Yeah, the Ducks scored 20 points in the second half, but that's still a season low. The Cougars also held Oregon to 155 yards below their season average.
PULLMAN — Maybe it was too easy.
This was supposed to be a Saturday-night shootout, remember, between a pair of great offenses in Washington State and Oregon.
Instead, the first half was a complete and total annihilation. The Cougars led 27-0. They outgained the Ducks 295 to 39, ran 50 plays to Oregon’s 18 and led in time of possession 22:47 to 7:06.
The defense was so good in the first half that there was enough cushion for Washington State to withstand Oregon’s second-half rally and still prevail 34-20 in the Pac-12 North showdown.
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“I didn’t think we would do that,” Washington State coach Mike Leach said of holding the Ducks to 39 first-half yards, “but I didn’t think we would give up that many after that.”
True, the Ducks put up 289 yards in the second half, and cut the margin to 27-20.
But the Ducks were held to just a field goal in the fourth quarter and the overall defensive numbers would have pleased even the most optimistic Cougars fan before the game: 20 Oregon points, 11 less than their previous low and 23 below their average. The Ducks finished with 328 yards, 155 below their average.
“We didn’t think Oregon would be dormant forever, and they weren’t,” Leach said. “We didn’t play a good third quarter, but I would say we were scrappy on both sides of the ball in the fourth quarter.”
Oregon entered the game rushing the ball on 61 percent of its plays but after falling behind by 27 points, were held to 58 rushing yards on just 24 carries, 152 yards below their average. Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert attempted 44 passes.
Washington State senior nickelback Hunter Dale said the defense came into the game confident.
“I wasn’t surprised we did that good on defense in the first half because we prepared really well all week and that is what we planned on doing,” Dale said. “In the third quarter, we just came out flat as a team and then we got it back together, and we finished and got a win. And a win is a win.”
Dale said the plan for success was simple.
“The biggest thing we had to do was be more physical and run to the ball,” he said. “Good things happen when you run to the ball and good things happen when you play with a lot of energy, and you saw that in the first half. We kind of lost that after halftime, but we got it back in the fourth quarter.”
With WSU quarterback Gardner Minshew leading a late fourth-quarter drive to clinch the win, almost all of the questions after the game was about the offense. But the defense also rebounded late.
“I think both units are stepping up in the fourth quarter,” Leach said.