With a 28-26 win over Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl, the Cougars put a cap on an improbable season with their 11th win, a school record. Gardner Minshew only added to his legend on the way.

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Three impressions from Washington State’s 28-26 victory over Iowa State in Friday night’s Alamo Bowl.

Great ending to a great season

The Cougars won 11 games for the first time in school history, and they did it during a season in which outside expectations were low. (The Cougars were picked fifth among the six teams in the Pac-12 North before the season.)

The Cougars insisted at fall camp that there would be no dropoff despite losing many of the key players who had led WSU to a 26-13 record the previous three seasons. So much for predictions.

And the Pac-12 owes the Cougars a thank you with the conference in dire need of a bowl win after having been 1-10 in bowl games the past two seasons.

Minshew adds to the legend

Gardner Minshew arrived in Pullman in the spring as a rather obscure graduate transfer from East Carolina, and in less than a year, ensured that he will never be forgotten. It wasn’t just that he led WSU to its most wins ever or that he set the Pac-12 season passing record with 4,480 yards, it was also the flair that he did it with. Minshew’s confidence and charisma elevated his teammates and led to seemingly half of Pullman donning mustaches in honor of Minshew and his mustache.

That Minshew rebounded from his only off day of the season, in the Apple Cup, to lead his team to a bowl victory, was no surprise. Against a very good Iowa State defense, he had a much more typical performance, surviving two instances of targeting (both good calls, by the way) to throw for 300 yards and two touchdowns.

He escaped pressure time and again, highlighted by a third-and-10 play in the fourth quarter when after avoiding what seemed a certain sack, he flipped the ball to Tay Martin for a 20-yard gain. The Cougars scored a 10-yard touchdown on the next play.

Minshew will certainly be missed next season, but there will be plenty of time for Cougar fans to ponder that. For now, they can celebrate Minshew’s one glorious season as a Cougar.

The defense does enough

It certainly wasn’t a dominating performance by the WSU defense, but years from now people will remember the turnovers they created and not all of the yards it gave up (515 to a team that entered the game averaging 359, 104th among 130 Division I teams)

Two interceptions helped spark the Cougars to 14-0 lead, but they struggled to do the two things that were the highest priorities: contain Iowa State running back David Montgomery and limit the big plays of receiver Hakeem Butler.

Montgomery rushed for 124 yards and broke tackle after tackle, a testament to his hard running but also of the Cougars’ shoddy tackling. Butler caught nine passes for 192 yards, making several big plays when it appeared WSU defensive backs were in good position but failed to play the ball.

But when it seemed Iowa State was in control of the game in the fourth quarter, and seemed destined to take the lead, sixth-year senior linebacker Peyton Pelluer forced a fumble that helped turn the momentum back in the Cougars’ favor. Pelluer’s impact on the WSU defense was as great as Minshew’s was on offense and it was a great way for him to end his career.

And the final big play by the WSU defense, the stop on Iowa State’s two-point conversion try that could have tied the game, helped save the night for the Cougars.