PULLMAN – What appeared to be a dream start to the Washington State season turned to a nightmare in an instant.
Oregon scored 22 unanswered points in the final four minutes and surged to a 44-34 win at Gesa Field.
The Cougars (3-1) surrendered 626 yards of total offense to the No. 15 Ducks (3-1), who took its first lead with 1:21 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Cameron Ward threw a pick-six to Mase Funa three plays later.
The ending soured what was otherwise impressive day for Ward, who completed 37 of 48 attempts for 375 yards and two touchdowns.
It ultimately was the defense that couldn’t hold. After forcing the Ducks to settle for three field goals on redzone drives in the first half, and turning another Oregon redzone opportunity into a 95-yard interception, the Ducks scored four second half touchdowns on six possessions.
Bo Nix completed 33 of 44 attempts for 428 yards and three touchdowns.
Nix hit Cam McCormick on a 1-yard score to cap a 75-yard drive with 3:54 remaining. The Cougars quickly went three-and-out and allowed Nix to find Troy Franklin for a 50-yard touchdown and a 37-34 lead.
After Ward’s pick-six, the Cougars got some consolation with a Nakia Watson touchdown to make it 44-41.
The Cougars will hope to bounce back next week hosting California at 2:30 p.m.
15:00 – WSU 0, UO 0: The Cougars open with a flea-flicker and Cameron Ward completes a 24-yard pass to Renard Bell near midfield.
11:41 – WSU 7, UO 0: Dream start for the Cougars as they ease down the field for a 8-play 75-yard drive that ends with a 5-yard run by Cameron Ward – his first rushing touchdown of the season.
Ward was 5 of 6 passing for 64 yards on the drive. WSU only handed the ball off to a running back once, which went for a 1-yard gain.
7:36 – WSU 7, UO 3: The Cougars bend, but don’t break as Travion Brown comes up with a pair of tackles inside the 10-yard-line and Oregon settles for a 34-yard field goal.
The Ducks didn’t have much trouble moving the ball on the drive, as Bo Nix completed two passes for 40 yards and Bucky Irving took two carries for 30 yards.
4:31 – WSU 10, UO 3: Dean Janikowski converts a 38-yard field goal to cap an 8-play 54-yard drive by the Cougars.
Cameron Ward was again moving the offense, but a pair of incompletions stalled the drive in Oregon territory. Ward is 9 of 12 for 112 yards in the quarter.
0:00 – The Ducks drive down to the WSU 2, but three-straight tackles for loss drive them back for a long fourth-and-goal as the quarter expires.
Two impressive goal line stands by the Cougars to start the game.
14:56 – WSU 10, UO 6: Camden Lewis’ 28-yard field goal is good.
10:28 – WSU 10, UO 6: The Cougars drive stalls after an intentional grounding penalty. Nick Haberer punts to the Oregon 6, where it is called for a fair catch and the Ducks take over.
9:40 – WSU 10, UO 6: In an unusual twist, the officials made the intentional grounding call third down when it should have been second. The Cougars were awarded a retry of third down after punting, but decided to just play it conservatively again with a short run and another punt.
Oregon actually will start its drive on its 13.
5:35 – WSU 17, UO 6: Oregon converts a 4th-and-3 inside the 10. The next play Francisco Mauigoa jumps on a route into the flat and intercepts Bo Nix for a 95-yard touchdown.
The Cougars defense comes up big in the redzone on the third consecutive drive. It’s the second-longest interception return for a touchdown in WSU history.
1:33 – WSU 17, UO 9: Does Oregon know it’s allowed to attempt a pass into the endzone? They’ve yet to try it and the Cougars are swarming to everything underneath.
WSU comes away with another stop inside the redzone and the Ducks convert a 29-yard field goal. That’s four-straight drives into the redzone for Oregon that have totaled nine points for the Ducks and seven for the Cougars after a pick-six on the last drive.
Washington State’s offense started fast, but it’s the defense making the difference as the Cougars hold a 17-9 lead over visiting Oregon.
The Ducks drove into the redzone on its first four possessions of the half, but were held out of the endzone on each, scoring three field goals. The third drive resulted in the play of the game, as WSU’s Francisco Mauigoa scored a 95-yard pick-six with 5:35 remaining in the second quarter.
Oregon is outgaining WSU 321-163, but have little to show for it.
Meanwhile, the Cougars drove down the field with ease on its first drive as Cameron Ward scored a 5-yard rushing touchdown. WSU scored a field goal on its next possession and were forced to punt on the next two.
Cameron Ward is 15 of 18 for 142 yards passing. The Cougars have ran nine times for 21 yards.
Oregon will receive the second half kickoff.
14:11 – WSU 17, UO 15: That was fast.
Bo Nix completes a 12-yard touchdown to Bucky Irving and Oregon scores in 49 seconds out of halftime on a 3-play 75-yard drive. The 2-pt play fails.
Oregon blew the top off the Cougars defense on the first play of the half with a 55-yard pass from Nix to Kris Hutson.
11:19 – WSU 17, UO 15: De’Zhaun Stribling streaks down the sideline for a 49-yard touchdown, but under review his toe dragged out of bounds. Cougars will have first down at the Oregon 11.
