A lot of offense? That was to be expected. But Washington State hanging on for the entire game with Oregon? A bit more surprising, although in the end, the ability of Marcus Mariota to make plays with both his arms and his legs seemed to make the difference and keep the Ducks undefeated following their 38-31 win in Pullman.
Washington State have one way of winning games. Pass, pass deep and pass some more. Connor Halliday will surely end this season leading College Football in attempts and probably passing yards as well, finishing this game with 43-of-63 for 436 yards and fourth touchdowns. With a running game that gained only 63 yards and a defense that gave up a total of 501 yards, it’s no surprise that Washington State are only 1-3 this season despite the impressive offensive numbers.
The Ducks, now 4-0, struggled like the rest of the top 5 during week 4. Despite those struggles, Marcus Mariota had an almost flawless game, with 21-of-25 for 329 yards and five touchdown passes while rushing for 58 yards himself, including a big 28-yard pick up to put the Ducks in touchdown range when the game was tied at 21-21. He found Pharaoh Brown in the end zone to finally give Oregon a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Washington State actually took the lead first but turned the ball over twice during the game, which made all the difference along with Mariota taking advantage of every opportunity given to him. It’s quite remarkable to think that despite the 1000 yards of offense in this game, we still managed to see six punts, four of them by Oregon. For one half, Washington State did manage to show they are more than a pass-happy team.
Mariota was sacked five times in the first half and the Cougars recorded seven tackles for a loss. If there’s one thing that should worry Oregon going into the tougher part of their schedule it’s their offensive line sometimes struggling to pick up against aggressive blitzing and pass rush, although they eventually got over it in the second half, just like they did in the big win over Michigan State in week 2.
What’s the end game for Mike Leach and Washington State? Probably making a bowl game. He did it last season, although a 6-7 finish can’t exactly be called a success. A 1-3 start this year, with the only win coming against Portland State so far (losing to Nevada and Rutgers as well) and a less than favorable road waiting for them until the end of the season, anything morre than four wins will be considered something of a surprise at this point.
Oregon, as always, have a much different end game on their minds. Making it into the playoffs is the name of the game this year, and so far they’re staying true to their goals, although the voters might make some shifts in the top 5 considering the results and struggles of all teams. Currently holding the edge in the Pac-12 North, this season they can’t afford another loss to Stanford or anyone else, unless the season unfolds in surprising ways.