Despite lopsided score, positives outweigh negatives
After falling behind 20-3 in the first quarter, the Cougars settled down and played toe-to-toe with the #2 team in the country.
Two touchdowns and field goal later, the Ducks found themselves in the peculiar position of a competitive 23-19 football game heading into half.
But, as all dominant football teams do, the Ducks made the necessary halftime adjustments to put Cougars away for good and effectively eliminate the buzz of a potential upset.
And once again, a traditionally dominant second half performance by Oregon resulted in a 51-26 victory to improve their record to 4-0 (2-0), sending the Cougars to 2-3 (0-2).
Playing Motivated, Competitive Football
After giving up a touchdown on the Ducks’ opening drive in under two minutes, the Cougars could have easily folded and accepted the fact that the Ducks were just the superior football team and the route would have been on.
But they didn’t.
Despite the fact that their ensuing drive stalled inside the red zone, Connor Halliday rallied the troops valiantly, not succumbing to the perceived notion that the Ducks were going to punch them in the mouth on their way to a blowout victory.
Sure, the final score leaves one to think that this was a dominating three-and-a-half touchdown victory for the Ducks — and for the most part, you’d be right. There is just too much speed, athleticism, and talent to play with the Ducks for four quarters at a high level.
What the Cougars didn’t do, however, was quit. In so many games this year — BYU, Eastern Washington, UNLV, and Colorado — they have either pouted because they were behind or quit playing because they were up a touchdown or two, allowing the opposing team to climb back in the game.
There was no let down after that opening drive. Trailing 13-0, the Cougars played inspired football and showed that, at times, they can play with anyone in the country.
If WSU can build upon, what Mike Leach called their “most complete game of the season,” we’re going to see quality football come out of an otherwise disappointing result.
Everyone is going to key on his tendency to drop the football, which has definitely been the only weak spot in his game all season, yet there’s no denying the competitor that Marquess Wilson is.
Wilson finished the game with 12 receptions for 182 yards and a touchdown despite being draped in double- and triple-coverage.
His physicality at the line of scrimmage is something we haven’t seen out of Wilson in his previous two seasons. It’s allowing him to create space on the corner which is vital considering the amount of attention that is being directed his way.
Wilson’s 182-yards moved him into first place on the Cougars’ all time receiving yardage list (2,759 yards), passing current St. Louis Rams WR Brandon Gibson. Not to mention, Wilson is still just a junior, whereas Gibson set the previous record of 2,756 in four years of service in a Cougars uniform.
Red Zone Offense
After yielding a touchdown on the Ducks’ opening drive, the Cougars countered with an impressive 15 play, 79 yard drive but couldn’t capitalize after three shots from inside the five yard line. After going for it on fourth down earlier in the drive, the Leach insisted on taking the field goal rather than go for it on fourth and goal with the chance to take the lead.
Trailing 20-3, the Cougars’ surprising freshman RB Teondray Caldwell returned the kickoff for 92-yards down to the Ducks’ six yard line. Carl Winston capped the scoring drive with a six-yard touchdown run, but it would be the only touchdown they would score inside the Ducks’ red zone.
After a Marcus Mariota interception thrown to Cougars FS Deone Bucannon, the Cougars found themselves inside the red zone, once again but were unable to capitalize, resulting in another Andrew Furney 20-yard field goal.
Their inability to run the ball effectively has been a cause for concern, especially in goal-to-go situations and it bit them again against the Ducks.
When attempting to pull off an upset of that magnitude, it becomes imperative to capitalize on the precious opportunities in the opponents red zone. The Cougars ended up settling for field goals rather than touchdowns — something you can’t do and expect to win a football game.
I thought the defense did a good job of not blatantly blowing coverages at the rate they have been all season. But they still had their moments.
The only instance I saw where the defense lapsed completely, was the Kenjon Barner 30-yard swing pass for a touchdown in the first quarter. He was left wide open, running free down the sideline. That’s something that you just can’t allow to happen in close football games.
Other than that, though, the Cougars did a good job of keeping the play in front of them. There were missed tackles but that can be attributed to the Ducks’ speed more than a lack of containment.
Dropped footballs continued to plague the offense once again.
Wilson and Isiah Myers dropped notable passes, something that has continued to plague this receiving core — a group that was expected to be one of the better core’s in the conference.
The penalties weren’t as bad as they have been — seven penalties for 66 yards — but they can, and should be, diminished. That all comes down to focus.
Overall, the turnovers, dropped passes, red zone inefficiency, and stupid penalties were the catalyst towards the Ducks’ rampant second half dominance.
These are all things that can be alleviated but overall the positives of this game far outweighed the negatives and I think the Cougars can hold their head high heading into a tough contest next week against the Oregon State Beavers.