COUGARS 34 - DUCKS 20
For the fourth straight year in a row, the Ducks (5-2, 2-2) have fallen to the Washington State Cougars (6-1, 3-1).
It was the perfect storm. Despite the fact that Oregon was coming off its biggest win in years against a highly ranked rival, all of college football had its eye on the return of Ol’ Crimson, and rightfully so, College GameDay looked especially majestic out there on the Palouse- but for the first half, it was Hell for Herbert and the Ducks.
Oregon’s defense started out confidently on the road. Gardner Minshew and the Cougs marched down the field for 49 yards on 11 plays, but a redzone interception by Deommodore Lenoir gave the Ducks’ offense some momentum coming out for their first snaps.
Unfortunately, Oregon failed to capitalize on that momentum and the snaps were wild- akin to the famous Stanford snaps. The tumultuous roar of Pullman completely disoriented the Ducks on their first drive- a spell that would remain until the second half.
The first drive had a bad snap that would have cost us a safety were it not for our own false start. It also had two delay of games and a good chunk of negative rushing yards. The drive resulted in a Duck punt then a Cougar touchdown, and this pattern repeated three times before the half.
How bad were we in the first half? The Ducks had three first downs, three rushing yards on seven attempts, and 39 total yards (29 of which came on Oregon’s final drive before heading into the lockers). Meanwhile, Washington State had no trouble at all picking apart our defense with short to intermediate well-timed throws, accompanied by a rushing attack that would end up out-producing Oregon’s.
As bad as the first half was, and it really was bad, Justin Herbert and the Ducks should receive a little bit of credit for how they fought back to make this a competitive game. Sure, Washington State history will remember this as a glorious blowout, but at least they’ll have to add a side note about how worried they were of blowing a lead on national television.
Justin Herbert: 25/44 - 270 YDS - 1 TD
Coming into the second half, it seemed like we had barely seen Oregon’s star quarterback. After all, the Ducks offense only ran 18 plays to the Cougs 50, and had only possessed the ball for a total of 7:06 in the first 30 minutes of the game.
Herbert and the rest of the Duck offense woke up from their early-game slumber and finally began to catch some balls. In fact, Herbert’s first two throws of the half (both to Jacob Breeland, one for 20 the other 27 yards) surpassed Oregon’s total yards of the first half.
On 4th and 1, Coach Cristobal elected to go for it on Wazzu’s 8-yard line, and Herbert ran it in for the Ducks’ first score. The junior from Eugene gave his hometown team a chance at the near-impossible comeback, even though the deficit required him to be near-perfect in the second half.
Each Duck drive in the third quarter ended in either a field goal or a touchdown, while the Cougs apparently pulled out Mark Helfrich’s old playbook from the Alamo Bowl. Two punts and an interception gave Oregon enough opportunities to make this a one score game with under four minutes left in the fourth, but a 22-yard touchdown pass to Dezmon Patmon proved too much to overcome.
Jacob Breeland: 4 rec - 63 YDS
Brenden Schooler: 4 rec - 59 YDS
Dillon Mitchell: 7 rec - 47 YDS
Jaylon Redd: 4 rec - 37 YDS - 1 TD
Kano Dillon: 2 rec - 25 YDS
CJ Verdell: 2 rec - 25 YDS
Johnny Johnson III: 1 rec - 8 YDS
Ryan Bay: 1 rec - 6 YDS
The wild crowd at Martin Stadium seemingly had such a strong effect on our receiving corps they regressed back to week one, as drops were once again a major issue. Surprisingly, Mitchell (our go-to receiver) suffered the most drops. The most memorable drop occurred right before the half, when Herbert chucked it down from midfield and hit Mitchell in the gut for what should have been a touchdown.
It was nice to see two veterans, Brenden Schooler and Jacob Breeland, contribute to the catching game once again, though it would have been nice if some of those catches took place in the first half. Perhaps the brightest spot for this unit is that Jaylon Redd has proven he is a good second threat behind Mitchell. Redd scored his fifth touchdown of the season on a leaping catch in the third quarter.
