Second-Half Surge Fuels Win At WSU
PULLMAN, Wash. – Trailing at halftime after committing three turnovers, the Oregon football team stormed back to beat Washington State on the road Saturday, 43-29.
The Ducks cleaned up their play after halftime and improved to 2-0 on the season. They return home next week to host UCLA on Saturday, a game originally scheduled for Friday.
Tyler Shough completed 21-of-30 passes for 312 yards and four touchdowns, CJ Verdell ran for 118 yards and a touchdown and Travis Dye had two receiving touchdowns plus 147 all-purpose yards. Those three stars of the Oregon backfield each had a turnover in the first half, but they personified the bounce-back effort by the Ducks in the second half.
"Tons of credit to the players for just being very determined and resilient, finding a way to push ahead and win the football game," UO coach Mario Cristobal said.
Oregon trailed 19-14 at halftime, and missed a field goal to open the second half. But the defense responded with a stop, Verdell exploded for a 40-yard gain to open the next UO possession and Dye finished it off with a 16-yard touchdown reception for a 21-19 lead.
After another defensive stop, the Ducks put together a similar drive as Shough opened the possession with a 33-yard run, and Johnny Johnson III finished it off with a TD catch, his 100th career reception.
The teams went back-and-forth the rest of the fourth quarter. WSU pulled within a score, and Oregon answered with Dye's second touchdown reception, a 71-yard play on a wheel route. Again the Cougs made it a one-score game, and again the Ducks answered, with Cyrus Habibi-Likio's 1-yard TD run that made it 43-29.
The victory was Oregon's first in Pullman since 2014. Veterans like Verdell and Dye were able to exorcise the demons of the loss there in 2018, after which WSU fans stormed the field.
"That's not a good feeling," Cristobal said. "Certainly they used it as motivation the entire week."
Nick Pickett led the Ducks defensively with nine tackles, although he was ejected for targeting in the second half and will miss the first half against UCLA. Kayvon Thibodeaux had two tackles for loss among his six tackles, and true freshman linebacker Noah Sewell had Oregon's first sack of the year, after making his first career start.
The Ducks started well off the bat Saturday, getting a defensive stop and then mounting a 15-play, 92-yard scoring drive to take an early lead. Shough spread the ball around to eight players on that drive, and finished it off with his second TD pass in two games to DJ Johnson.
From there, though, the Ducks committed three straight turnovers. The defense bowed its back by holding the Cougars to a three-and-out after one and a field goal after another, but WSU led 16-7 at that point, and added another field goal for a 19-7 lead just before halftime.
Oregon grabbed momentum just before halftime, though. Mykael Wright fielded a kickoff with just 20 seconds left and returned it 40 yards, and on the next play Shough bought some time with his feet under pressure and found Jaylon Redd behind the defense for a 57-yard gain.
Verdell scored on the next play to get Oregon within 19-14, and begin a momentum swing that carried over after halftime.
"Once we got refocused," Cristobal said, "guys did a great job taking over the football game."