No college football team has had more success against Oregon in the past four years than Washington State.
Whether it has been in Pullman or in Eugene, it has been the Cougars who left celebrating — four straight times, tying WSU’s longest winning streak of the series. Oregon has beaten every other Pac-12 team at least once in that span.
The No. 11 Ducks (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12) are a two-touchdown favorite to end their losing streak to the Cougars (4-3, 1-3) when they host WSU on Saturday night at Autzen Stadium, and it’s easy to see why with Oregon on a six-game winning streak after a season-opening loss to Auburn.
But, looking at the past four seasons, including last year when WSU took a 24-0 halftime lead en route to a 34-20 win after being showcased on ESPN’s “GameDay,” would have to worry Duck backers or at least give them pause.
“I am not sure (why WSU has had so much recent success against Oregon), but we’ve played extremely hard against them, and I think we’ve played complete games against them,” said Washington State coach Mike Leach. “We do play well against them. There has always been funny matchups in sports, but I really don’t know.”
What is known is that Washington State’s run came after losing eight straight times to the Ducks. That was Oregon’s longest winning streak in the series in which it holds a 49-42-7 edge.
WSU seemed to get a huge boost last year from the frenzied crowd at Martin Stadium, and Oregon is double-tough at Oregon, with Leach agreeing with those who contend it is the loudest stadium in the Pac-12.
The game will feature two of the most productive quarterbacks in the country in Oregon senior Justin Herbert, who would have been one of the top picks in the NFL draft had he turned pro last spring, and WSU’s Anthony Gordon.
Herbert has a remarkable touchdown-to-interception ratio, having thrown 21 TDs this season and being picked off just once.
“I think he’s a talented guy,” Leach said of Herbert, “but I am very pleased we have ours (Gordon) instead.”
Oregon has long been known for its explosive offense, but this year its biggest strength might be its pass defense. The Ducks lead the conference in passing yards allowed per game (178.6), interceptions (12) and sacks (22).
Just don’t ask Leach if he is surprised by that success. Spoiler alert: He’s not.
“They always have quite a bit of success,” Leach said “Everybody always says that Oregon has one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, and then everybody is always surprised that Oregon wins something. The surprising thing to me is that people are surprised. How can you be surprised when you get article after article, story after story – how Oregon’s explosive on offense, Oregon’s explosive on defense – how they got this four-star guy and that four-star guy and have the third-ranked recruiting class in the country.
“And then, ‘Oh my God, can you believe Oregon won? I am so stunned Oregon won. You know, that guy’s a good player at Oregon.’ Yeah, he’s a five-star guy out of high school and you bragged about how brilliant it was that they got him and everything. And now you’re surprised he made a few plays. It’s the craziest thing ever.”
Five-star guy or not, the Cougars have had their way against Oregon recently, and Leach had a simple answer when asked how that might continue.
“Do the same things that have made us successful the other years,” he said. “We’re really excited to play.”