Survive and advance.
I bet you anything you didn’t expect to read that sentence to start this recap, huh? Also, if any of you predicted this score, we’d like tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers, please.
Oregon didn't dodge a bullet, they clipped the red wire of a nuke with one second to spare.— Matt Prehm (@Prehmmr247) September 21, 2014
The Ducks survived a wild night in Pullman, walking out alive with a 38-31 win over Washington State.
As expected, Connor Halliday lit up Oregon’s secondary, completing 43 of 63 passes for 436 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
Marcus Mariota also had a big night, completing 21 of 25 passes for 329 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Washington State shut down Oregon’s three-headed beast of #RunTMFree as no Oregon running back had more than 75 rushing yards. Royce Freeman had much of the workload with 20 carries for 75 yards. Thomas Tyner had six carries for 24 yards while Byron Marshall had two carries for 22 yards.
After starting their second drive with good field position, Connor Halliday led the Cougars down the field, completing all five passes during the drive. Dom Williams beat Ifo Ekpre-Olomu in one-on-one coverage to give the Cougars an early 7-0 lead. I figured the Cougs would torch Oregon’s secondary, but I didn’t expect Ekpre-Olomu to get beat like that.
Oregon’s offensive line caused the Ducks problems early on. Royce Freeman was tackled for a loss on both drives while Marcus Mariota was sacked on each of the first two drives on third down, fumbling at the end of their second drive. Mariota’s ability to hang on to the football when he takes hits, perhaps one of his only flaws.
The Ducks caught a break as Quentin Breshears missed a 29-yard field goal attempt that bounced off the left upright, keeping the game at 7-0.
You know that whole thing about how quickly Oregon scores? Marcus Mariota to Devon Allen for an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of Oregon’s next drive. Is that fast enough for you? Allen had a huge night with seven catches for 142 yards and two touchdowns
I'd also like to take this moment to give my former sports editor a hard time for this tweet, originally from the Michigan State game.
I think it's safe to say the Devon Allen hype might have been a little premature. Good track kid, average footballer— Alex Shoemaker (@MrAlexShoemaker) September 6, 2014
He later followed it up with this tweet:
Connor Halliday and the Cougs answered right back with a 7 play, 75-yard drive that even included a 15-yard run. Who told Washington State what a running back was?
On 4th and 2, Halliday delivered a perfect pass on a fade route to Dom Williams for the touchdown. I hope Scott Frost has his notebook out taking notes on how a fade route works. Ekpre-Olomu never even turned to look as he was beat for the second time in the end zone in the first quarter alone.
After a three-and-out, the Ducks answered back with another big pass from Marcus Mariota, this time to Keanon Lowe for 57 yards as Lowe turned on the burners to beat his man for the longest touchdown of his career. Lowe also had a big night with five catches for 104 yards.
Mike Leach made it clear during the first half that on 4th down, he had no intention of sending his kicker out after the missed 29-yarder earlier. The Cougars were faced with a 3rd and 11 at the Oregon 31-yard line. Rather than attempt the 48-yard field goal attempt, Washington State would go for it, coming up short and turning the ball over.
Oregon responded with their most impressive drive yet. The drive included a 41-yard run by Marcus Mariota, a 15-yard run by Byron Marshall in which he bounced off a defender to get an extra 10 yards, and capped off with a 13-yard touchdown pass to a wide open touchdown for Devon Allen.
Washington State answered right back with a 12-play, 74-yard drive that ate up over five minutes of clock time, capped off with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Rickey Galvin. You beat Oregon by keeping their offense off the field, and Washington State succeeded on that drive.
In a wild swing, Oregon went from a massive run downfield by Mariota (called back by a holding penalty against Matt Pierson, a non-scholarship walk-on), to Mariota being sacked, nearly for a safety. Oregon’s offensive line was causing problems all night long, and this was just a self-inflicted wound to kill the drive.
Oregon caught a lucky break as the Cougars muffed the punt, giving the Ducks the ball back with under a minute to go, but a fifth sack by the Cougars killed any hope of Oregon taking a lead going into the half.
If you tuned in at halftime and was wondering what the hell was going on, this is about all you need to know:
The only reason the Ducks even had the game tied up entering the half was because of Oregon’s big plays. Out of the 210 yards Oregon racked up in the first half, 150 of those came on three scoring plays.
The Ducks opened the second half with possession, and drove down the field as close to the end zone as t he 8-yard line before being flagged for a delay of game. Mariota was then sacked for the sixth time of the night, forcing the Ducks to send on the field goal unit. But you already know what happens when Oregon tries to kick field goals. If you don’t, I’ll just let you know that it doesn’t end well. Matt Wogan missed a 32-yard attempt, keeping the game tied at 21 each.
Oregon came up with a huge turnover on Washington State’s next drive. With the Cougars marching down the field with relative ease again, DeForest Buckner forced a fumble to give Oregon the ball back midway through the third quarter.
Marcus Mariota’s legs came up big again as he scrambled on 4th and 10 for a 28-yard run, setting up an 8-yard touchdown pass to a wide open Pharaoh Brown, sans bucket full of snow.
On Washington State’s next drive, Halliday completed two straight 24-yard passes to River Cracraft, including one on a crucial 3rd and 12 play. The Cougars would have to settle for a field goal, cutting Oregon’s lead to four points with 14:50 to play in the game.
Oregon "attempted" to chew some clock on their next drive, but only took off about three minutes from the clock. While they didn’t kill as much time as they could have, Matt Wogan redeemed his earlier missed field goal with a 34-yarder to put the Ducks back up by 7 with 11:04 to go.
Washington State answered right back with a short pass to Jamal Morrow that turned into a 45-yard gain to put the Cougars in Oregon territory. On 1st and Goal, Connor Halliday found a wide open River Cracraft in the corner of the end zone to tie the game at 31 with 8:57 to play.
Facing A 3rd and 5 in a tie game on the Washington State 26-yard line, Mariota found Byron Marshall for a 17-yard gain. Keanon Lowe capped off the brilliant drive with a 6-yard touchdown catch with 5:33 to go.
On 3rd and 13, the Ducks came up with their luckiest play of the night. Dior Mathis looked as if he committed pass interference, wrapping up Isiah Meyers before the ball got there, but the flags stayed at bay. On the ensuing play, Tony Washington came up with Oregon’s first sack of the night when they needed it most. Let me tell you what, Oregon dodged a bullet and Washington State fans will be talking about that one for years to come.
On Oregon’s next drive, Scott Frost went with a gutsy play call on 3rd and 1, opting for the pass to catch Washington State by surprise. The pass was completed to Pharaoh Brown for 27-yards, icing the win.
Here’s why I’m ok with this outcome. Every now and then, you go into a game thinking you’ll win by 30 points. Every now and then, "the little guy" says enough is enough and plays you down to the wire, forcing you to give it all you’ve got. Adversity came knocking, and the Ducks stepped up to the challenge with a gutsy win. Let me tell you what, that’s what champions are made of.
Oregon now gets a bye week before returning to Autzen Stadium for a matchup with Arizona where the Ducks will look for redemption against the Wildcats for last year’s blowout loss in Tucson.