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Recap and highlights: Washington State can’t find way to slow down No. 9 Oregon in 38-24 loss

By Greg Woods The Spokesman-Review

EUGENE — Cooper Mathers looked like he had seen a ghost. He put his hands over his helmet, trying to understand how he had just dropped a wide-open pass from Cameron Ward, attempting to ignore the 50,000 Oregon fans bathing in joy.

Mathers was back in action for the first time in three weeks, recovered from a hamstring injury. At tight end, he gives Washington State real speed and versatility at the position, which is why he’s earned the starting job. The Cougars love what he gives them.

Washington State will surely forgive him for dropping the pass, which zapped its momentum in this 38-24 loss to Oregon. In the immediate aftermath, though, the wound remained fresh. The Cougars never quite recovered.

That’s because the visitors had a real chance to silence Autzen Stadium at that moment, midway through the second quarter. The score was tied, 10-even, and WSU’s offense looked like the one that captured the nation’s attention when they rose to No. 13 after four weeks of the season. Lincoln Victor was back healthy, catching passes for huge gains, and Ward had time to throw to him and others.

The Cougars (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) had covered 34 yards in two plays, moving to the Ducks’ 46. They looked like the aggressors. Their offensive line was shoving. Then Ward uncorked a lob downfield to Mathers, all by himself on the sideline, in perfect position to make the catch and step out of bounds.

When the ball glanced off his hands, Washington State suffered a firm kick to the stomach. Not often can teams catch the No. 9 Ducks off-guard like so. To beat them, you have to capitalize on mistakes like those. The Cougars didn’t  lose because of one mistake, but when the Ducks parlayed a failed WSU trick play on fourth down into a touchdown drive before halftime, it became clear how much had swung.

Washington State played a better game than the previous two weeks, facing just a 17-13 deficit at halftime. Ward had time to throw, Victor was back spreading the defense out, and the Cougars were picking up the Ducks’ blitzes, keeping their defensive line at bay.

Those themes lasted for only the first 30 minutes. Oregon outscored WSU 21-10 in the second half, handing the Cougars their third straight loss.

Attribute that to several factors, but this above all: In the second half, the Ducks gave the Cougars more of what had stymied them in their last two losses, a coverage-heavy defense that gave Ward nowhere to go downfield. He took six sacks in this loss. His offensive line could only hold up for so long.

Then there were the issues with Washington State’s run defense, which could not stop Oregon from racking up 251 yards and three touchdowns. On one occasion, the Ducks capped a 75-yard drive with a two-yard rush from running back Bucky Irving, who did the same one drive later, pushing the hosts’ lead to 17-10.

Later in the game, though, Irving put on full display the mismatch on the field. He took a handoff from Nix, burst up the middle and juked WSU safety Sam Lockett with a vicious move, which freed him for a 43-yard touchdown rush, good for a 31-16 lead.

By that point, it was all but over. Next week, Washington State heads to Tempe to square off with Arizona State.

ESPN / Youtube


First quarter

15:00 – WSU 0, UO 0: Ducks win the toss and defer to the second half. Cougars will receive the opening kickoff.

11:24 – WSU 0, UO 0: Cougars pick up a first down on third-and-7, but stall on the next set of downs. Haberer punts 39 yards to the Oregon 21. 

Ward completes 3 of 4 attempts for 15 yards on the first series. Watson takes two carries for five yards. 

8:19 – WSU 0, UO 0: Lewis hooks a 47-yard field goal past the left upright and the Cougars will take over on their 37. The Ducks, who were 0 of 3 on fourth down last week, opted to kick on fourth-and-7.

A holding penalty reversed a 33-yard touchdown pass from Nix to Ferguston. Nix completed two passes for 48 yards on the drive. 

4:37 – WSU 3, UO 0: Janikowski hits a 36-yard field goal to give the Cougars the lead. Victor made the difference on that drive. He has five receptions for 56 yards.

Victor is making his return from injury. The field goal is the Cougars first points since the opening drive against Arizona last week.

1:40 – WSU 3, UO 3: Lewis makes up for his first miss and sends a 27-yard field goal through the middle of the uprights to tie the score.

Ducks quickly worked down the field on a 46-yard completion from Nix to Johnson. Oregon tried a trick play in the redzone and were flagged for an illegal man downfield. Nix’s had incompletions on consecutive plays leading to the field goal try.

0:11 – WSU 3, UO 3: Cougars thought they had an automatic first down on a pass interference call, but the refs come together and rule the ball had been touched before the line of scrimmage.

Cougars go three-and-out, punting on fourth-and-4 to the Oregon 25.

Second quarter

12:31 – WSU 3, UO 3: Cougars defense steps up and gets Oregon into a fourth-and-10 from the WSU 40. Ducks line up to go for it and Nix steps back for a pooch punt, downed at the Cougars 3. 

Oregon QB is accurate with his leg, too. Nix hit Franklin for a 32-yard pass on a third-and-7 earlier on the drive. He is 8 of 11 for 141 yards.

9:22 – WSU 10, UO 3: Watson scores a 4-yard rushing touchdown to cap a 97-yard drive and give the Cougars the lead again.