9:05 – WSU 20, UO 15: Dean Janikowski’s 38-yard field goal is good.
Cameron Ward was dropped for a loss of 13 on third down. Slight let down for the Cougars after a near-touchdown. WSU will hope its defense can better contain Oregon on the upcoming drive.
7:03 – WSU 20, UO 15: The Cougars send pressure on third down and Bo Nix’s heave falls incomplete. WSU will start on its own 38 after a penalty.
That was Oregon’s first punt of the game.
4:16 – WSU 27, UO 15: Cameron Ward caps off a crucial drive with a 15-yard touchdown to De’Zhaun Stribling. The Cougars marched 62 yards in six plays and took 2:43 off the clock, breaking out trick plays and misdirection along the way.
0:00 – WSU 27, UO 15: Oregon is threatening at the end of the third.
The Ducks have the ball on the WSU 1 for second down when the fourth quarter starts.
14:56 – WSU 27, UO 22: Jordan James punches in a 1-yard touchdown and the Ducks make it a one-score game.
Oregon has 484 yards of total offense to WSU’s 264. Bo Nix is 23 of 29 for 306 yards one touchdown and one costly interception.
The Ducks kick the ball out of bounds on the kickoff so WSU will start on its 35.
13:05 – WSU 27, UO 22: After a replay review the officials confirm Oregon’s Trikweze Bridges intercepted Cameron Ward at the Oregon 46.
The ball appeared to be caught by the Cougars and down by contact, where it was stripped well after the play, but it stands as called. Cougars fans won’t be happy with that one.
12:14 – WSU 27, UO 22: The WSU defense stands strong after the “interception” and force its first 3-and-out of the game.
The Cougars have the ball on their own 19 after a fair catch.
9:04 – WSU 27, UO 22: Cameron Ward is pulling out all the stops.
Ward somehow flips the ball to Nakia Watson early in the drive for a 25-yard completion. Later dances around in the backfield on fourth down and somehow finds Watson again for a 12-yard conversion.
6:42 – WSU 34, UO 22: Cameron Ward completes a 1-yard touchdown to cap off a wild drive. Oregon shot itself in the foot with a roughing the passer penalty a few plays earlier.
3:54 – WSU 34, UO 29: The Ducks aren’t done yet.
Bo Nix completes a 1-yard touchdown to Cam McCormick to cap a 10-play 75-yard drive. Oregon has all three timeouts to try and get the ball back.
2:36 – WSU 34, UO 29: The Cougars offense chooses the worst time to stall out and the Ducks will have the ball with plenty of time to score.
Oregon starts on its own 31.
1:21 – UO 35, WSU 34: Oregon has its first lead of the game.
Bo Nix completes a 50-yard touchdown to Troy Franklin and Nix converts the 2-pt attempt.
Cameron Ward will need to make something happen to avoid a soul-crushing loss.
1:01 – UO 44, WSU 34: Cameron Ward’s pass is intercepted by Mase Funa and returned for a touchdown. Oregon has scored 22 points in the final four minutes to come back and are going to beat the Cougars.
0:01 – UO 44, WSU 41: Nakia Watson scores a meaningless 1-yard touchdown. Ducks will take a knee and win the game.
It’s a sellout in Pullman. All eyes on Washington State.
The Cougars (3-0) host the No. 15 Oregon Ducks (2-1) at 1 p.m. on FOX Saturday for both teams’ Pac-12 Conference opener.
The Ducks stumbled in their opener with a 49-3 loss to the defending champion Georgia Bulldogs. They’ve bounced back since with a 70-14 rout of Eastern Washington and 41-20 battering of then-No. 12 BYU last week.
Saturday’s marquee matchup will set the stage for what figures to be a competitive and improved Pac-12 field. Entering the weekend there are five teams with perfect records, nine above .500 and four in the AP Poll’s Top 25.
Washington State would surely surge into the rankings with a win over the Ducks. Oregon walks into Martin Stadium as a 7-point favorite.
Players to watch
Washington State linebacker Daiyan Henley enters conference play nationally ranked No. 19 in total tackles (30), No. 6 in sacks (4) and No. 2 in tackles for loss (7½). His speed has allowed him to track ball carriers from sideline-to-sideline and entered the national spotlight – climbing to No. 24 on Mel Kiper’s NFL draft big board – after a win over Colorado State last week, where he tallied three sacks.
Oregon quarterback Bo Nix has bounced back from his Week 1 struggles. He shined through the air in Week 2 against Eastern Washington with 277 yards and five touchdowns. Then in Week 3, he had three rushing touchdowns to go with 222 passing yards in a win over BYU.
Oregon holds a 52-42-7 all-time series lead over Washington State dating back to 1901. The Ducks have won the last three meetings, but the Cougars won the previous four.
Last year the Ducks finished first in the now-defunct Pac-12 North division, one spot ahead of the Cougars. Oregon beat WSU in Eugene 38-24 with Jake Dickert serving as the interim coach, though this year both are with new starting quarterbacks.
More on the Cougs