EUGENE, Oregon — No. 11 Washington State moved their record to 6-0 after defeating the Ducks 33-10 from Autzen Stadium on Saturday. The Cougars scored 26 unanswered points to conclude the contest, as they outscored Oregon 20-0 in the second half.
After much speculation during the week, true freshman Braxton Burmeister drew the start at quarterback over senior Taylor Alie. The La Jolla, Calif. product still has a long way to go, but he showed some flashes.
“He wasn’t loud,” said head coach Willie Taggart about Burmeister. “I talked to him in the locker room. I told him in front of our guys that I love him. He’ll learn from it and he’ll get better just like the other freshmen who were playing. Braxton is going to be better."
Overall, WSU had more total yards 369-277 than Oregon but the Ducks weren’t as far behind as the score indicated. Of course, five first-half false start penalties by UO’s offensive line didn’t help their freshman’s cause.
“He did a really good job in practice. Looked good to go,” Taggart stated.
The Ducks were penalized a game-high 10 times, tell me if that sounds familiar. UO has only had one game this season with less than 10 penalties. They lost a total of 95 yards on flagged plays. Nevertheless, Oregon actually won the possession battle 30:06-29:54.
“We didn’t play our best ballgame,” said the head coach. “Our guys didn’t handle that (WSU defensive line) well. We just didn’t play well. I don’t think it mattered if Justin was in there or not. I hope that’s not the case though.”
Cougar quarterback Luke Falk completed 24-of-42 attempts for 282 passing yards and three scores without an interception. He didn’t receive much help from his backfield, as Oregon’s stout run defense prevailed once again. As a team, WSU had 25 carries for 87 rushing yards and no touchdowns on the ground.
Oregon’s opening drive stalled on 4th and 1 at their own 41-yard line. Royce Freeman was stuffed at the line, as the Cougar defense took over with the early momentum.
“Our offensive line is our bread and butter,” Taggart replied. “We didn’t do a good job executing on those short yardage plays. When we run the ball well, our o-line is doing a good job. We just have to be better.”
Falk tossed a short pass to his running back Jamal Morrow who did the rest. The running back scampered 41 yards on the first play from scrimmage for WSU, 7-0.
Four false starts in the first quarter resigned UO to an Aidan Schneider field goal from 20 yards. The senior converted, 7-3, pushing his percentage to 66 percent (2-for-3) this season. UO’s drive amassed 40 yards on 11 plays in 4:58 off the clock.
“We, as coaches, have to make sure they’re sharp on their assignments,” Oregon’s head coach said after the loss. “We had some mistakes like that with young receivers. They’ll be better.”
Following a 12-yard punt by WSU’s wide receiver/punter Kyle Sweet, UO’s offense found themselves on the Cougars’ 30-yard line for their next drive.
On the first play, Burmeister found his tight end Jacob Breeland for the 30-yard scoring play, 10-7. It was Burmeister’s first career collegiate touchdown pass.
Mondeaux’s sack helped stall a Cougar scoring drive in the red zone. After traveling down the field with little resistance, Oregon’s defense stood tall to force a Washington State field goal, 10-10, to open the second quarter.
The captain finished with four tackles, a sack, a TFL and a quarterback hit.
“I thought the d-line did a great job, but we have to be better,” Taggart said.
Erik Powell gave WSU their lead back when he nailed a 52-yard field goal with 6:59 left in the second quarter, 13-10.
WSU entered the locker room at halftime with a 3-point lead, 13-10, after an entertaining half of football.
The Cougs totaled 194 yards, while UO recorded 172 total yards including a 113-44 advantage on the ground.
There were a grand total of 11 combined penalties between the two teams in the first 30 minutes. UO was flagged six times for a total loss of 40 yards.
At halftime, Oregon was 1-for-9 on third down, while Washington State failed to convert in the first half (0-for-6).
Freeman registered 54 rushing yards, while Braxton was 9-of-14 for 59 yards and a TD (123.3 rating) after the first 30 minutes.