Ward hit Williams for a 47-yard reception on the long drive that spanned just 3 minutes, 9 seconds. Ward is 12 of 16 for 159 yards. 

5:57 – WSU 10, UO 10: Irving punches in a 2-yard touchdown and the Ducks respond with a quick drive of their own.

James broke off a 37-yard run to set up the score. Not much slowing either team with Oregon at 9.2 yards a play and WSU at 8.2.

2:30 – WSU 10, UO 10: Cougars try a trick play on fourth-and-3 and Victor air mails a WR pass. Strange call there with Ward at 200 yards passing in the half.

0:44 – UO 17, WSU 10: Ducks drive right down the field and Nix scores a 2-yard rush. Irving kicked off the drive with a 40-yard run. Cougars will probably want that fourth down trick play call back.

0:01 – UO 17, WSU 13: Cougars go 59 yards in 43 seconds to set up a 33-yard field goal by Janikowski. WSU gets a little momentum back before halftime. Oregon will receive the second half kickoff.


Not much has slowed either team through two quarters, with Washington State trailing No. 9 Oregon 17-13 at Autzen Stadium in Eugene.

Oregon has outgained WSU 295-275. The Ducks, though, have been able to gain on the ground with a 154-28 advantage in rush yards, not having to rely on their passing attack as much as the Cougars.

Cameron Ward is 18 of 26 for 247 yards. Lincon Victor’s return has been key for WSU, he has 10 receptions for 123 yards.

Bo Nix is 8 of 12 for 141 yards for Oregon. Bucky Irving and Jordan James have 72 and 65 rushing yards, respectively.

Third quarter

13:17 – UO 17, WSU 13: Cougars stop the Ducks at midfield and force a punt. WSU takes over on its 7 after a holding penalty. 

12:02 – UO 17, WSU 13: Ward is sacked, nearly throws an interception and completes a pass short of the line to gain. Oregon starts on its 47 after a 52-yard punt by Haberer.

10:13 – UO 24, WSU 13: Irving catches a swing pass from Nix and runs straight through the Cougars defense for a 42-yard touchdown. Quick score for the Ducks, who have 378 total yards. WSU defender Rogers seemed lost on the play. 

6:05 – UO 24, WSU 16: Janikowski boots a 50-yard field goal after Ward was sacked on third down. Cougars kicker is 3-for-3 on the game.

3:56 – UO 31, WSU 16: Another quick touchdown drive for the Ducks, as Irving rushes up the middle for a 43-yard score. Irving juked past a Cougars safety and went untouched the rest of the way.

Cougars flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty after the play, which will be added to the kickoff. Irving has 14 carries for 126 yards and two touchdowns. Oregon has 458 total yards.

Fourth quarter

13:52 – UO 31, WSU 16: Ward’s fourth down pass is tipped at the line of scrimmage and the Cougars turn it over. Big stop by the Ducks, which feels like it will clinch a win the way their offense is playing.

8:53 – UO 38, WSU 16: Nix completes a 17-yard touchdown to Johnson on third down and that will about do it. Ducks up to 537 yards in a dominant day on offense.

3:40 – UO 38, WSU 16: Ward can’t find anywhere to throw on fourth down and is sacked. Ducks take over on their 11 and will look to run out the clock.

0:52 – UO 38, WSU 24: Cougars get the ball back and Ward hits Hamilton for a 16-yard touchdown. Tough break for bettors that had Oregon -20.


Kickoff has been pushed back to 12:45 p.m. due to the Oklahoma-Central Florida game.


Washington State’s first loss of the season turned into a losing streak. Now the Cougars will need to pull off a major upset to avoid losing three in a row.

Washington State (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) travels to Eugene today to play No. 9 Oregon (5-1, 2-1) at 12:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ABC.

The Cougars started the season 4-0 leading to a bye, before narrowly losing on the road to UCLA on Oct. 7. WSU fell flat last week in a 44-6 rout by Arizona.

Now the Cougars 20-point underdogs on the road at Autzen Stadium, according to

The Ducks will be plenty motivated after narrowly losing to rival Washington 36-33 last week.

Will the Cougars find a way to respond, or will their season become completely unraveled?

Series history

Washington State has lost the last four meetings against Oregon, including a 44-41 collapse last year in Pullman, where the Cougars were outscored 29-14 in the fourth quarter and allowed three touchdowns in the last four minutes. The Ducks hold a 53-42-7 all-time series lead.

Team stats

Scoring WSU Oregon
Points Per Game 34.3 48.5
Points Allowed Per Game 28.5 15.8
Total Yards 430 555
     Yards Passing 338 332
     Yards Rushing 92 223
Yards Allowed 419 282
     Pass Yards Allowed 272 181
     Rush Yards Allowed 147 101

Individual leaders

PASSING Att.-Comp. Yards TD Int.
Cameron Ward (WSU) 146-210 1,778 14 3
Bo Nix (Oregon) 164-207 1,796 17 1
RUSHING Carries Yards TD
Nakia Watson (WSU) 51 153 3
Bucky Irving (Oregon) 72 520 5
RECEIVING Receptions Yards TD
Kyle Williams (WSU) 33 448 4
Troy Franklin (Oregon) 40 689 8

Game preview

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