CJ Verdell: 12 car - 55 YDS
Justin Herbert: 7 car - 9 YDS - 1 TD
Dillon Mitchell: 1 car - 5 YDS
Travis Dye: 3 car - (-4) YDS
Washington State’s defense proved too swift for Oregon’s stout offensive line. The Cougs racked up seven tackles for a loss and sacked Herbert three times. Their quick response to the run limited Verdell to a pedestrian 55 yards on 12 carries and zero touchdowns.
Truth be told, at times Herbert looked to be our most dangerous threat in the running game due to the fact that Washington State still had to worry about the pass when he escaped the pocket.
NO ONE WAS GOING TO STOP WASHINGTON STATE ON GAMEDAY.
Gardner Minshew: 39/51 - 323 YDS - 4 TD - 2 INT
James Williams: 9 car - 53 YDS - 1 TD
Dezmon Patmon: 6 rec - 81 YDS - 1 TD
Max Borghi: 7 rec - 51 YDS - 1 TD
Renard Bell: 3 rec - 28 YDS - 1 TD
Easop Winston: 3 rec - 14 YDS - 1 TD
Outside of a couple interceptions, Gardner Minshew had a fantastic performance on a national stage. He threw three touchdowns in the first half but struggled in the second. A couple of punts and an interceptions gave the Ducks new life but with under four minutes remaining, Minshew connected with Patmon for the historic win.
It’s impossible to talk about this game without noting what it meant to Pullman, Washington. After 15 years, Ol’ Crimson returned home and the energy was infectious. Ten and a half hours later, Herbert and his offensive line looked like a bunch of nervous freshmen in large part due to the chaotic energy of the crowd.
On the other hand, Gardner Minshew looked like the quarterback that Leach created in a laboratory. Oregon had no answers for his clinical play. When he needed to he got rid of the ball, but otherwise, there was always an open receiver ready to pick up five to fifteen yards.
As a Duck fan, I noticed something that both fan bases have in common: both of us are quick to recognize an opponent’s epic comeback. Everything was going Wazzu’s way. GameDay was there, they were up 27-0 on a top 15 team at home, yet once Herbert ran in that 8-yard touchdown Martin Stadium became quiet and home fans looked like it was a tied game already.
After the Alamo Bowl, I noticed this same eerie calm at Autzen against Nebraska and Stanford. Would this be the ultimate display of “cougin’ it?”
But alas, they won. And when you ignore the order of the scores and focus on the results Washington State put together a complete performance and looked like a team that could take on anyone in the PAC-12.
Washington State Passing: 323 YDS - 4 TD - 2 INT
Washington State Rushing: 77 YDS - 1 TD
Turnovers: Ducks 0 - Cougars 2
The Oregon defense, just like the offense, was a tale of two halves. After allowing 231 passing yards and four total touchdowns in the first 30 minutes, Oregon held Washington State to just 92 yards in the air and one score for the final half.
After Herbert scored on the first drive of the third quarter, Minshew had a quick three and out. Then, after an Adam Stack field goal, Minshew had a miscommunication with one of his receivers, and once again Lenoir was there for the pick. Herbert threw a touchdown to Redd and then another Cougar punt led to yet another Duck field goal, bringing the game to just a one-score lead in the fourth.
Minshew ultimately proved too talented to bottle up for a full thirty minutes and he would put the game away with a 22-yard dagger late in the fourth quarter. Like Herbert, the defense needed to play perfect if there was going to be a chance at a comeback, and for awhile they did, but that final Coug touchdown seemed inevitable.
Once Oregon started playing with more physicality and wrapping up tackles in the second half, the crowd began to grow quiet. And Ducks began batting down short passes at the line, which affected Minshew in a way that Oregon’s pass rush had failed to do. But in the end, the task was too much to handle after a poor showing to begin the game.
ALL-GANG GREEN TEAM
- Deommodore Lenoir - After receiving some scrutiny as a weak-link in the secondary, Lenoir was the defensive MVP of the game. In the first and third quarter, Lenoir intercepted the ball, giving the Ducks some much needed hope.
- Troy Dye - Was shaken up in the second quarter of the game but finished up with 12 total tackles.
- Kaulana Apelu - Had a team high 14 total tackles.
Well Ducks, I guess now’s the time to see if you’re a half full or half empty kind of fan.