In one of the most amazing, furious rallies by an Oregon football team in recent years, the Ducks stormed back from a 12-point deficit and scored 22 points over the last 6:49 to stun the Washington State Cougars 44 - 41 in Pullman, Washington. Bo Nix led Oregon going 33 - 44 passing for 428 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception (which was returned 95 yards for a Cougar touchdown in the first half). Bucky Irving had 11 carries for 81 yards, and a key 21-yard reception on 4th and 2 to keep a late Oregon drive alive. Troy Franklin led 11 Oregon receivers who caught at least one pass - Franklin caught 5 passes for 137 yards and a 49-yard touchdown with 1:21 to play that put Oregon ahead for good 37 - 34. Franklin shook off a WSU tackler to break free and score. The defense collected 2 interceptions, including a pick-6 by Mase Funa that put Oregon up 44 - 34 and sealed the win. WSU scored a touchdown with 2 seconds to play for the final score. Oregon outgained WSU 626 yards to 416.
The Oregon rally seemed unlikely as the team underperformed offensively for much of the game, turning four first-half trips to the Red Zone into just 9 points and a pick-six for Washington State. But the Ducks overcame all obstacles late, making key play after key play on offense and defense to close out the Cougars.
Washington State scored on its first possession, going on a 9-play, 75-yard drive and scoring on a broken-play scramble from the Oregon 5-yard line by WSU transfer QB Cameron Ward. WSU 7 - Oregon 0
Oregon followed with a 9-play drive that ended in a 24-yard Camden Lewis field goal. Oregon moved the ball very well until it reached the Red Zone with a 38-yard Nix pass to Franklin and a 17-yard ankle-breaking run by Irving to the Cougar 5-yard line. The Oregon drive stalled at the 5, however, as the Ducks drew a false start penalty and then ran 3 plays that gained just 3 yards. Lewis’s field goal made it WSU 7 - Oregon 3.
Washington State’s second possession also ended in a field goal as the Duck pass defense stiffened inside their 30-yard line, forcing two incompletions. The 38-yard Cougar field goal made it WSU 10 - Oregon 3.
Oregon again took over on its 25-yard line after a touchback on the kickoff and this time made it to the Cougar 2-yard line before having to settle for another field goal. Back-to-back plays featured a 21-yard screen catch and run to Chase Cota and an 18-yard run to the WSU 2 by Noah Whittington. The first quarter clock ran out as Oregon was again running unsuccessful plays near the Cougar goal line. Oregon lost 9 yards on 3 plays.
As the quarter began, Lewis kicked his second field goal - this time a 28-yarder - making the score WSU 10 - Oregon 6.
Oregon’s defense got its first stop on WSU’s bizarre third possession. The Cougars had moved the ball and faced a 1st and 10 on the Oregon 41-yard line. Oregon brought pressure on the play, and Ward scrambled a bit in the middle of the field and then threw a pass out of bounds to the right sideline. Intentional grounding was called on the play which should have cost the Cougars a down and penalty yardage. But the officials instead mistakenly put the Cougars at 3rd down and 16 (instead of 2nd and 16), and WSU failed to convert, punting to Oregon on “4th” down, a punt that was fair caught by the Ducks at the Oregon 5-yard line. However, what must be a recent rule change allows the officials to go back in time and correct this kind of error, provided the change in possession has not resulted in a snap of the ball. Since the Ducks had not yet run what would have been their first-down play from their own 5, the ball was given back to the Cougars at their own 49-yard line, 2nd and 16. Fortunately, this epic “Pac-12 Ref Happening” actually worked in Oregon’s favor. The Cougars were unable to move the ball and were forced to punt again. This time, Oregon fair caught the ball on their own 12-yard line, and so “gained” 7 yards on that exchange.
Oregon’s third possession largely went the way of the first two. Oregon ran 11 plays and marched down the field, even picking up a 4th and 3 from the WSU 11. But on 1st and goal from the Cougar 7, Nix underthrew his receiver, and the route was jumped by Cougar linebacker Francisco Mauigoa who sailed 95 yards for a WSU touchdown. With the extra point, the score was WSU 17 - Oregon 6.
Oregon got the ball back and again had little trouble moving the ball downfield. Oregon got as far as a first down on the WSU 11-yard line, but again ran three plays that did not gain any yardage. Lewis again came on for a 29-yard field goal and it was WSU 17 - Oregon 9.
Oregon’s defense held again on WSU’s next possession, helped by an offensive pass interference call. Poor tackling almost let the Cougars escape to a first down on 3rd and 16, but after a motion penalty, the Cougars had to punt.
Oregon got the ball back on their 39-yard line with only 14 seconds left in the half and to their credit moved to the WSU 39 in the time available on a Nix scramble and an inside screen pass. At the Half, it was WSU 17 - Oregon 9.
Nix was 16 - 20 for 161 yards and the seemingly disastrous interception. Irving had 6 carries for 69 yards and Cota caught 3 passes for 47 yards. Oregon led in first downs and 321 - 175 in total yards. Oregon also led in time of possession 17:01 to 12:59.
Oregon received the 2nd half kickoff and struck like the lightning offense of old. On first down from the Oregon 25, Nix hit Kris Hutson with a 55-yard pass to the WSU 20, then completed a pass over the middle to the WSU 12. A screen pass to Irving around the left side took care of the rest of the distance, and Oregon had taken less than 50 seconds to go 75 yards in 3 plays. Wanting to tie the game, the Ducks went for a 2-point conversion that failed. WSU 17 - Oregon 15.
