PULLMAN — Underdog Washington State almost beat No. 2 Oregon on Saturday, but Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday was not impressed.
“I think we played well, but I think we left a lot of plays out there,” Halliday said. “We’re putting ourselves in good positions, we just have to finish.”
The Ducks held off Washington State 38-31 in an entertaining matchup of two of the top offenses in the nation.
“I was proud of the effort and proud of some of our young guys that were able to perform at the level they did,” Cougars coach Mike Leach said. “But we’ve got to get better.”
The score was tied at 31-all in the fourth quarter. Oregon embarked on a 79-yard drive in nine plays that ended with Marcus Mariota’s 6-yard touchdown pass to Keanon Lowe for the winning points.
“We can build off of what we did,” Washington State defensive lineman Xavier Cooper said. “We did what we needed to do and we made plays.
“If we can do it against Oregon we can do it against anybody,” Cooper added.
“A road win in this conference is hard,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said after his team came back to beat Washington State for the eighth consecutive time. “We are 4-0 and we got a big win on the road.”
Mariota threw for 329 yards and five touchdowns for Oregon, staying in the hunt for the Heisman Trophy. Mariota completed 21 of 25 passes and was not intercepted.
“Ridiculous,” Helfrich said of Mariota, who also rushed for 58 net yards despite being sacked seven times.
“He did a great job of rattling the defense in the second half,” Helfrich said. “The guy is special.”
Devon Allen and Lowe each had two touchdown receptions for Oregon (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12). Allen caught seven passes for 142 yards.
Halliday threw for 436 yards and four touchdowns, completing 43 of 63 passes, for Washington State (1-3, 0-1), which boasts the nation’s top passing attack. They came in as 24-point underdogs, but kept it close in an entertaining game.
“I thought we took a step in the right direction today,” Leach said. “I thought we played extremely hard the entire game.”
Washington State played stout defense in the first half, sacking Mariota five times and recording seven tackles for losses, while holding the Ducks to a total of 210 yards. The score was tied 21-all at halftime.
However, the Cougars’ offense stalled in the second half, as the Ducks outscored them 17-10 to take the win.
Oregon drove to the Cougars’ 15 on the first drive of the second half, but Matt Wogan missed a 32-yard field goal.
The Ducks then recovered a fumble by Washington State’s Jamal Morrow on its own 35. On fourth-and-10, Mariota ran for 28 yards to the 8-yard line, and then threw a touchdown pass to Pharaoh Brown for a 28-21 lead with 4:32 left in the third.
WSU replied with an 87-yard drive that ended with Quentin Breshears’ 30-yard field goal to pull to 28-24 early in the fourth.
However, Oregon marched down to the WSU 17, where Wogan kicked a 34-yard field goal to extend the lead to 31-24 with 11:04 left.
Halliday then led the Cougars on a 75-yard drive, with a 54-yard pass to Morrow covering most of the distance. River Cracraft caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in the end zone to tie the score at 31-31 with 8:57 to go.
After Mariota’s pass to Lowe put Oregon ahead with 5:33 left, the Cougars marched down the field. Halliday’s 34-yard pass to Vince Mayle brought WSU to the Oregon 35, but the Cougars turned the ball over on downs with 3:34 left.
The Ducks finished with 501 yards of total offense, while Washington State had 499.
Last year, Halliday threw the ball an NCAA-record 89 times as Oregon beat the Cougars 62-38 in Eugene.
Washington State scored first, as Halliday hit Dom Williams in the back of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
The Cougars had a chance to extend the lead but Breshears hit the left upright on a 29-yard field goal attempt.
Oregon took over on its 20 and Mariota connected with Allen at midfield on the first play, and Allen outran the defense for an 80-yard touchdown play that tied the score.
Washington State regained the lead on its next possession as Halliday hit Williams in the end zone with an 8-yard scoring pass on 4th and 2.
Mariota threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Lowe to tie the score at 14-all early in the second quarter.
After the Cougars turned the ball over on downs at the Oregon 31 on their next possession, Mariota ran for 41 yards on the Ducks’ first play. He later threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Allen in the end zone to give Oregon its first lead at 21-14 with just under 9 minutes left in the first half.
Washington State replied with a 14-play drive that covered 74 yards, with Halliday connecting with Rickey Galvin on a 6-yard pass to tie the score at 21-all with 2:47 left in the half. The drive was aided by facemask and pass interference penalties against Oregon.