Washington State (4-3, 2-2 Pac-12) played good football for three quarters against Oregon State (5-1, 3-0 Pac-12). Make no mistake, the Beavers are a pretty darn good team but the Cougs generously made them look outstanding.
When the final seconds mercifully ticked off Martin Stadium scoreboard luminous lights seared into the eyes of anyone brave enough to remain in the stands a final score of 52-24 in favor of OSU.
If Cougar Nation expected the WSU football program to turn around quickly under the guidance of Coach Mike Leach they have been given another reminder that it will take some time to get things going in a winning direction.
Both teams traded offensive scores and defensive stops in the first half.
Perhaps foreshadowing how things would go for WSU in the second half, with the game tied at 10-10 Teondray Caldwell coughed up the football after breaking off a nifty 16-yard run with a little over 2-minutes left before intermission. Four plays later OSU running back Storm Woods popped through a huge opening to put OSU up 17-10.
Coach Leach sensed his offense was rattled by turning the ball and momentum over the Beavers. He gathered the unit together before they could trudge into the locker room for a coaching moment.
“Regardless of what a score is in any game, there’s no excuse to squander plays. You should play them all as hard as you can. You only get a few of them. We didn’t do that.”
– Coach Leach
Leach wanted to remind his guys the reality of competing in the Pac-12. He wanted to invigorate team leaders. He will need to continue driving home his message as part of preparation for the next game.
This game was up for grabs, tied 24-24 through three quarters of play. Then the Cougs lost any poise and swagger they brought to the field of play following their road win over Cal last Saturday.
Watching the offense of WSU in the fourth quarter was like watching a chef at IHOP. At least that’s the last time I recall seeing anyone actively tossing turnovers with comparable frequency.
The end of this game for Washington State began with a fake punt attempt where the snap doinked off the helmet of up-back Jared Byers leading to OSU setting up at the Cougar 27-yard line. Two plays later the Beavs recorded their second touchdown in the space of 5-minutes to turn around a 24-17 deficit to a 31-24 lead.
There was plenty of time left for the Cougs to rally for a victory, but the blown trick play gave Oregon State momentum they would not relinquish.
“It was unfortunate,” explained Coach Leach during his post game interview. “It’s at midfield, the score is tied with all kind of time to play. If we’re mentally weak enough that that’s a turning point…we have to prevent that if that’s the case.”
Inexplicably the Cougs would transition from an aggressive, competitive football team to doing their best impression of Wile E. Coyote.
“We didn’t lose a football game because of one play. We lost a football game from about 20-minutes of just horrible plays all around.”
– Coach Mike Leach
Junior quarterback Connor Halliday did a nice job keeping his team in the game through the first 45-minutes of the game. In the fourth quarter Halliday completed more passes to the guys wearing visiting white uniforms than his teammates.
Three interceptions over a span of about 4-minutes effectively wiped out gains in attitude by WSU players over the past year. The WSU sideline appeared to want to follow fans flooding toward the exits.
With a date next weekend in Eugene, OR where Washington State will face the No. 2 ranked Oregon Ducks, Coach Leach and his staff will need to turn around a team clearly crushed by turnovers.
“We just need to focus on…being the best team we can be.”
– Coach Leach
WASHINGTON STATE NOTES
- WSU had 10 receivers catch a pass, the fifth straight game that 10+ players have a caught a pass and sixth time this season
- The Cougars own eight rushing touchdowns this season, passing last year’s total of six
- Washington State blocked its first punt since 2007 against UCLA
- Andrew Furney kicked his 40th career field goal, fourth-most in WSU history
- Marcus Mason rushed for his first touchdown of the season, second in his career
- Anthony Carpenter had his first interception of the season and second of his career
- Jeremiah Laufasa rushed for his six touchdown of the season, most by a WSU running back since Dwight Tardy tallied six in 2007
- Vince Mayle caught his fifth touchdown pass of the season
- Mike Bowlin’s 68-yard punt was the second longest of his career (69 vs. Eastern Washington)
- Cyrus Coen recorded his team-leading third sack of the season, sixth of his career
- Deone Bucannon made a team-high eight tackles, pushing his career total to 334, tied for fifth-most in WSU history with Tom Poe (1970-73)