PULLMAN _ The No. 12 Oregon Ducks had marched down the field Saturday and scored their 20th unanswered point when the suddenly ineffective Washington State Cougars took the ball late in the fourth quarter.
With 6:38 to play and WSU leading 27-20, quarterback Gardner Minshew whiffed a pass on first down. On the next play, he looked downfield and put the ball up for a covered Travell Harris, all 5-foot-9, 180 pounds of him.
The redshirt freshman from Tampa, Florida, went up for the ball between Duck safeties Jevon Holland and Nick Pickett, who both had 4 inches on the receiver.
Holland appeared to grab a game-changing interception, but Harris reached out and ripped the ball out of Holland’s hands for one of the biggest catches of the game.
“He’s 2 feet shorter than that guy,” Leach said of Harris. “Then he ripped it away at the end, too. Yeah, that was an outstanding play. It was a really good play.”
Fellow receiver Dezmon Patmon, who caught six passes for 81 yards and a touchdown, was on the field when Minshew threw the pass up for Harris.
“I was watching it,” Patmon said. “I got fired up. That kind of started the momentum for that entire drive. So, without that play, I mean, I don’t know that we would be celebrating a win tonight.”
Harris said Holland, the defender, made a great play on the ball as he went up for Minshew’s pass.
“At one point, I felt like (Holland) had it, but I just snatched it from him,” Harris said. “I wanted it more. That’s the main thing. I wanted it more.”
Minshew, who completed 39 of 51 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns, said he had enough trust that Harris would make a play on the ball.
“I threw up that post to him and he had that guy on his back. The guy made a good play on the ball, but man, Travell, he is a competitor,” Minshew said. Harris “wasn’t going to let (Holland) take it. He fought for me. And that’s the trust we have to have between guys.”
The same drive stalled at the Oregon 34-yard line and Leach faced a decision on a fourth-and 6. If the Cougars didn’t convert, they would give the Ducks the ball with just under 5 minutes left in the game.
“We thought about kicking a field goal. But it was a little long,” Leach said. “So, we felt like if we could just play catch, we’d convert it.”
Minshew threw a dart and Harris, who finished with four catches for 59 yards, again pulled in the pass to continue the drive.
After dominating Oregon in the first half, in which WSU outgained the Ducks 295 total yards to 29, the No. 25 Cougars lost their way in the third quarter as Oregon’s Justin Herbert began finding open receivers.
“We just felt like we kept getting in our own way. A lot of that’s on me,” Minshew said. “So, I knew we just had to execute, man.”
After Harris’ two big catches set up Washington State at the Oregon 22, Minshew threw a high pass to Patmon who grabbed it over his shoulder for a 22-yard touchdown to seal the 34-20 win.
“We have a lot of belief in each other,” Minshew said. “That’s not going to stop because of a couple bad drives. They kept believing in me, even though I kept messing up.
“And, I believed in them and I knew we were going to come away with a score and a win.”
But that win may otherwise have been a season-deflating loss had it not been for a momentum-changing catch from one of Washington State’s smallest receivers.
“Just finish,” Harris said. “We knew we had to go out there and score. That’s what we did.”
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