They Are Who We Thought They Were
Century Link had previously hosted a bizarre upset the Monday before, with the Seattle Seahawks defeating the favored Green Bay Packers on a controversial game-ending touchdown/interception.
Three days later, the Washington Huskies upset the #8 Stanford Cardinals on the same turf at the Clink. Could the magic continue on Saturday for the Cougars? Not likely.
The Ducks came away with a 51-26 victory over the Cougars, and nobody batted an eyelash at the outcome. A flawless performance from the Cougars would have been the only possibility for a win over the Ducks, and that might not even have been enough.
Nevertheless, the Cougars were once again far from perfect. Here is what went wrong for Washington State.
A Tale of Two Halves
The Ducks started the game as presumed, with a 22-yard touchdown run by Kenjon Barner after a WSU three-and-out. The Cougars refused to back down, answering back with a 15-play drive down to the Oregon 2 yard line, but could not punch it into the end zone and resulted in a Andrew Furney 19-yard field goal.
The Ducks struck back with a Marcus Mariota 14-yard touchdown scramble after evading a sack, and extended their lead.
On the following kickoff, true freshman Teondray Caldwell fumbled and gave the Ducks possession at the WSU 15. This was the turnover that could have easily been the first nail in the coffin. However, the Cougar defense was steadfast and stopped the Oregon offense on a 4th and 1. Cougars answering back? Could there be hope after all?
Sure enough, Caldwell made up for his mistake by taking the next kickoff 92 yards that eventually led to a Carl Winston touchdown run. Deone Bucannon then intercepted Mariota on the following drive and set up another Furney field goal.
The Cougars ended the half with a 26-yard strike from Connor Halliday to Brett Bartolone. The score was 23-19 at half, and the Cougars were heading into the third quarter with – wait for it – MOMENTUM.
Cougar fans throughout Century Link and amongst the Seattle tail gates put down their beers and began to attend their attention to the possibility of a Cougar victory. We had the number 2 team in the nation on the ropes.
Unfortunately, similar to last year after a 15-10 first half against Oregon, the Ducks’ halftime adjustments greatly outmatched the Cougars’.
Oregon began the third-quarter with a 18-play, 76-yard drive that would eat up over six minutes of clock and was the beginning of 28 unanswered points.
The ensuing Cougar possession led to an intercepted pass by Avery Patterson, which was returned for a touchdown to give Oregon a 37-19 lead. The downfall continued, and the Ducks closed out the game with ease.
Outmatched Physically and Mentally
The Cougars were outmatched by the Ducks across the board, besides at wide receiver. In this situation, the underdog must put forth more effort and heart to defeat the greater foe.
This was the case for the first half, when the WSU would refuse to give up after a turnover and got defensive stops when they needed them.
The second half came around, and once again the Cougars’ backs were against the wall. They gave up a long drive, then threw a pick-six.
This would be the biggest test for the Cougars to bounce back. Instead, they continued to allow the Ducks to convert third downs, committed personal fouls, and gave up a sack to end their only positive drive.
This has been a common occurrence for the Cougar football team.Mike Leach has commented on it several times in his press conferences, insisting that the team is mentally weak and that they need to be tougher if they want to win games.
Once again, the weak mentality of WSU peeked its head out during the second half, and was the catalyst for the already probable defeat.
There was little hope entering the game for the Cougars. A 30-point pregame spread doesn’t exactly bode confidence for an underdog.
Also, the fact they would not even have home-field advantage – due to the game being scheduled at Century Link – was just more icing on the bitter cake.
WSU still came out of the gates strong, and gave hope to the fan base after a solid first half. Even with the landslide defeat that was the second half, they still showed they could compete against the top teams in the nation – for one half at least.
It is difficult to take positives from this game, seeing how every player had their ups and their downs.
Even star wide out Marquess Wilson – who had a solid 12 receptions for 182 yards and a touchdown – still had some key drops.
The stud receiver’s hands have been an issue all season.
Jeff Tuel made an appearance late in the game after a hard hit on Halliday, and threw a 26 yard score to Wilson on his very first pass.
This was definitely a positive coming out, and may complicate Leach’s decision on who will line up behind center next Saturday at Oregon State.