PULLMAN – Washington State’s front seven made life miserable at times on Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota.
But Mariota returned the favor, overcoming seven sacks with five touchdown passes that lifted the second-ranked Ducks to a 38-31 victory Saturday night at Martin Stadium.
Mariota, a 6-foot-4, 219-pound junior, was dropped for the seventh time on the third play of the Ducks’ game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Oregon chose to roll Mariota out of the pocket on two of the next four plays and the Heisman Trophy candidate fired passes of 18 and 17 yards to Byron Marshall. A personal-foul penalty on the Cougars on the second completion pushed Oregon deeper into WSU territory.
Mariota tossed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Keanon Lowe to put the Ducks up by 7 with 5:33 remaining.
“I think we were successful due to our coaches,” said defensive tackle Xavier Cooper, who was credited with 1.5 sacks. “It was the hardest week of practice we’ve had. If we just practice hard it’s going to happen in a game because we’re so talented.”
After Oregon stopped WSU on downs, Mariota hit tight end Pharaoh Brown for 27 yards on third down and the Ducks ran out the clock.
“We got to him and we made plays,” Cooper said, “but we came up short.”
Mariota finished 21 of 25 for 329 yards, a sparkling 260.5 passer rating. He danced away from a collapsing pocket several times and finished with 58 yards rushing, including a 41-yard sprint.
WSU sacked Mariota five times in the first half. It would have been six if not for Mariota using all of his speed and strength to avoid a 17-yard loss. He managed to throw the ball away while falling to the turf. On the ensuing play, WSU bit on play-action and Mariota found a wide-open Devon Allen for a 13-yard touchdown and a 21-14 lead in the second quarter.
Halliday moves up charts
Connor Halliday had a record-setting day against Oregon last year.
WSU’s senior quarterback made another foray into the record books Saturday, moving past Jason Gesser into second place on the school’s career touchdown passes list. The senior from Spokane moved up by hitting Dom Williams on an 18-yard scoring play in the first quarter.
“We have confidence in our group, that’s what we should be able to do,” Halliday said of WSU’s 499-yard performance. “It was frustrating with that fumble in the third quarter. I missed that 5-yard out on second-and-13 on the last drive and it’s frustrating we don’t catch that comeback on third-and-13. Their guy might have been there a little early but we have to find a way to make that catch.”
Halliday and Williams connected on two touchdowns, both with defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu on the coverage.
Halliday was 43 of 63 for 436 yards with four TDs and no interceptions. His four TD passes gives him 74 for his career, trailing only Alex Brink’s 76.
A year ago at Autzen Stadium, Halliday was 58 of 89 for 557 yards in a 62-38 loss. The 58 completions established a Pac-12 record and the 89 attempts was the most in FBS history.
Points in a hurry
Oregon’s quick-strike offense was on full display in the first half. On the first play from scrimmage after WSU missed a 29-yard field goal attempt, Mariota hit Allen in stride for an 80-yard touchdown. Oregon’s next two scoring drives lasted three and four plays, respectively, and each timed less than 1 minute. The grand total of Oregon’s 21 first-half points: eight plays, 222 yards and exactly 2 minutes of clock time.
Oregon has become known for flashy uniform combinations but it was WSU sporting a new look Saturday. The Cougars wore all white – pants, jerseys and helmets.
The Cougars have worn all white before, presumably in road games in the early 1960s. They switched to a silver helmet in 1964 in Bert Clark’s first season as head coach. WSU apparently wore all white when it faced Idaho at Martin Stadium in the late 1990s. The game was technically a Vandal home game as they tried to satisfy Division I attendance requirements.
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