EUGENE – They left little doubt Saturday evening at one of the country’s loudest venues. The Cougars are this good on the road, too.
And even if this season somehow does spiral out of control, Washington State can rest easy knowing in some way, shape or form, it will be eligible to play in the postseason.
Another inspired effort from Alex Grinch’s defense shut down Oregon’s high-charged run game and Autzen Stadium had all but emptied by the midway point of the fourth quarter, as the Cougars powered past the Ducks 33-10 in front of a capacity crowd in Eugene.
WSU beat Oregon for the third consecutive time and the visitors were better than the hosts in all three facets: offense, defense and special teams.
WSU outgained Oregon 369-277 in total yardage and the Cougars’ fifth-year senior, Luke Falk, vastly outplayed the Ducks’ fledgling freshman, Braxton Burmeister.
Falk improved to 2-0 in Autzen Stadium and finished 24-of-42 with 282 yards and threw touchdowns. Burmeister was making the first start of his college career against the Pac-12’s second-ranked defense and it showed. The rookie was 15-of-27 with 145 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
WSU caused three turnovers to Oregon’s two and scored 10 points off those turnovers. The Ducks scored none. The Cougars held UO to 10 points and a single touchdown. The Ducks had led the nation in total offense before Saturday’s game, scoring an average of 49.6 points per game.
And Erik Powell had arguably the best game of his career, connecting on all four of his field goals, including a career-long 52-yarder and a 47-yarder that would’ve matched his career long.
The Cougars effectively put the game to bed in the opening minutes of the third quarter.
Falk was sacked for the fourth time on the second play of half, but the quarterback found Isaiah Johnson-Mack on the right boundary for a 29-yard gain. Kyle Sweet slipped past his defender a few plays later for a 38-yard reception and Falk’s offensive line bought the QB enough time to find Renard Bell on a crossing route into the end zone. The redshirt freshman caught the 10-yard pass for his first career touchdown, making it 20-10.
WSU outscored Oregon 13-0 from there to extend its winning streak against the Ducks.
Powell’s kick second kick of the game in the second broke the tie gave the Cougars a 13-10 lead at the end of a back-and-forth first half between the Pac-12 North foes.
Oregon opened the game with two false-start penalties and the Ducks made a gutty call to go for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 41-yard line. That backfired when running back Royce Freeman ran into a barricade of Cougars and was stopped for no gain.
The visitors didn’t wait long to ring up six points. Luke Falk hit Jamal Morrow on a short pass into the flat and the running back scooted around the edge for a 41-yard touchdown. It gave Falk his 106th career touchdown and moved him past former Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota into second all-time in the Pac-12.
But WSU’s offense stalled after that and Powell was able to cash in from 25 yards three minutes into the second quarter and the senior kicker had the distance to make the longest field goal of his career – a 52-yarder with 6:59 left in the half.
The Cougars still managed to outgain the Ducks 194-172 in the first half.
Oregon got on the board when Cougars linebacker Dillon Sherman left Jacob Breeland wide open downfield, allowing Burmeister to drop a 30-yard touchdown pass over the top to his tight end, giving the Ducks a 10-7 lead.
The Cougars held tough on defense despite a handful of shoddy punts. They also stopped the Ducks after WSU receiver Renard Bell fumbled the ball away near midfield.
Falk finished 14-of-22 with 150 yards inthe first half. Burmeister, the true freshman making his first career start, was 9-for-14 with 59 yards.
WSU’s Isaac Dotson left for the locker room in the first quarter with an apparent injury and another middle linebacker, Nate DeRider, limped off the field in the second period and didn’t return. Corner Darrien Molton also exited in the first half with what appeared to be a left arm injury. He didn’t play in the second half and wore a cast on his left arm.
The Cougars were also missing defensive end Nnamdi Oguayo, who didn’t start in his second consecutive game with a probable injury.