The Washington State Cougars (1-3, 0-1) outplayed the No. 2 Oregon Ducks (4-0, 1-0), but lost anyway 31-38. Oregon’s defense managed to get a crucial stop late in the fourth quarter as the Cougs were driving for the game tying score; the Ducks then drove down the field and took a couple of knees to close out the game.
Washington State was looking at a 3rd and 14 deep in Oregon territory — trailing 31-38 — and looking to pick up some yards to make fourth down more manageable. Senior wide receiver Isaiah Meyers had his man beat on an out route, so the Ducks’ corner back tackled Meyers before the ball got to him. There was no PI call from the officials, and senior quarterback Connor Halliday was sacked on the fourth down play.
While the non-call was frustrating, and definitively put an end to the Cougars chances to tie the game, it wasn’t the key factor that cost WSU the win.
The two Cougar fumbles, both lost, halted offensive drives and gave the Ducks a chance to put up points on the board — spoiler alert, Oregon did. It was the second fumble, by freshmen running back Jamal Morrow, that gave Oregon the ball for its game winning touchdown drive.
Outside of Morrow’s fumble, the running game was fantastic tonight. Freshmen Gerard Wicks ran the ball seven times for 36 yards (5.7 yards per carry), and Morrow carried it nine times for 33 yards (3.7 yards per carry). The only “ball carrier” with negative rushing yardage was Halliday (one rush, -6 yards), that was on Oregon’s only sack of the night in the fourth quarter.
The success of the running game can be attributed to the offensive line holding its own against the Oregon front seven. Sure, the o-line struggled to open up holes at times…but they didn’t get pushed backwards immediately following the snap, and that was a huge for the Cougar offensive attack.
WSU’s offensive attack moved the ball well tonight as they averaged 6.2 yards per play, and scored 31 point on the Oregon secondary. Washington State ran a total of 80 plays vs. the Oregon on Saturday night, the Ducks only ran 67. If people are looking to blame someone for the offense’s inability to score more points, they better not blame Halliday.
The senior QB had an incredible night as he threw the ball 63 time and completed 43 of those attempts — that’s a completion percentage of 68.2%, holy crap! Halliday averaged 6.9 yards per pass, 436 total yards through the air, and tossed four touchdowns…without an interception.
The Cougar defense also had a spectacular night as they sacked redshirt junior Marcus Mariota five times in the first half (seven throughout the entire game). Oregon only converted on five of its 12 third down situations, that’s good for a third down percentage of 41.7%. WSU’s defense brought pressure, and brought it often against Oregon; the defensive pressure led to some big plays for the Ducks, including a 80-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to sophomore wide reciever Devon Allen for Oregon’s first score.
The bottom line is this, Washington State let a game it should have won slip through its fingers…moral victories be damned.