WSU head man Mike Leach made some fantastic halftime adjustments, as WSU marched down the field on the first possession of the second half, 20-10.
Renard Bell caught the 10-yard tally from Falk. The Cougars moved 75 yards on seven plays with 12:02 remaining in the third.
Following a WSU punt, Oregon failed to convert on another short yardage situation. On 3rd and 1, Burmeister fumbled after trying to sneak up the right side of the line.
The Cougars recovered on UO’s 44-yard line, setting the table for their next score. Powell drilled another long field goal, this time from 47 yards to place his team ahead of Oregon, 23-10. The impressive lefty kicker finished 4-for-4 on field goals, including three extra points.
Third down efficiency reared it’s ugly head yet again for the Ducks. Oregon was 2-for-17 on third down (12 percent), while WSU was not much better at 2-of-13 on the night (15 percent). The Ducks were 0-for-3 on fourth down, as well.
Burmeister threw his first career interception on the first play of the fourth quarter. WSU’s Marcus Strong made the turnover, then returned it 27 yards to Oregon’s 25-yard line.
Falk found his man Isaiah Johnson-Mack on the very next play. The touchdown placed WSU ahead 30-10.
The highlight of the fourth quarter was a connection between Burmeister and Brenden Schooler. The sophomore wideout inhaled a 39-yard pass from his freshman quarterback and the play was upheld after an official review.
Jamal Morrow was stifled after his 41-yard TD catch to open the Cougars scoring. He finished with four yards on three carries. He also snagged five balls for 46 yards and his score. He did not amass more than 10 yards after his big play.
As for the Ducks, Freeman paced them with 62 yards on 12 carries. Kani Benoit also rushed for 32 yards on 10 carries.
The potent UO backfield was held to 132 rushing yards on 45 carries and no touchdowns.
“I thought our defense did well. We didn’t do enough offensively,” stated Taggart. “They made some plays, we just didn’t capitalize. We got it back to our offense. That took a little away from our defense. We were holding them to field goals.”
In his first college start, Burmeister completed 15-of-27 passes for 145 passing yards. He tossed one touchdown to Breeland while being intercepted twice. The freshman rushed 15 times for -4 yards, including a fumble. Yet, his rushing numbers include sacks.
Sweet led all receivers with 86 yards on seven receptions and his touchdown.
For the Ducks, Schooler finished with 61 yards on five catches. Taj Griffin also caught five passes for 29 yards. Meanwhile, Johnny Johnson III ingested three balls for 17 yards. Coach Taggart believes his receivers will only improve.
“We caught some passes, we had some guys open. We just didn’t execute well overall. Braxton is going to be better and we’ll move forward. Our young receivers are going to be better."
Troy Dye led the defensive charge again with a game-high 11 tackles. Thomas Graham Jr. had six tackles and a pass breakup.
Jonah Moi, Henry Mondeaux, Jalen Jelks and Jordon Scott all recorded a sack for the Ducks. Meanwhile, the defense finished with six pass deflections and six tackles for loss.
Hunter Dale led the way for the Cougars with 10 tackles, three TFL, a sack and a forced fumble.
Charles Nelson is getting closer to a return, as he took part in certain areas of pre-game warmups on Saturday. His fellow wide receiver Dillon Mitchell is also progressing.
“Nelson’s getting better,” said Taggart. “He went and tested it out. He ran around this week. He did some things in the pre-game warmup. He’s doing a good job rehabbing. Dillon had a concussion so he wasn’t going to play.”
Oregon (4-2, 1-2) now hits the road for back-to-back Pac-12 showdowns. First up, the Ducks will meet with Stanford (4-2, 3-1) in the Bay Area next Saturday. UO was pummeled by Christian McCaffrey and the Cardinal 52-27 at Autzen in 2016. Kickoff is slated for 8:00 p.m. PT from Stanford Stadium via FS1.