Washington State vs. Oregon: 10 Things We Learned in Ducks' Win
Oregon thrashed Washington State 62-38 to improve to 7-0 on the season. It wasn't the most convincing win the Ducks have had this year, but it was their usual steady diet of touchdowns and jaw-dropping plays. It simply got the job done, as Oregon hopes it can continue to make a push for a spot in this year's national championship.
But what did we learn from the win?
Marcus Mariota became the clear favorite for an individual award, Washington State's defense isn't as bad as you thought and a star running back shouldn't really be in any hurry to return to the field.
Pink Is Cool!
It was weird not seeing the Ducks in their usual flashy colors. Pink helmets, cleats and gloves? Uh, sounds a little feminine to me.
But once Oregon took the field, it didn't look that bad. It actually started to grow on you the longer you gave it a chance. It made for a nice change of pace, and the black and pink really blended well together—not to mention it was for a good cause with October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Besides, real men wear pink, right?
Gabe Marks Is Starting to Come into His Own
Gabe Marks is having an impressive season and really shined in this losing effort. He led both teams with 13 receptions, 143 receiving yards and caught an eight-yard touchdown pass in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Overall, it was easily the best game of his young career and a sign that he may be turning the corner.
Marks, who is only a sophomore, now has two games this season with more than 10 catches and 100 receiving yards. He runs good routes, has a decent frame at 6'0" and can make plays in space. It's important that he continues to find ways to get open and help out his struggling quarterback.
Connor Halliday Is Still Jekyll and Hyde
Connor Halliday holds an FBS record with 89 pass attempts. And while he also threw for 555 yards, he wasn't nearly as good as Washington State needed him to be.
The junior quarterback tossed four interceptions to go with his four touchdown passes. A couple of those turnovers could be blamed on the receiver, but Holliday continuously made poor decisions with the ball and displayed questionable accuracy. Other times he threw a perfect football that dropped right into his receiver's hands for a touchdown.
Washington State could be a much better team if Halliday began to show a little more consistency. Right now, his 17 interceptions on the season are holding this team back.
Washington State Plays Defense!
You wouldn't know it by looking at the box score, but Washington State got after it defensively for the most part.
The defensive line did a nice job of creating pressure, the defensive backs were able to bat away a handful of passes and the unit forced three turnovers. The defense was the main reason the Cougars trailed by only 10 points heading into halftime.
Yes, the 700-plus yards allowed doesn't look good—neither does 62 points. But if you watched the game, there were plenty of good things this defense showed that Washington State can build on moving forward.
Oregon Games Take Too Long to Finish
Forget Boston Red Sox and New York Yankee games—Oregon football games are a marathon. It makes you feel like you need to throw a slumber party just to watch this team play.
The Ducks score 50-plus points on a regular basis. The amount of touchdowns scored adds to the time thanks to commercials. But that then forces the other team to throw the ball a ridiculous amount of times, which adds even more time due to the number of incompletions thrown.
Connor Halliday threw the ball 89 times, and a usual three-hour college football game lasted nearly four hours. Why? We knew Oregon had won the game about five minutes after opening kickoff.
An accelerated clock could fix this problem.
Preventing the Deep Ball Doesn't Work
The only way to defend Oregon is to take chances defensively and get physical: Move the defensive backs near the line of scrimmage, jam the receivers and show them that you aren't going to back down.
Washington State's defense did a nice job of getting physical, but it provided too much cushion to the receivers. This allowed Mariota and company to pick apart the underneath throws, which then gave his receivers chances to make plays in space. It also opened up the running game, which thrived once again.
Defenses must start taking more chances. If Oregon takes advantage of the aggressiveness and scores, who cares? The offense was going to score anyway. Giving up the short passes all day obviously doesn't work when playing against this high-flying offense.
De'Anthony Thomas Isn't Needed
De'Anthony Thomas appeared ready to go but missed his third straight game with a nagging ankle injury.
Unfortunately, the Black Mamba isn't needed in this offense. Well, at least not yet.
Even without one of college football's fastest players, Oregon rushed for 394 yards and moved the ball with ease. Byron Marshall led the way with 192 rushing yards and three touchdowns, while Thomas Tyner added 100 yards of his own and two touchdowns.
Combined, those two did damage and made you forget about Thomas.
Yes, it's fun to have the speedster on the field, but it's clear the Ducks can hold their own without him. That's scary.
Marcus Mariota Is the Clear Front-Runner for the Heisman...
Johnny Manziel lost the award against Auburn. Brett Hundley removed himself from the conversation against Stanford. Marcus Mariota continues to play at the highest level, and this game was no different.
The sophomore threw for 325 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 78 yards and a touchdown. He was pretty much flawless for most of the game and made beautiful throw after beautiful throw. There was little Washington State's defense could do to defend him.
Unless Oregon suffers a hiccup or Mariota forgets how to throw a football, he will hoist the most prestigious award in college football at the end of the year.
But He Can Be Rattled
Even though Mariota played well, he did get careless with the football at times. He came into the game with zero turnovers but managed to fumble twice in the first half. One of his mistakes was returned 41 yards for a touchdown.
At times, Washington State was able to get solid pressure on the sophomore, and he wasn't able to adjust. He held the ball too loosely, and Washington State defenders were able to knock it out. Sure, he was able to overcome a couple of errors, but would that have been the case against one of the better teams in the Pac-12?
Mariota proved he was human. He just needs to make sure he learned from this performance and will do a better job of holding onto the ball in future contests.
Oregon Is Still on National Championship Pace
Did you expect anything different?
The Ducks took care of business in convincing fashion and should remain in good status with college football voters. It wasn't the cleanest performance Oregon has had all season, but it was good enough for most to go to sleep halfway through the third quarter knowing the game was over.
There's going to be company with an undefeated Ohio State and Florida State looking to make a move in the polls. But as long as Oregon continues to score 50-plus points and blow its opponent out, the team that everybody loves to watch should be just fine.
This win was another small step toward the ultimate goal.