Sleepy Ducks Oust Cougs in Autzen

Ryan Robertson Editorials

What can you say? It was Washington State.

I was surprised to learn, as the Ducks came out in victory formation, that Oregon has won five consecutive games against the Cougars. No really, they have won three straight at Autzen Stadium, and two straight in Pullman. It seems like the Cougs are always a thorn in the side of Oregon. But after winning four straight from 2015-2018, Oregon hasn’t lost.

This is the last – the final – scheduled meeting between these two programs, and both teams played like they forgot they had a game today.

Another fun fact, the second ever meeting between the two teams was a 0-0 tie in 1903.

Bucky Irving kept Oregon alive on Saturday. Photo By Steven Chan

That 0-0 tie would have been far more intense than the brand of football seen on the field for portions of Saturday afternoon. The score was 3-3 until WSU took the lead with about nine minutes left in the first half. It felt like a typical UO-WSU matchup, doomed to be prohibitively stupid in the outcome.

Then the Ducks woke up from their afternoon nap, scored touchdowns on two straight drives while completing zero passes, while holding WSU scoreless – until…

Allowing another sleepy drive down the field for a field goal before halftime, making it 17-13 at the half. Considering the Ducks were getting the ball coming out of the half, and how poorly they had played, going into the half with a 4 point lead wasn’t too bad.

Oregon punted their first drive out of halftime, forced a three-and-out on defense, then scored long (or long-ish) touchdown plays on three straight drives to effectively ice the game.

Sure, Wazzu scored a touchdown and successfully got a two-point conversion on their last drive of the game to get it to 14, but it never really felt like they were going to threaten. Oregon’s win felt inevitable.

Camden Lewis got some needed redemption with his made field goal. Photo By Steven Chan

Camden Lewis missed another field goal on the first drive of the game. He redeemed himself with a make on the second drive, but the misses are starting to add up.

Will Stein remains a suspect playcaller. Consistently trying to attack the edges of a fast defense instead of the middle of a small one is the sort of thing that loses teams games. The insistence on using the screen game as what amounts to the base play of the Oregon offense is nothing if not infuriating. Refusing to run the ball for long stretches of games allows defenses to drop their linebackers into coverage, meaning that Bo Nix tries to take check-downs and dump-offs instead of attacking the secondary.

Oregon was without their best corner for the whole game and their second best for the first half. It really hurt the secondary against a team that can throw the ball with the best of them.

The defense made just enough plays to throw WSU off. Photo by Steven Chan

I have always been worried about WSU when we play them. Games always get… silly. But if most of the games between these two teams over the last few years have ended up being jokes, this one had the driest humor I’ve ever observed. It was mostly just waiting for Stein to realize that he has a positional advantage at receiver and running back, so he can attack the defense. Most games feel that way at this point.

A sleepy, gloomy Saturday in October turned in a performance on the field that matched the weather. And the Ducks had better get it together before next week, because the Utah defense isn’t nearly as forgiving as the WSU defense is. This was hopefully a fluke: a sad end to a ridiculous series, and not an indicator of issues to follow this season.

But what can you say? It was Washington State.

Ryan Robertson
Sierra Vista, Arizona
Top photo by: Steven Chan

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