SEATTLE, Wash. – The No. 2 Oregon Ducks appeared at risk of a monumental upset Saturday night in front of 60,929 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, as the Washington State Cougars chipped away at an early Ducks lead to bring the halftime score to 23-19.
And then came the second half.
Propelled by rushing touchdowns by Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas along with an interception returned for a touchdown by Avery Patterson, the Oregon Ducks (5-0) exploded in the third quarter to bury Washington State, en route to a 51-26 victory.
Barner, who rushed for touchdowns of 22, 10, and 80 yards, and caught a touchdown pass of 30 yards, compiled 195 yards rushing and 37 yards receiving on 23 touches. Thomas, two weeks removed from being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, was less than a highlight reel for the second consecutive week, finishing with just 54 yards from scrimmage on 12 touches.
“As close as we are, there’s always competition,” said Barner of his relationship with Thomas. “I make a play, and he wants to make a play. He makes a play, and I want to make a play.”
Oregon’s defensive front seven made plenty of plays Saturday night, holding Washington State to -8 yards rushing and recording seven sacks.
“We knew that that’s all they were going to do, throw the ball,” said defensive end Dion Jordan, who recorded a sack and four tackles. “We really had to get after the quarterback, or he was going to sit back there and find guys.”
Wide receiver Josh Huff, wearing a brace on his left knee after missing last weekend’s game against Arizona, opened the Ducks’ first drive with an 11-yard reception. Three plays later, Barner followed an array of downfield blocks and trotted into the end zone for Oregon’s first score. The Ducks’ infamous “swinging gate” two-point conversion attempt failed when punter Jackson Rice’s attempted to get the ball to kicker Rob Beard for the score.
The Cougars responded to Oregon’s opening drive with a 15-play, 79-yard, 5:59 drive of their own, but freshman running back Teondray Caldwell was stuffed short of the goal line by linebackers Tyson Coleman and Michael Clay, leaving the Cougars to settle for an 18-yard field goal by kicker Andrew Furney.
On Oregon’s second drive, quarterback Marcus Mariota eluded Washington State and legged out a 13-yard touchdown run.
“They were matched up when I was looking to throw, when I kind of scrambled out,” said Mariota, who rushed for 56 yards and passed for 169. “I figured I could pick up some yards. The receivers did a good job blocking down field and they sprung me open for the touchdown.”
Following a Taylor Hart sack that pinned Washington State on its own 1-yard line, punter Michael Bowlin shanked a punt to give the Ducks excellent field position. On the very next play, Mariota connected with Barner for a 30-yard touchdown pass, extending the Ducks’ lead to 20-3.
And then came the Cougars. Teondray Caldwell returned the ensuing kick-off 92 yards to the Oregon 6-yard line, stopped short of a touchdown by a shoestring tackle by Troy Hill. Running back Carl Winston then scored on a 2-yard touchdown run, bringing the score to 20-9 after Furney’s extra point attempt was blocked.
Following an interception by safety Deone Bucannon on Oregon’s next possession, Furney converted on a 20-yard field goal. Oregon kicker Rob Beard responded with a field goal from 34 yards out, extending the Ducks’ lead to 23-12.
Washington State head coach Mike Leach’s “Air Raid” attack continued to pick up steam when sophomore quarterback Connor Halliday got cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu to bite on a pump fake, and hit freshman receiver Brett Bartolone for a 26-yard touchdown pass. However, it was not enough, as Oregon responded with a 21-0 third quarter, opening with a grinding 18-play, 76-yard drive capped by Thomas’s 4-yard touchdown run.
Just over a minute after Thomas’ score, Patterson picked off a Halliday pass and strolled in to the end zone with ease for Oregon’s third pick-six in two games. Barner then added his third touchdown of the night to give Oregon a 44-19 lead.
Early in the fourth quarter, Bucannon intercepted a Mariota pass yet again. On Oregon’s next offensive play, however, Barner charged up the sideline for the 80-yard touchdown run.
“My guys did a great job of blocking. I used somebody’s jersey to slingshot myself forward,” said Barner.
Washington State responded with one final touchdown, when backup quarterback Jeff Tuel connected with wide receiver Marquess Wilson for a 25-yard touchdown. Earlier in the night, Wilson passed Brandon Gibson to become Washington State’s all time receiving yards leader, with 2,893 yards.
[gn_tab title=”Box Score”]
|Wash St||C. Halliday||33/60||348||5.8||1||1|
|Wash St||T. Caldwell||5||23||4.6||0||10|
|Wash St||M. Wilson||12||182||15.2||1||29|
|Wash St||D. Hornton||5||6||–||–||–|
|3rd down eff||7-14||7-19|
|4th down eff||0-1||0-2|
|Yards per pass||5.3||6.4|
|Yards per rush||6.5||-0.4|
All photos are property Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News