Effort alone not going to get it done for Cougars
Oregon impressed with WSU, but it doesn't matter in the win column
Seattle Times colleges reporter
EUGENE, Ore. — Outside the Oregon locker room, the Ducks were in a charitable mood.
"We've been giving 'em props all week," said UO defensive end Terrell Turner, talking about the Washington State Cougars. "They came out and proved us right.
"I'm not sugarcoating it. They got way better than the last two years. Although we were battling out there, we were letting them know, 'You guys are getting better and better.'
"We gave 'em the respect they deserved."
The Ducks had just slogged through a 43-28 victory — the definition of pedestrian for them — and they did everything but pat the Cougars on the head and go, "There, there ... "
"They were real physical," said Oregon freshman cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olumu. "Probably the most physical team we've faced so far."
This just in: "Cougars more physical than LSU."
Washington State's train kept chugging toward destination unknown here Saturday, enveloped in frustration over whiffed opportunities and capped by well-meaning accolades from the opponent.
The question is, isn't it better to have the other side claim you're a bunch of no-count ne'er-do-wells and we're gonna kick your backside next year?
WSU caught the Ducks in transition mode, as they were plugging rehabbed quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James back into the offense, and the Cougars — give them their due — played hard. The backfires sounded by the Oregon offense actually gave WSU an opening, a real live shot at shocking the world.
The Cougars, of course, wouldn't hear of it. And Oregon's 21-game home winning streak became WSU's fourth consecutive defeat, dropping Washington State to 3-5.
"No moral victory," said coach Paul Wulff. "We came here to win and didn't get it done."
OK, for all the moral-victory adherents in the audience, here are the particulars: The Cougars had 30 first downs, 10 more than Oregon. The Ducks (7-1) had a modest (for them) 213 yards rushing, and WSU's 462 total yards, eight more than Oregon, meant it was the first time anybody had outgained the Ducks in this place since Purdue early in the 2009 season.
All that, and three bucks, gets you a double-tall latte.
Besides having a chronic red-zone problem, what the Cougars are is maddeningly inconsistent. Marshall Lobbestael, the backup quarterback, makes three good throws and the fourth is on somebody's shoe tops. Marquess Wilson darts for yardage and then completely matadors his block that's supposed to spring Isiah Barton on a hitch pass. The Cougars have Thomas virtually run out of bounds on a second-quarter sideline scramble — it's going to force a punt — and instead, he sees Lavasier Tuinei running free for a TD behind a WSU secondary that comes up to assist on the run.
WSU allowed two special-teams touchdowns, one on a first-quarter blocked punt, the other on a third-quarter, 93-yard kickoff return by uber-freshman De'Anthony Thomas, who does that to people.
Meanwhile, the Cougars weren't keeping up, as Lobbestael threw first-half interceptions from the Oregon 15 and 21, respectively.
It was just 15-10, Ducks, at half. Leaving the field at the break, somebody on the WSU sideline — Wulff said it was a player out of uniform — irked an official enough after a personal-foul call on safety Casey Locker that the Cougars got a penalty setting them back 15 yards on the second-half kickoff. Oregon, starting at its 42, bolted 58 yards in three plays.
Stupid penalty, but essentially inconsequential.
"I don't think it affected us," said Lobbestael.
An hour after the game, center Andrew Roxas stood waiting for the WSU bus, visiting with friends on the Oregon team.
"We're going to a bowl game this year," he said firmly.
But now we enter the final third of the season, and this is it for the Cougars, who would have to pull three victories from the hat in their last four.
As the cliché goes, they need to execute better. So true. And then they need to have an opponent curse them afterward and say they're not that good.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-12.
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