During his coaching career, Washington State's Mike Leach has produced quite a few prolific quarterbacks.

Gardner Minshew might be the most intriguing to play for the long-time coach, however.

A graduate transfer from East Carolina, Minshew has come out of relative anonymity this season to lead the country in passing as the No. 10-ranked Cougars (8-1, 5-1 Pac-12; No. 8 in College Football Playoff rankings) prepare to visit Colorado (5-4, 2-4) on Saturday at Folsom Field.

"He's really good," CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "He can make all the throws. The thing I like about him, he's able to extend the plays. That's helping them make some more big plays."

Minshew was a part-time starter who put up decent numbers last year at ECU, throwing for 2,140 yards, 16 touchdowns in seven interceptions. After last season, he initially planned to transfer to Alabama and be a backup while getting a jump on his coaching career.

Then, Washington State called.

Luke Falk — the Pac-12's all-time leading passer — graduated, and then tragedy struck on Jan. 16, when Tyler Hilinski, the Cougars' expected starter this season, committed suicide.

Minshew was an unheralded addition over the summer. In January of 2015, after graduating high school early, Minshew walked on at Troy. After one semester, he left Troy and went to Northwest Mississippi Community College, leading his team to the NJCAA national championship.


In two years at ECU, Minshew started just seven games.

Now, he's the toast of the town in Pullman, Wash., where he's embraced the community, the team and his opportunity. He leads the country with 390.8 passing yards per game, ranks fourth in completion percentage (70.8) and sixth in touchdown passes (27).

CU will have its hands full with Minshew and not just because he puts the ball in the air a lot.

MacIntyre and players have praised Minshew's ability to move around and make plays — and avoid mistakes. MacIntyre said in addition to extending plays, Minshew is smart enough to avoid intentional grounding penalties by throwing near receivers when throwing the ball away.

"That shows great intelligence on his part," MacIntyre said. "It looks to me that he has a total grasp of the offense."

As usual, the Buffs hope to put pressure on the quarterback this week, but that won't be easy. Minshew has been sacked just seven times, which is remarkable for a quarterback that has thrown 77 more passes than anyone in the country.

"You're not going to get to him too often, but you also want him to feel a little pressure," MacIntyre said.

That won't be easy, though. Every time MacIntyre has talked about Minshew this week, he winds up praising the Cougars' offensive line.

"I think the offensive line has gotten better every year," MacIntyre said. "I've been very impressed with that offensive line."

The Buffs, however, have been good at putting pressure on quarterbacks. They rank second in the Pac-12 (behind WSU) with 2.78 sacks per game, and need to figure out how to get some more this week.

"This is a time when you can kind of get under his skin and make him feel uncomfortable out there," linebacker Drew Lewis said. "That's what you want to do to a quarterback. If you can get him rattled a little bit, I think everything kind of falls apart on their end."

Borghi coming to Folsom

Running back Max Borghi, from Pomona High School, was verbally committed to CU for about four months last year before flipping to Washington State and signing with the Cougars last December.

The true freshman has made a big impact on the Cougars already. He's second on the team in rushing (245 yards), averaging 5.2 yards per carry and scoring six touchdowns. He's also caught 31 passes for 204 yards and three touchdowns.

MacIntyre said he's not surprised by Borghi's immediate success.

"I thought Max was a heck of a player, always have," he said. "We offered him really early, he was committed to us and then he changed his mind. That happens in the recruiting world. I'm so happy his knee (which Borghi injured late in his junior season) is completely healthy and he's able to go.

"I knew wherever he went he'd be a good football player. I was hoping he'd come here, but he decided not to. He's a good football player and he's a really good kid."


MacIntyre said he has continued to see great fight in his team, despite a four-game losing streak. Players have worked hard and continued showing up on time to meetings, etc., he said. "That shows that they're holding each other accountable and believing in each other," he said. "Hopefully that'll show up on Saturday. When you get a win, there's a little more pep to your step." ... CU has lost 12 in a row to top-10 teams, dating back to a 27-24 upset of No. 3 Oklahoma in 2007.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33