No. 3 Oregon grinds down WSU football for a victory

Despite a pair of fumbles, and a sloppy second quarter, No. 3 Oregon (9-1, 6-1) used a physical ground game to beat Washington State (5-5, 4-3) 38-24 on Saturday night. Quarterback Anthony Brown had a career high in rushing yards in the victory.

Out of the half, Oregon got the ball and got a huge return after a series of missed tackles inside the 20-yard line. A catch and rush for Dye on the first two plays got the Ducks their first first down of the second half. It was a drive that saw Oregon take advantage of its size advantage in the middle of the line. Brown beak through the line in the middle then cut outside for a 17-yard touchdown run where he stretched out for the pylon.

On the ensuing drive, the Cougar offense was unable to string together a drive and punted after an apparent screen pass was blown up. Honestly, Dickert probably should have gone for it on fourth and two.

Despite forcing a fourth down play, the Cougar defense was unable to stop quarterback Anthony Brown whenever he carried the ball up the middle. He wasn’t the only one who shredded the Cougar defense up the middle, both Byron Caldwell and Travis Dye were unstoppable up the middle.

Brown ran all over the Cougar defense on the next Oregon drive. He crossed the 100-yards on the ground with about five and half minutes left in the third quarter when he scrambled to pick up the first down after Dye was blown up on a play-action fake. While the defense blew up a pass play on second and goal; then prevented Brown from a score after he picked up six to force a field goal, it was not pretty series for the Cougar defense as Oregon pushed the lead to 24-14.

On the next series for WSU a four and out was the result after a third and six screen was blown up. It came right after de Laura had missed a wide open Harris on the side line on second down. The second straight empty drive for Washington State and It threatened to bury the Cougs. Brown had a dominant run up the middle that was was stripped short of the goal line and recovered by Watson with 10:28 left in the fourth.

Straight out of the turnover, de Laura hit Harris on his back shoulder for 39-yards and right into the red zone. A three-yard pass to Jackson Jr. was followed up with a nine-yard sack by Thibodeaux. On third down, the quarterback over threw Stribling when he had his receiver beat and the Cougars were forced to go for the field goal; which was hit to make it a 24-17 Oregon lead.

Cardwell put the game out of reach with a 27-yard touchdown rush right up the middle. It came after the Ducks had pushed down field behind a dominant rushing attack. The face mask penalty on the previous play extended the drive, but it was hard for the Cougs undersized defensive line to compete with the grinders up front for Oregon.

On the next Cougar drive, the Ducks were more than happy to give up runs in front of the defense. And it led to a forced pass by de Laura that was easily picked by Bryan Addison to seal the Ducks victory.

Cardwell’s second touchdown of the game was icing on the cake as it gave Oregon its final score of 38. A garbage time touchdown for Harris made it the final margin.

After a nearly 4:30 minute drive, de Laura kept the ball on the read option to tie it at 14 with 11 seconds on the clock. The drive was fueled by an efficient passing attack that finally got Borghi involved again. His 28-yard reception on second and 18 erased the previous sack and put the Oregon defense on its heels. While some people (*cough* *cough* me) we’re screaming at the TV for the Cougs to take a timeout, the touchdown proved it wasn’t needed and it left the Ducks with no time to mount a drive of its own.

Brown’s legs were a major reason Oregon’s offense was able to move into WSU territory for the first time. The quarterback ripped off runs of 13- and 12-yards on keepers. These runs were accompanied by a couple of well fired aimed passes to get the Ducks into first and goal. Dye punched it in from the one-yard line to give Oregon the lead at 7-0.

Unfortunately, the Cougars first play after the touchdown was an overthrown pass to Harris that was picked off by Verone McKinley III.

Cardwell got the first carry after the interception, it went for 24-yards. It was representative of how Oregon’s offensive line dominated the middle of the line of scrimmage but struggled to create lanes near the edge rushers. Rogers Jr. broke up a pass, but Dye was left wide open on an all out blitz and Brown hit him for a quick touchdown to make it 14-0 Oregon.

After a block in the back on the kick return, the first play was a loss of four on a handoff to McIntosh. The second play of the drive wasn’t good either; but McIntosh broke off a 17-yard run to pick up the first down on third. But the drive stalled out when de Laura missed on back-to-back passes — one was short of his target, the second was behind. It led to the Cougs second straight punt.

The defense was unable to stop Brown on third and short when he took off when no options were open down field. It was a reminder of how good the edge rushers for WSU are as they kept the ground attack under control. An incomplete pass, and a short pass on a crossing route, led to a punt on fourth and nine.

Borghi ripped off a big run to start the next WSU drive. The Cougars couldn’t capitalize on the first down as they attempted to run the ball and were unable to pick it up. On third down, the pass was short of the line of gain and Stribling was unable to pick it up despite his best effort.

The Oregon drive came to an end when Dye lost control of the ball, and Watson eventually recovered the loose ball.

Washington State’s offense seemed to have rediscovered its drive on the next drive. In six plays the Cougs marched right down to the end zone when de Laura connected with Stribling on a slant. The wideout then took it 14-yards to the house to get WSU back in the game.

A fourth an out was the result of the Ducks’ next drive. The Cougar defense did a fantastic job of containing the outside rush attempts which led to a long third down attempt. Brown’s pass was to the easy out let but it was short and the defense easily wrapped it up.

WSU’s second play from scrimmage was a 70-yard pass to Jackson Jr. that game off of a pump fake. Jackson Jr. stepped out around the seven. Unfortunately on the next play de Laura fumbled the ball out of bounds inside the end zone for a touchback. It was a reversal after it originally looked like Jackson Jr. had scored on that huge pass play.

An illegal snap started off the Ducks drive, and was the most exciting thing to happen. This included the six-yard pass on third down that cut was stuffed short to force an Oregon punt.

The next drive saw the Cougs waste their first play on a rush that went no where. Which was followed up by a seven yard pass play on second down. And then, finally, a sack on third down when Thibodeaux beat his man in a one-on-one match.

Post game thoughts

  • Brian Smith’s inability to adjust to Oregon’s response to the screen in the third quarter was absolutely maddening. Twice on third and medium, he dialed it up to no effect.
  • Man the defense was tough as nails on the edges, by Dye and Brown absolutely shredded it in the middle.
  • While Victor and I had talked about the typically undersized middle of the WSU defensive line in our podcast, it was hard for the defense to force Oregon ground game to the outside and into the teeth of its defense.
  • Anthony Brown’s fumble at the goal line probably wasn’t a fumble, but thanks to the horrific ESPN camera angles on Saturday night the call wasn’t overturned.
  • I empathize with de Laura’s clear discomfort in the pocket with Thibodeaux on the other side of the ball. But his jitters clearly impacted his accuracy and decision making.
  • This squad has toughed through so much, and it’s hard to be mad about this loss considering the fact that they let go of nearly half of the coaching staff.

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Photo Credit: Oregon Football

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