What if I told you that going into halftime of tonight’s game versus Washington State, the Ducks would only have a four point lead? You wouldn’t believe me, right? Well that is exactly what happened.
After jumping out to a 20-3 lead seemingly before you could blink, the Cougars fought their way back into the game. As the first quarter was winding down, Teondray Caldwell of Washington State returned a kick 92 yards all the way down to he Oregon 6-yard line. Oregon seemed to catch a break when Ifo Ekpre-Olomu picked off a pass in the end zone, only for the play to be called back due to a roughing the passer call. On the ensuing play, Carl Winston carried the ball in the end zone to cut the Ducks lead to 11.
The Ducks ended the first quarter on a sloppy note with quarterback Marcus Mariota throwing an interception, which the Cougars would be able to tack on three more points to make it a one posession game. About halfway into the second quarter, Washington State quarterback Connor Halliday found Brett Bartolone in the end zone on a 26-yard touchdown pass. Suddenly, the Cougars only trailed by four.
It was as if someone had pumped a surge of energy into every Cougar fan in the stadium. The stadium was rocking, the press box was even shaking a bit. Suddenly, Cougars fans began to look at each other, thinking to themselves, “We can win this thing.”
Chip Kelly and the Ducks had other ideas, however. While Washington State came out of the tunnel looking even more fired up than they did before the game, it was the Ducks who found their step in the second half.
The Ducks, known for scoring fast, often in less than two minutes a drive, executed an 18 play, 76 yard scoring drive capped off by a four yard touchdown run from De’Anthony Thomas. The drive took six minutes and twenty seconds off the clock to behind the second half.
Washington State’s first drive ended almost as quickly as it had started, as Avery Patterson intercepted a pass, returning it 34 yards to the endzone to extend Oregon’s lead to double digits once again. After a three-and-out from the Cougars, the Ducks put the game away after a 10-yard touchdown run from Barner gave Oregon a 44-19 lead. The remainder of the game was more of a formality as the Ducks went on to win by a final of 51-26.
Early in the season, we had seen the Ducks’ offense sputter in the second half after getting off to an electric start, with most of their first four games of the year over by halftime. This game was a classic example of Oregon football that we had seen last season with the Ducks putting their foot on the gas pedal coming out of the locker room. Oregon exploded out of the gates in the third quarter, scoring 21 unanswered points to put the nail on the coffin of another opponent.
Even as the number two team in the nation, wins will hardly ever come easy for the rest of the year. This is conference play, and as we have seen early on, anything can happen on any given week. Just two nights earlier on the same exact field, the Washington Huskies stunned the No. 8 Stanford Cardinal 17-13. The Oregon State Beavers, ranked No. 18 coming into this week, continued their hot start, executing a last minute touchdown drive to knock off Arizona on the road 38-35. Last week, Colorado outscored Washington State 21-6 in the 4th quarter to pull off a comeback of epic proportions. If there is one mantra for the Pac-12 this season, it is to expect the unexpected.
Next week, Oregon returns home to Autzen Stadium to take on the Washington Huskies who are fresh off their huge upset of No. 8 Stanford. The Huskies will be looking to snap an 8-game losing streak that dates back to 2004. Washington’s last win against Oregon was in 2003, a 42-10 win in Seattle. The last time the Huskies won in Eugene was back in 2002. Oregon will enter the game as a heavy favorite, but the Huskies will no doubt attempt to have yet another Pac-12 powerhouse bow down to Washington.