PULLMAN – A sleepless Martin Stadium – reaching max capacity hours before kickoff – waited in anticipation for the hottest contest Pullman had seen in over a decade.
The week-long fairytale affair courtesy of College GameDay refrained from halting upon Washington State (6-1, 3-1) and Oregon (5-2, 2-2) hitting the field in unison with an iconic Palouse sunset.
No matter how much laundry the officials littered in the matchups opening drives, Wazzu remained focused humming along to a commanding 34-20 victory for all of the nation to see.
“It was incredible,” quarterback Gardner Minshew II told the press. “I’m just proud to be a coug right now.”
Outplaying the Ducks on all three sides of the ball, Washington State had found themselves scoring 20 times more points than Oregon had yards halfway into the second quarter. No fan – donning yellow or crimson – left the Promised Land in question of Wazzu’s worth.
The nights biggest showdown resided in the WSU backfield crashing noses with Oregon’s stout linebacker corps. Perhaps for the first time all season, Max Borghi and James Williams fell lateral as opposed to forward.
Though it didn’t matter as the highly profiled secondary was just that – secondary. Cougar tailbacks James Williams and Max Borghi took 33 touches – ground and air – 186 yards for 2 scores complimenting the night’s 400 yards of total offense.
“I thought they played good overall. I thought they played a really good first half. I think we need to do the best we can to hold them to what we saw out of them the first half, ” Head Coach Mike Leach said.
After 30 tormenting minutes, the Ducks finally returned fire. Highly touted NFL prospect Justin Herbert marched his flock 75 yards in the second half’s opening drive abolishing the scoreboard’s goose egg.
Once Oregon got their gears lubricated, the previously written off opponent proved it was once again a ball game. Flying to 20 unanswered points – 17 of which within the third quarter’s measly 15 minutes – the Cougs could no longer leave the autopiloted vessel unattended as the contest was reduced to a single possession.
“We need to do routine stuff and we didn’t. Sometimes subconsciously you might relax a little and maybe we did,” Leach said.
But that’s all water under the bridge.
Come crunch time, Cougar quarterback Gardner Minshew II and redshirt freshman Travell Harris played catch like old backyard friends threatening Duck territory. And with just under 4 minutes to play, Dezmond Patmon celebrated adjacent to a sold-out Crimzone following a 22-yard package delivered via Minshew II.
“He’s a very inspired player and I think he inspires the rest of the unit,” Leach said. “As a team overall we played the fourth quarter pretty decently.”
A spirited defensive stop highlighted by a Willie Taylor III sack and a Jalen Thompson pass breakup ultimately put the contest on ice. A failure to execute early – and when it mattered most – played Oregon’s biggest adversary of the evening.
“We had a really good first half, we had a bad third quarter and – I’m not gonna say great – but we had a real scrappy fourth quarter,” Leach said.
The infamous southeast corner of the stadium thinned a hair early as the feathered chrome helmets of Oregon lagged behind their crimson foe within the closing minutes. Though, it wasn’t too many as more seats donning mighty Oregon’s yellow and green held an instrument than not.
Washington State now commands the Pac-12 North and travels to Palo Alto, California next Saturday for a showdown with the Stanford Cardinal. Live coverage of the action can be found on the Pac-12 Network.
Q1 4:30 – WSU 7, UO 0
Washington State’s second drive – laced with halfback touches – ended in James Williams dancing 24 yards to house on a slippery Big Gulp formation rush handing Wazzu the contest’s first lead. (Blake Mazza kick good)
Q2 12:22 – WSU 13, UO 0
Minshew II links up with Renard Bell for a 16-yard strike. Initially called down at the 1-yard line, Leach petitions the officials give it another look resulting in a score. (Mazza kick no good)
Q2 2:59 – WSU 20, UO 0
Easop Winston Jr. creates space on 3rd-and-goal reeling in a 6-yard corner fade. Minshew II’s second score of the night extended the Wazzu lead to three possessions. (Mazza kick good)
Q2 0:41 – WSU 27, UO 0
Max Borghi takes a Minshew II check down 15 yards down the south sideline into the east end zone just before intermission. (Mazza kick good)
Q3 11:54 – WSU 27, UO 7
Justin Herbert elects to keep a designed rollout in the second half’s opening drive scampering 8 yards into the west end zone. (Adam Stack kick good)
Q3 6:58 – WSU 27, UO 10
Placekicker Adam Stack continues the Oregon surge by converting on a 32-yard field goal.
Q3 0:36 – WSU 27, UO 17
Herbert wheels out of the pocket and sails a dime over the head of WSU safety Jalen Thompson for an 11-yard connection with Jaylon Redd near the corner pylon. (Stack kick good)
Q4 6:38 – WSU 27, UO 20
A 16-play 74-yard drive resulted in 3 points for the Ducks by virtue of Adam Stack converting from 23 yards out.
Q4 3:40 – WSU 34, UO 20
Minshew II slings a bullet to Dezmon Patmon for a touchdown in the back of the end zone from 22-yard out. (Mazza kick good)