What went right
Washington State was the more physical team from the opening kickoff. “We keep talking about being tough,” WSU coach Paul Wulff said. “That’s the next step for our football team. They have to be tougher, more physical.” They were in this one. “We had some big plays, some big hits, on special teams,” Wulff said. “It’s young energy. … Now they know they can play at that level. And they also know where we’ve got to get to.”
What went wrong
The big play bit the Cougars. It started with LaMichael James’ 84-yard pass reception, continued through Cliff Harris’ 67-yard punt return, was evident on Nate Costa’s 43-yard run and finished with James’ 55-yard blast up the sideline. James’ scoring catch-and-run was the product of a linebacker and nickel back getting caught inside. James’ capper included a couple of missed tackles.
Trailing 36-23 with less than a minute to go, the Cougars were driving for a third-quarter score that would, at the least, make the game interesting. After throwing a perfect fade route to Jared Karstetter down the right sideline for 35 yards to the Oregon 12, Jeff Tuel tried to power a pass into Daniel Blackledge at the goal line. It didn’t get there. Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews picked it off.
Though defensive tackle Brandon Bair didn’t get one of the Ducks’ four sacks, he knocked Tuel to the ground four times after the ball was released. The 6-foot-7, 272-pound senior also had 3.5 tackles for loss and disrupted countless other plays. “He’s a big wiry guy, long arms, good football player,” Wulff said. “He created a lot of problems for us.” The Cougars’ offensive line struggled to protect Tuel, who was hurried often.