Cougars’ rushing attack became much more predictable, and they opted to largely abandon their ground game after the half. They ran the ball just eight times in the final two quarters.
McIntosh finished with 59 yards on 13 carries. He had one carry for no gain in the fourth quarter. Wisconsin transfer Nakia Watson carried the ball once for 1 yard.
“Those would be the two guys (without Borghi),” Rolovich said. “They’re both very good in pass protection, both ready to play. It’s good to have two guys ready to go.”
With a 1-2 punch at running back missing, quarterback Jarrett Guarantano became less comfortable. The Utes dialed up pressure sets up the middle that worked well in stuffing WSU’s inside run game and in piling up the sacks on Guarantano, who appeared rattled in the second half.
Guarantano, a grad transfer from Tennessee, was starting in place of injured sophomore Jayden de Laura. Rolovich indicated that the battle for the start between Guarantano and junior Cammon Cooper had run up to game day.