PULLMAN, Wash. - Washington State (2-2) utterly dominated the Oregon Ducks, 51-33, on Saturday from Martin Stadium. The Cougars amassed 651 total yards, including 280 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
WSU worked on killing Oregon momentum all night and never allowed the Ducks to have the lead. Oregon endures their first 3-game losing skid since the 2007 season.
At one point in the fourth quarter, WSU players were seen pinching each other in disbelief of the scoreboard. Yes, this was the same Cougar bunch that defeated Oregon at Autzen Stadium in double overtime last year. But, 51-33? Times, they are a changin’ as Cougars snap 8-game losing streak against the Ducks at home.
Oregon’s leading man was at a loss for words following the bitterly disappointing loss.
“Very proud of how they competed through a couple guys going down,” said head coach Mark Helfrich. “They are very important to our team from a psychological standpoint and a spirit standpoint. They kept fighting.”
Washington State embarrassed the Ducks on both sides of the ball, handing Oregon a taste of their own medicine via their own high-powered attack. In total, the WSU running game accumulated 280 yards on 40 carries, including six scores.
Jamal Morrow led the Cougar rushing game with 122 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns. James Williams rushed 11 times for 91 yards and two scores. Meanwhile, Gerard Wicks stuck to the theme of two-score games with his two touchdowns on 11 carries for 60 yards.
Luke Falk completed 36-of-48 passes for 371 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. However, his stardom on Saturday came in the form of controlling the ball so his running backs could distribute the pain. Falk found 10 different receivers on the night, as he spread the ball around microscopically.
“I think there are certainly some segments that need to see it right now before they totally believe it,” Helfrich said of players buying into the system.
Following a two-game absence, the Ducks welcomed back their All-American Heisman hopeful Royce Freeman. The workhorse carried the rock 19 times for 138 yards, including his three scores. He truly is an elite talent that has a bright future in the NFL ahead of him, as he averaged 7.3 yards per carry on Saturday and a long of 75 yards.
“Every game we go into, we think we can run the football,” said Oregon offensive coordinator Matt Lubick. “They did a good job putting an extra guy down there and sometimes to open up the run you have to throw successfully.”
Charles Nelson supplied one of the Duck highlights of the evening when he returned a kickoff 100 yards for his second career kick return touchdown. His first career kick return for a touchdown came in 2015 against Arizona State.
“I got to give credit to those guys, they did a good job,” Lubick stated. “We got to get better.”
Maybe head coach Mark Helfrich should rethink bringing Nelson back to the offense when his defense is struggling so mightily. The 2nd Team Pac-12 safety from 2015 is underwhelming on offense at wide receiver in 2016. So, why not fill a need on defense with someone who clearly understands the position? Seems only logical.
“Obviously we didn’t make enough plays of any kind tonight,” said Helfrich. “We had a couple big runs but we’ll look at the tape. I think there were a couple times where something was available.”
Dakota Prukop was absolutely atrocious to watch. It seems like he is regressing in the offense, completing 14-of-22 passes for 132 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.
“The spectacular stuff that you’re trying to make happen comes from those routine plays. Just continuing to develop," Helfrich stated.
Throughout the evening, he looked lost on reads, coverage and overall offensive maintenance. Oregon should consider starting one of their young guns to give them some valuable playing experience for the future. Prukop is a senior, so his time and future is running out, while patience with him is running thin.
“We are still very confident in this group and this team,” said Helfrich.
Prukop was pulled at the end of the game for freshman Justin Herbert. The youngster led the Ducks down the field, completing 3-of-5 passes for 70 yards and a touchdown.
“I was very proud of the way Justin (Herbert) came in,” Lubick stated. “But, I’ve been very proud of Dakota (Prukop). As a quarterback, you take a lot of heat you shouldn’t take but that’s the nature of the position, part of the deal. I was happy with Justin. To come out cold off the bench to perform the way he did was impressive.”
START THE QUARTERBACK CONTROVERSY!
“It was really cool, I was really nervous,” said Herbert of his first collegiate action. “Those guys came a lot faster than I prepared for but it was a lot of fun to be out there. 100-percent he’s the guy (Dakota Prukop). I’m completely confident in him. The team and coaches are confident in him.”
Helfrich tried his best to diffuse the hot button issue following the game.
“We actually were going to do it right before the kick-off return (Charles Nelson),” Helfrich said. “Not any huge statement, just trying to get him in there in this environment with those guys.”
The Ducks (2-3) face their toughest test all year when their rival and top team in the Pac-12 Conference, the No. 10 Washington Huskies (5-0) come to town on Saturday, October 8. Washington is sure to vault up the ranks after their 44-6 thrashing of Stanford on Friday night in Seattle. UW tastes blood in the water, as they have lost their last 12 games against the Ducks.
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