The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

Duck hunting season; Cougs look for massive rebound in Eugene

WSU searching for first win over Oregon since 2018
WSU Cougars run onto the field before an NCAA football matchup agains the Arizona Wildcats in Pullman, Wash.

Coming off a humbling two-week stretch, the Cougs (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) get rewarded with a trip to Eugene, Oregon, to face the No. 9 Oregon Ducks (5-1, 2-1). Wazzu has not won a game in Eugene since 2017, but after a 4-0 start to the season, they’ll have to in order to avoid falling to within one game of .500. 

Following the loss to Arizona a week ago, WSU head coach Jake Dickert said they have flushed it, and are ready to bounce back. While things have not been great the last two weeks, the pre-bye week team is still here.

“We are a good football team. That 4-0 team is still sitting in this room. That’s the best part. That 0-2 football team is still in there too so which one do we want to be? And which one can we be? And I believe that we can be a good team, and that’s what we got to show this week,” Dickert said.

The challenge for WSU is not just how good Oregon is, but the stadium they have to play in. The Cougars are 0-1 in road conference play, and Autzen Stadium in Eugene should be much louder than the Rose Bowl.

“It’s loud. We’ll work with crowd noise this week for our offense to make sure we’re ready for those things. It’s definitely a home-field advantage, but some people walk in there and they get completely intimidated. You can’t do that. It should energize you, you should cherish the boos, you should want to go in there compete your tail off and shock the country, nobody thinks we can go in there and win the game,” Dickert said.

On the field, however, the Cougs will have their hands full with Oregon’s top 20 passing and rushing offense that is 1st in the country in both points per game (48.5) and yards per game (555). Their defense also ranks 19th in the country in points allowed per game (15.83), only allowing 180.7 passing yards per game, which is the last in the Pac-12.

The fact of the matter is WSU will be facing a national juggernaut on the road, that is coming off an enraging loss and looking to bounce back. So the stalling Coug offense has no more time to iron things out, the production will need to return this week.

The offense has only accumulated 10 and six points in their last two games respectively, after not recording less than 24 in any of their first four. The passing offense that was top three in the country led by quarterback Cam Ward also has not reached 200 yards since week four. 

The explosive offense Coug fans were used to may be dormant right now, but it is not broken, Dickert said.

“I know the last two results have not been anywhere close to where we want it to be. And I think that’s a reasonable thing to say. But it’s still the same pieces to the puzzle that no one thought three weeks ago we weren’t scoring points. So let’s get back to that feeling, let’s understand the things that made us successful. And it was being decisive with the ball, getting the ball out quick and letting our guys in space,” Dickert said.

Another key for the offense is health. Starting tight end Cooper Mathers is expected to return this week after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury, Dickert said. Also, wide receivers Lincoln Victor and Josh Kelly, who were limited by injuries against Arizona, should be closer to 100% this week.

Wazzu was hyper-aggressive out of the gate against the Wildcats a week ago with a two-point conversion attempt, fourth down try and a trick play all ending poorly in the first quarter. Trick plays are a part of the offense and the team wants to be aggressive, but it did stifle the momentum early on, Dickert said.

The key is like always, finishing. The Cougars went into halftime “down 14, not 50,” Dickert said. And as Dickert has said week in and week out, there has to be a mindset to finish, and last week there was not.

Certainly finishing is a key as last year when the Ducks and Cougs faced off in Pullman, WSU had a 34-22 lead with 6:42 left in the game before the Ducks outscored them 22-7 to win the game. UO has continued this trend erasing a 27-18 deficit in week two against Texas Tech, outsourcing them 20-3 in the final quarter.

The differences from last year in this matchup are far and few between, and the challenge is real, Dickert said.

“They’re constantly attacking, they’re big and physical. On the offensive side of the ball they’re very creative, creating mismatches in different ways,” Dickert said. “Bo Nix is playing at a Heisman level. The one major change from last year is they finally graduated some of those offensive line guys.”

That offensive line for Oregon, however, has only allowed four sacks this season, being named as a unit to the Midseason Honor Roll for the Joe Moore Award for the most outstanding offensive line in college football.

Their weapons are plentiful as well, with wide receiver Troy Franklin being named to the AP Midseason All-American second team, and running back Bucky Irving going for 127 rushing yards and a touchdown last week.

As per usual in the Pac-12, this week will be another stellar QB matchup between Nix and Ward. Nix threw for 337 yards and two TDs last week and currently leading the nation completing 79.2% of his passes. 

Ward on the other hand has struggled since the bye, throwing his first three interceptions of the year, yet still, he is averaging 296.5 passing yards per game, and completing 69.7% of his passes. The biggest discrepancies between the two: experience and fumbles.

Nix has not fumbled since 2021, when he was quarterbacking the Auburn Tigers, and is set to make his 54th career FBS start, the most in FBS history. Ward on the other hand is making his 20th career FBS start, and through six games has fumbled six times, losing four tying his career high.

Both players and coaches since the Arizona game have come out and said that last week was not the Cougs. Defensive back Jackson Lataimua said that this week will be the best version of the Cougars WSU fans will have seen.

WSU will take on the Ducks at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Eugene, Oregon, with a chance to show a lot.

Not only is this a chance with Wazzu receiving 11 votes in the AP poll to make a statement and jump back in with the league’s elite, but also to right the ship and prove that the last two weeks were a fluke.

More to Discover
About the Contributors
LUKE WESTFALL, Evergreen sports co-editor
Luke Westfall is a junior in Broadcast News from Custer, WA. He is an avid fanatic of the many sports at many levels who spends all his available time indulging in them. Luke began working at the Evergreen in Spring 2022.
MADDY RICE, Evergreen photographer
Maddy Rice is a photographer for the Daily Evergreen. Originally from White Center, Washington, she is a sophomore majoring in Business Managment, with a minor in Sports Managment. Maddy began working for the Daily Evergreen in the Fall of 2023.