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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Final thoughts from the Oregon game

The Cougars came up just a few plays short of knocking off the No. 2 team in the country in front of what was easily the finest crowd I've seen in Pullman. It was like an Apple Cup crowd but with fewer visitors.

Yes, I raised my eyebrow in the direction of the officials more than once in the fourth quarter, but I don't think a missed pass interference call changed what this game ultimately was: a great college football game in which one team was tougher and crisper, but the other team had the best player on the field (Marcus Mariota), a Heisman candidate for obvious reasons who made just enough big plays to give his team the victory.

I can understand if you'd rather not think about this one for a few hours (or a few barley pops) but I have my thoughts from the game after the jump.

-- The fact that the Cougars sacked Mariota seven times is impressive in itself, that they did it without starting defensive end Destiny Vaeao is downright remarkable. It would be easy to point to all the offensive tackles the Ducks have lost this year as the reason why UO struggled against the WSU pass rush, but most of the pressure, at least early in the game, actually appeared to come because the Cougars got past the interior offensive linemen. The Cougars almost had an eighth sack but Mariota evaded a pair of would-be tacklers and then fought out of Xavier Cooper's grip before throwing the ball out of bounds. The play illustrated just how hard it is to bring the UO quarterback down, and just how impressive it is that the Cougars were able to do so as often as they did.

-- If Washington State's offensive line plays this well going forward then that unit will no longer be a concern for the Cougars, and they could dominate next year when everybody comes back. Oregon's only sack of Halliday was critical, but it was also almost the only time he really felt any pressure in the pocket. His receivers had plenty of time to run their routes and Halliday was able to sit back, go through his reads and wait for someone to get open. The line performed well in the run game and did a great job getting downfield on a screen pass to Galvin that went 14 yards.

-- Sulaiman Hameed saw time at both safety spots and you should expect to see a lot of the true freshman going forward. He had one bad penalty, dragging Byron Marshall to the ground after the running back ran out of bounds, tacking an extra 15 yards onto what was already a big play for the Ducks. But his physical play had been a boon for the Cougars up until that point and the stick he put on Keanon Lowe to hold the receiver to no gain in the third quarter was a sight to see from a freshman making his college debut. Remember, this guy came in as a cornerback. He made six tackles today, started the second half and looks to be a big part of WSU's defensive backfield moving forward.

-- Marcus Mariota is the real deal. To complete 21 of 25 passes for 329 yards and five touchdowns, and gain 109 yards from scrimmage rushing the ball despite taking seven sacks and a few other hits … well that's just silly. Many of his best passes came while he was and was able to spy a receiver on the opposite side of the field and make the pass with enough zip to get past a trailing defender. His ability to accelerate while weaving through traffic was remarkable, he showed great vision running the ball, and is the difference-maker in this game.

-- Everything past the 40-yard line is going to be four-down territory until the Cougars gets a consistent kicker. The offense has looked better in the red zone these past two games but it feels like the Mike Leach doesn't even have the option of kicking 35+-yard field goals, and even shorter ones are iffy.

-- Great showing by the crowd today. It was a loud, sold-out first half but you always wonder if the students and others will come back from half time. Well, everybody came back and I don't think the students ever left.

-- Good day for the linebackers against a tough opponent. Darryl Monroe had 10 tackles, including a sack, and he, Jeremiah Allison and Cyrues Coen were the team's leading tacklers, which is exactly what you want against a team like Oregon. The linebackers stayed home, were in the correct gap, and did a good job of bottling up the UO running backs and not allowing five-yard gains to become 50-yard gains.

Jacob Thorpe
Jacob Thorpe joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. He currently is a reporter for the Sports Desk covering Washington State University athletics.

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