As Oregon began to slowly pull away from Washington State on Saturday night in Pullman, the Fox announcing crew of Tim Brando and Spencer Tillman began to discuss such subjects as playoff berths and matchups.
For the Ducks, of course.
But for most of the early part of the game the veteran duo was focused on the outcome, which was in doubt. Then the Ducks began taking care of the ball and the Cougars, dominating the second half en route to a 43-29 Pac-12 Conference victory.
• No one needs pregame anxiety. There is enough after the ball is kicked.
And yet Fox, the game’s carrier, decided to give some to Washington State and Oregon fans. It actually came courtesy of USC and its late-game heroics in Tucson. But it caused blood pressures to rise throughout the Northwest.
The WSU game was scheduled to start at 4 p.m. but that listed time didn’t include the usual 15 minutes Fox likes to use before the kickoff. Which was a good thing this time. And still wasn’t enough.
At game time, there was still minutes in the Trojans’ 34-30 victory for Arizona to kick a go-ahead field goal and USC to march down the field for the game-winning score. Meanwhile, in Spokane, the minutes kept ticking away.
USC scored at 4:14 p.m., but the TD was reviewed. Two minutes later, Fox broke away for commercials, including one for Thursday night’s game between Seattle and Arizona. Then a whole host of locally themed commercials rolled in as the time to kickoff rolled away.
A kickoff KAYU viewers missed. However, before Jayden de Laura took his first snap, the game kicked in for those interested in the Inland Northwest.
• Bacon puns aside, Brando and Tillman’s description of the Cougars’ first touchdown – an 18-yard reception and duck-in into the end zone between de Laura and Mead High walk-on Lucas Bacon – was letter perfect.
De Laura had to fit the pass in between two levels of the Duck defense, a throw that got Brando’s vocabulary going.
He called the freshman’s arm strength as NFL-like, before saying “that’s a big-time, Sunday-afternoon throw.” It was an observation Tillman agreed with, even though de Laura won’t have that opportunity for at least three years.
And, as the replay booth got involved in what was obviously a score, Brando got on his soapbox. He’s the poster boy for eliminating replay review.
“There’s no need to stop play fellas, no need,” he declared after Bacon snuck under a defender and scored. And as the replay dragged on and on, Brando injected his thoughts on the length of such things. “I understand, by rule, they have to look at this but the games are taking (too long) as is.”
He finished the thought with campaigning for a 2-minute limit on all replays.
• That’s not to say Brando was perfect.
He had his issues with the spot of the ball, which isn’t unusual for the veteran announcer – and understandable. But saying early on de Laura is the “first freshman to start at Oregon since Jeff Tuel in 2009” is a bit hard to excuse, especially when it went uncorrected. Later, Brando announced the wrong day for Oregon’s game next week against UCLA.
And there was the late-in-the-game comment Mike Leach couldn’t keep his quarterbacks healthy, adding sometimes the Cougars would enter the Apple Cup down to their third-string signal caller. The past two years, Leach’s quarterbacks, Gardner Minshew and Anthony Gordon, played all 12 regular-season games.
But there was even more on the positive side, including his 2020-appropriate comment on “the cardboard cutouts are going wild” after a Cougar score.
• If it’s a Pac-12 football game there has to be at least one major screw up by the officiating crew, right? At least games involving Washington State and Oregon (see 2014 in Pullman for irrefutable evidence).
Saturday’s miscue came in the middle of the third quarter and helped turn momentum. The Cougars were moving down the field and ran a screen on second and 5. Umpire Brad Robinson saw center Brian Greene toss Oregon’s Kristian Williams to the ground, waited and threw a flag for holding.
The problem was Williams had stumbled, and Greene was getting him out of the way. It wasn’t nearly as egregious a play as Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu did to Ron Stone on the Ducks’ 57-yard pass near the end of the first half.
However, only those who watched the replay know Greene committed the Cougar penalty. Referee Chris Coyte announced Josh Watson as the offender.
Just minutes later Nick Pickett nailed Renard Bell in the face mask with his helmet on a third-down pass. The replay official weighed in and the one viewers saw was, as officiating commentator Mike Pereira described, targeting by the letter of the law. But he also said “good” when Coyte announced there was no foul.
With 8:19 left, Pickett was ejected for a different targeting call, also against Bell, when the call had little chance to impact the outcome.
• It’s obvious the Nick Rolovich era will be different than his predecessor’s, at least as far as social media is concerned.
Max Borghi and Calvin Jackson Jr. did not play Saturday, both sidelined presumably with injuries. But their voices were heard before halftime. On Twitter.
Borghi used all-caps – along with multiple exclamation points – to celebrate Bacon’s touchdown. “LUCAS BACON!!!!!!!! LETS GO!!!!!!”
He was joined by Jackson, who also took the all-caps route in admiration of the Bacon score. He later tweeted “live updates from me” and added tweet after tweet.
The most optimistic one? “Boy just watching this…i can’t wait to get back w my boys” in the third quarter.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see Leach’s ears smoking if an injured Cougar player had done such things a year or so ago.