What happened and what mattered in the Washington State 34-20 win over Oregon State?
Washington State 34, Oregon 20
Gardner Minshew threw for 323 yards and four scores, finding Dezmon Patmon for a 22-yard touchdown with just under four minutes to play to halt a Duck run. The Cougars got up 27-0 and made it look easy, but Oregon roared back with 20 straight second half points. The Ducks pulled within seven on Adam Stack’s second field goal, but Minshew led the way to the late scoring drive to put it away.
Let’s just get this out of the way now. Yeah, Washington State is absolutely the real deal, and yeah, it really is a threat to win the Pac-12 title, and go 12-1 doing it. And yes, a 12-1 Pac-12 champion would probably find its way into the College Football Playoff.
The Cougars have the heady veteran quarterback in Minshew. They have the swarming defense that got all over the Oregon running game – keeping CJ Verdell to 55 yards and the Ducks to 58 total. They harassed Justin Herbert into a mediocre 270-yard night, and the have the moxie to get on a roll and make this interesting.
Will it really happen? Probably not, but they already beat Utah, they can get by Stanford and Colorado on the road, they’ll handle Cal and Arizona at home, and then it’ll all come down to the Washington game. This team is absolutely good enough to win all five of those games.
Yeah, it was a loss, but Oregon battled hard in a crazy environment. The Ducks stormed back, but settling for field goals instead of touchdowns on two second half drives were a problem. Even so, the defense did a great job of getting through the first half big plays, and tightened up until Minshew got the job done on the one big late drive to put it away.
This isn’t crushing to Oregon’s Pac-12 title hopes, but it’s a stinger. Now, with losses to Wazzu and Stanford, there’s a whole lot of traffic to get through to get the North’s top spot. Fortunately, Arizona and UCLA are up next before having to deal with Utah. Beat the Utes, and with Arizona State at home and Oregon State on the road, they’re almost certainly going to finish 10-2. Do that, and roll the dice to win the tie-breakers.