No. 2 Oregon surges in the second half to dump Washington State

By Matt Walks

No. 2 Oregon surges in the second half to dump Washington State

SEATTLE — For the second time in two weeks, the No. 2 Oregon Ducks overcame an iffy first half with an explosive second to stay undefeated, knocking off the Washington State Cougars 51-26 Saturday night at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

In the tenth iteration of the Cougars’ annual Seattle Game, both teams came out slugging. After forcing Washington State to punt on its opening drive, Oregon needed just more than one minute to draw first blood, a 22-yard run by senior running back Kenjon Barner. The Cougars answered back with an 18-yard field goal by Andrew Furney, the first points Oregon’s defense had allowed since the third quarter against Tennessee Tech on Sept. 15.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota would lead the Ducks on two more scoring drives before the quarter was over — first by scampering 13 yards and crashing over the right pylon for a score and then, three minutes later, finding Barner wide open on a wheel route down the left sideline to push the lead to 20-3.

In the first road game of his collegiate career, Mariota went 21-for-32, 169 yards and two interceptions to go with his strike to Barner.

“I’m learning from it,” Mariota said. “I’m just going to get better.”

Behind a loud, predominately crimson crowd, the Cougars surged in the second quarter. Building on a two-yard Carl Winston touchdown run, Furney drilled another field goal from 20 yards out to make it a one score game. After Oregon added a field goal of their own, Halliday found wideout Brett Bartolone on third and long for a 26-yard touchdown to enter halftime down just four, 23-19.

“Give Washington State credit,” head coach Chip Kelly said after the game. “Offensively we knew they were going to be a handful. We made a couple of mistakes in the first half. At halftime, we made a couple of adjustments on both sides of the ball.”

An explosive third. The third quarter belonged to the Ducks. Receiving the second half kickoff, Oregon uncharacteristically chewed up six minutes, 14 seconds over an 18-play, 76-yard drive capped by a four-yard touchdown run up the middle by De’Anthony Thomas.

It would be the only true highlight for the sophomore do-everything, who found his running lanes clogged all night. Even in the return game, a skill he’s been unable to showcase as teams have pooch kicked away from him, Thomas failed to find daylight. It’s a testament to how electric he’s been this year that his longest return of the night, 19 yards on a kickoff, was a disappointment.

Barner, on the other hand, heated up as the game went on. After defensive back Avery Patterson stepped in front of a Halliday pass to take it back for a pick-six, Oregon’s workhorse began to find more space between the tackles. Barner punched one touchdown in from ten yards out to put the game on ice before unveiling his best run of the night: an 80-yard rumble that started as a footrace down the far sideline before he cut back into space and scored, making it 51-19.

“It’s a matter of wearing the opponent down,” Kelly said. “I think sometimes our conditioning becomes a weapon for us. We’ve got some guys who can hit some home runs for us.”

Wilson makes his mark. The Cougars would add a touchdown in the garbage minutes, a 25-yard strike from former starting quarterback Jeff Tuel to Marquess Wilson, who despite the loss had an historic game. With 182 yards on 12 catches, the junior wideout eclipsed Brandon Gibson as Washington State’s all-time leading receiver in yards. His touchdown in the fourth, the 23rd of his career, also put him in sole possession of second place in program history.

“There’s been a lot of great receivers come out of Washington State,” Wilson said. “It would have been a lot better with a win, but it’s great to know your name is in the record book.”

On the horizon. Oregon returns to Autzen next week in an evening showdown with that other Washington team, the Huskies. Fresh off bouncing Stanford, Washington is hungry for another upset.

Meanwhile, Washington State falls to 2-3 (0-2 in the Pac-12). They travel on the road to Corvallis to play the surging Beavers next Saturday.

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