EUGENE – One minute left in the ballgame on Oregon’s 39 yard-line. The Cougar defense needed one unequivocal stand to extend Washington State’s win streak over the Ducks to an all-time high of five straight.
Justin Herbert capped off the final drive of an efficient night by marching 52 yards on six plays before centering a knee to que up placekicker Camden Lewis for a 26-yard boot. And true as taxes, the kick was and through,
The Washington State Cougars (4-4, 1,4) fought tooth and nail with the No. 11 Oregon Ducks (7-1, 5-0) Saturday night before 59,361 rabid fans in attendance at Autzen Stadium but fell by a nail-biting 37-35 final score.
It seemed every bad break that could happened did happen: Dez Patmon dropped some in the end zone, Anthony Gordon threw a pick-six trying to force the ball downfield, Arconado tipped a pass in the end zone that was intercepted by the Ducks, and Oregon’s only offensive touchdown of the first half came behind an 89-yard halfback draw. At any lapse of execution, the Ducks were sure to make Washington State pay.
By halftime, Oregon hadn’t taken a single snap in the red zone yet stood in the affair knotted up at a score of 17-17. The saying goes, ‘shooting yourself in the foot.’
Herbert didn’t jump off the stat sheet, but managed a well executed game shouldered by workhorse halfback CJ Verdell. Verdell ended the night with 313 yards from scrimmage accounting for 59 percent of Oregon’s total offensive production despite accounting for only 39 percent of their plays. The Cougar’s run defense was left no more fit to stop the fleetfooted sophomore than a pile of salt.
A continuous ground attack gave lots off opportunity to the Cougar secondary where Jahad Woods led the team with 13 tackles followed by Justus Rodgers at 9.
Gordon and Co. did their best to match on the other side of the field and went step-by-step with Oregon much of the night. The gunslgher ended his mark completing 32-50 for 406 yards. He tossed three touchdowns and gave a pair of turnovers – though, both not justly charged to his error.
The biggest deficit was a short-lived 11 point spread that cut down to a meager 3 just one series later courtesy of Brandon Arconado on the score and ensuing two-point conversion.
The sure-handed slot receiver was targeted 13 times but only reeled in 9. His two touchdowns and 130 yards topped WSU receivers. All-purpose back Max Borghi stood right beside Arco tacking on another 134 yards through 16 touches. Borghi scored just once on a short-yardage punch.
But the real question is what was Washington State doing the final drive defensively? It was clear the Duck’s bread and butter resided in the run game, but with a minuet left had their hand force through the air. yet, somehow, the Ducks completed shot after shot crossing into field goal range within seconds.
Alebit, it wasn’t the defenses fall for the loss. They played decent, and relative to the Ducks averaging 44.5 points per game behind a Herbert-led offensive in Autzen, it isn’t hard to argue they did their part. Not to mention the improvement from past weeks is evident via the eye test.
As for something tangible? The Cougar D sacked the hometown quarterback three times as he stood behind an offensive line accumulating 188 starts – a figure that leads the nation. Additionally, Herbert’s streak of 35 consecutive starts with a touchdown pass came to an abrupt end – another figure that led the nation.
And if you’re a betting man, that 14-point spread looks near comical now. But not nearly comical as the No. 11 ranked team in the nation storming the field at home against an unranked opponent.
And what does that say? Well, the Cougs have respect. Even in a year where nothing seems to bounce their way.
(Top photo: Jack Ellis – Cougar Sports Network)
Q1 7:26 – WSU 3, UO 0
Gordon clicks downfield with explosive connections to Arconado. Two holding penalties put the Cougs behind the sticks sending placekicker Blake Mazza in for mop-up duty from 46 yards.
Q1 3:11 – WSU 3, UO 3
Will Rodgers III picks up a pair of shoestring tackles forcing a field goal attempt. Placekicker Camden Lewis holds true from 40 yards.
Q1 1:15 – UO 9, WSU 3
One play, 12 seconds, 89 yards, and nothing but the back of CJ Verdell’s jerseys. (Lewis kick no good)
Q2 6:59 – WSU 10, UO 9
Starting the drive off with a draw, Max Borghi finished the series punching in a score from one yard out. (Mazza kick good)
Q2 1:51 – UO 17, WSU 10
Jevon Holland jumped a route intercepting Gordon for a 19-yard pick-six. (Two-point conversion good)
Q2 0:47 – WSU 17, UO 17
After some penalty help a human rain delays in the officiating booth, Renard Bell knots the ballgame up with a 15-yard screen to the corner pylon. (Mazza kick good)
Q3 6:47 – UO 24, WSU 17
Verdell dominates a 65-yard drive hammering home a one-yard draw for the touchdown call. (Lewis kick good)
Q3 2:40 – UO 24, WSU 20
Marching downfield with deep connections to Tay Martin, and Dez Patmon, Gordon and Co. sets up Mazza for a 23-yard boot.
Q4 13:20 – UO 31, WSU 20
Rinse and repeat. Verdell does it again for the Ducks padding onto the late lead. (Lewis kick good)
Q4 11:01 – UO 31, WSU 27
A well orchestrated 7-play, 78-yard drive hits Arconado in the numbers on a post route for Gordon’s second score. (Two-point conversion good)
Q4 1:00 – WSU 35, UO 34
A two-minute drive charged 90 yards for a late one-point lead after Gordon hit Arconado for a five-yard touchdown reception.
Q4 0:00 – UO 37, WSU 35
Camden Lewis knocks down a 26-yard field goal ending regulation.