No. 25 WSU extended its Pac-12 win streak to three games and improved to 6-1, and 3-1 in conference play.
PULLMAN — For the second consecutive year wearing their all-anthracite uniforms, the Cougars have won a premier Pac-12 game against a highly-ranked opponent at Martin Stadium.
One year after staving off No. 5 USC in Pullman, Washington State dominated No. 12 Oregon in the first half and held on in the second to win its 11th consecutive game at Martin Stadium and its fourth in a row over the Pac-12 North rival Ducks, 34-20, in front of 33,152 spectators Saturday.
No. 25 WSU extended its Pac-12 win streak to three games and improved to 6-1, and 3-1 in conference play. The Cougars also won for just the second time coming out of a bye week under seventh-year coach Mike Leach. Oregon, which beat No. 7 Washington the previous week, drops to 5-2 and 3-2 in the Pac-12.
The Cougars capped one of the biggest days in program history, which started with ESPN’s “College GameDay” broadcast from near the stadium, by taking control of the North Division race.
“We want to be in a position to control our own destiny,” quarterback Gardner Minshew said.
The Cougars were stagnant on offense in the second half until a late fourth-quarter drive saw Minshew connect with inside receiver Travell Harris for 37 yards on a broken play that moved WSU past midfield.
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“Travell, he’s a competitor,” Minshew said of the play when Harris wrestled the ball away from his defender. “He wasn’t going to let him take it. He fought for me.”
Harris was on the end of a pivotal fourth-down catch a few plays later, and Minshew capped the drive with a 22-yard touchdown strike to outside receiver Dezmon Patmon, extending the lead to two touchdowns and essentially sealing the WSU victory.
“He’s a very inspired player and I think he inspires the rest of the unit,” Leach said of Minshew, “so I think down the stretch he does a good job inspiring and they draw from him some, but as a team overall we played the fourth quarter pretty decent for the most part.”
In Minshew’s seventh game as WSU’s starter, the nation’s leading passer was impressive again, completing 39 of 51 passes for 323 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions. His counterpart, Oregon junior Justin Herbert — considered the country’s top draft-eligible quarterback — was only subpar, finishing 25 of 44 for 270 yards and just one touchdown.
WSU got on the board first, turning to a variation of the swinging gate trick play Leach has retooled for the 2018 Cougars. Wide receiver Kyle Sweet snapped to Minshew, who put the ball in James Williams’ arms and watched the running back wiggle through eight or nine Oregon defenders before hitting the edge for a 24-yard rushing touchdown.
The Cougars, meanwhile, put up a wall in front of Herbert and Oregon’s offense, which was averaging 482.9 yards coming in. In addition to being held scoreless in the first half, the Ducks managed just 39 yards of total offense, posted only three first downs and had four drives culminate with punts while the other ended on a turnover on downs.
“Any time you play like that in the first half, you’re not gonna win many ballgames,” Herbert said.
Minshew extended the WSU lead to 27-0 before halftime, throwing touchdown passes to Renard Bell, Easop Winston and Max Borghi. On his 15-yard score late in the second quarter, Borghi caught a check down from Minshew, then evaded Oregon’s best defensive player, linebacker Troy Dye, before stepping into the end zone.
Herbert and the Ducks rebooted in the second half and scored on their first drive. The junior quarterback scrambled for a 6-yard touchdown run to get the visitors on the board, but the Cougars stiffened up on the next Duck drive and kept Oregon to a field goal that made it 27-10.
The Ducks kept coming, though.
Oregon’s Deommodore Lenoir intercepted Minshew for the second time and Herbert pushed the Ducks into the end zone for the second time when he noticed a coverage breakdown that left Jaylon Redd wide open in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 10 points.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.