Washington State got the ball back and moved to midfield where on 2nd and 8, Oregon defensive back Bennett Williams made a tremendous pass breakup at the Oregon 20-yard line. Unfortunately, on 3rd and 8 Oregon’s defender was caught looking to the sideline as the ball was snapped and WSU took advantage completing a 38-yard catch and run to the Oregon 11. It could have been worse, as an Oregon attempted tackle forced the receiver to step out of bounds, a fortunate outcome for Oregon that was caught on replay. The Duck defense held and the Cougars settled for a 38-yard field goal which made the score WSU 20 - Oregon 15.
Oregon’s next possession was the opposite of the previous one. The Ducks picked up only 20 yards total and had to punt it away when a 3rd down unmolested safety blitz forced Nix to throw the ball away.
Washington State’s 2nd possession of the half was very similar to Oregon’s first possession of the 2nd half. The Cougars needed only 7 plays to cover 62 yards, getting great field position when Oregon was penalized for not allowing Washington State’s returner room to catch the punt. Oregon added some poor tackling to the mix and WSU ran a couple of trick plays. WSU 27 - Oregon 15.
With 4:11 left in the third quarter, Oregon got the ball on its 15-yard line due to a failed attempt at a kickoff return. The Ducks again moved the ball well, using 10 plays to move all the way to the WSU 1-yard line as the third quarter expired. Nix passes to tight end Terrance Ferguson and two to Franklin sandwiched some effective running by Whittington.
Oregon again scored on the first play of a quarter as Jordan James blasted up the middle behind the offensive line and into the end zone. The score made it WSU 27 - Oregon 22.
WSU’s next possession ended in another crazy play as Oregon intercepted a pass that hit the receiver’s hands and was juggled as he and Trikweze Bridges went to the ground. Bridges kept working the ball, and he eventually had it in his hands as the players stopped rolling. After a review, Oregon had the ball at its own 46-yard line with a chance to take the lead.
Unfortunately, the Ducks instead generated their first 3-and-out on offense. A screen pass to the right lost 2 yards, the 2nd down pass attempt was batted down, and the 3rd down pass over the middle was dropped. After a delay of game penalty on Oregon, the Ducks punted it away.
With 12:14 left in the game, Washington State quickly moved into Oregon territory on a play that Duck fans might think looked similar to the Mariota flip pass to Royce Freeman against Michigan State. This was not a good possession for Oregon’s defense, which saw linebacker Jeffrey Bassa ejected for targeting and a roughing the passer call on Brandon Dorlus which gave WSU new life on a 3rd and 18 play. Oregon also lost contain on Ward on a 2nd and 12 play from the Oregon 14, and WSU scored again on the next play. WSU 34 - Oregon 22.
Oregon’s next possession started with the team down 12 points and with only 6:24 left in the game. This Oregon drive took almost 3 minutes and ended in a 1-yard touchdown pass from Nix to McCormick. The Ducks converted a 4th down and 2 from the WSU 49 with the game on the line as Nix found Irving with a great lead pass in the middle of the field. The play went for 21 yards and the throw was pinpoint - to a place only Irving could get it. A completion to Hutson and a 10-yard burst from Whittington put Oregon at the one-yard line for the McCormick touchdown. WSU 34 - Oregon 29.
With only 3:48 left, the Cougars got the ball back needing to run some clock and gain some field position to try to close out the game. But Oregon’s defense stepped up to the challenge, holding the Cougars to a total loss of 1 yard on 3 plays and forcing a punt from the WSU 24-yard line.
Oregon fair caught the punt and started on its own 31-yard line trailing by just 5 points. Two runs by Irving gained a first down, and two Nix passes gained another 9 yards. On third and one from the WSU 49, Nix hit Franklin streaking across the middle and when Franklin shook free of the lone Cougar tackler in range he was off to the races, scoring the 49-yard go-ahead touchdown. Oregon again went for a two-point conversion which this time was successful. With only 1:21 to play it was Oregon 37 - WSU 34.
Washington State started on its own 25-yard line after the kickoff touchback, and 1:21 is plenty of time for the Cougars high-octane offense. Oregon’s defense, though, again had other ideas as linebacker Mase Funa stepped in front of a 2nd-down Ward pass and sprinted untouched 30 yards into the end zone. Oregon had scored 2 touchdowns in only 20 seconds to make it Oregon 44 - WSU 34.
With the game suddenly and seemingly out-of-reach, WSU was left with 1:01 to make something happen. Oregon made a couple of good defensive plays, including some tight coverage by defensive back Jamal Hill but WSU completed a deep pass on 3rd and 23 from their own 38-yard line to the Oregon one. The pass was actually well defended, and there was also some question about whether Ward had crossed the line of scrimmage before throwing the pass. A review gave the Cougars the ball on Oregon’s 1-yard line and WSU punched it in for the final score with 2 seconds to play. Oregon 44 - WSU 41.
A Washington State on-side kick went out of bounds, and Nix kneeled down to run out the clock.
Oregon showed incredible poise down the stretch of this game, which might not have been necessary had they capitalized on the numerous opportunities they had to score touchdowns from inside the Washington State 10-yard line in the first half. It’s probably fair to say that Oregon left 12 points on the field and also gave up a 14-point reversal on Nix’s pick-6 interception. No doubt, Washington State can find similar missed chances in a game they controlled until very late. Regardless, the Oregon rally in the 4th quarter, which required contributions from offense and defense, and some fantastic individual plays at key moments, was inspiring to watch. No matter how they got there, Oregon is 1 - 0 in Conference play and comes home to face the Stanford Cardinal next Saturday at 8:00 pm.