Cougars fall to Ducks at home

The Cougars became 11th ranked team in nation after having a solid first half in the air, on the ground

CODY SCHOELER, Evergreen reporter

No. 11 University of Oregon Ducks beat the Washington State Cougars 43-29 Saturday in the first game of the season at Martin Stadium.

The Cougars (1-1) came out strong in the first half by forcing three turnovers, all courtesy of freshman defensive back Ayden Hector.

The Cougars were not able to capitalize on the turnovers, scoring just 10 points off the takeaways. They had a 19-7 lead with 18 seconds left before a 57-yard bomb from Oregon sophomore quarterback Tyler Shough set up a short touchdown to cut the lead to 19-14 heading into halftime.

WSU head coach Nick Rolovich said they had a lot of opportunities to put the game away early but settled for field goals instead of touchdowns.

“At the end of the day, we got to make plays, we got to execute better, we got to coach better,” he said.

The Ducks (2-0) came out hot in the third quarter, outscoring WSU 29-10 in the last 30 minutes of the game. They were able to use their momentum to put the game away late.

“It felt like the third quarter was just sluggish and kind of out of sync, especially the early part of it,” Rolovich said.

Oregon got the ball with a seven-point lead with 4:40 left in the game. WSU had just scored and needed a stop to get the ball back and have a chance to tie the game. It took Oregon six running plays to cover the 75 yards needed to score a touchdown and put the game away.

The Ducks were led by Shough, who finished 21-30 for 312 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He also had nine carries for 81 yards on the ground.

Most of the Ducks’ damage came from their pair of running backs. Junior CJ Verdell had 118 yards and one touchdown on the ground while junior Travis Dye had 154 total yards, including two touchdown catches for a combined 87 of those yards.

Freshman quarterback Jayden de Laura had another good game for the Cougars, completing 25 of his 39 pass attempts for 321 yards and two touchdowns, but it was not enough to pull off the upset.

Rolovich said de Laura improved on his play from last week. He said he looked comfortable and was making more plays within the offense instead of going off-script.

Redshirt senior offensive tackle Liam Ryan said de Laura played well for his first big-time game at the collegiate level.

“I think a lot of people just forget that that kid’s a freshman,” he said. “He comes in, he’s level-minded and he acts like he’s been here before. The scene is not too big for him. College football is not big for him.”

De Laura once again relied on his slot receivers for a majority of his production. Redshirt senior Renard Bell led the team with 10 catches for 158 yards and a touchdown. Redshirt junior Travell Harris also chipped in nine catches for 94 yards. Those two accounted for 29 of de Laura’s 39 passing attempts.

Bell said they knew the Oregon secondary was talented and was going to present a challenge, but there was going to be ways to attack them.

De Laura’s other touchdown went to redshirt wide receiver Lucas Bacon on his first career catch. Bacon, a walk-on from Mead High School in Spokane, Washington, caught two passes for 26 yards and the touchdown.

Bell said it was a good moment for the entire team to see him succeed.

“Whether we lost or whether we win, I’m really happy for Bacon because he’s been putting in the work all season and years prior,” Bell said. “He’s been working. He doesn’t like to let up. Just seeing him being able to make his plays and have some big catches for us in this game, it was really amazing.”

The offensive lines for both teams were impressive, allowing just one sack apiece. They also were a huge reason why there were 1,002 combined total yards in the encounter.

The Oregon offensive line was able to handle the Cougar pass rush, which had four sacks last week against Oregon State. That group also opened up plenty of holes for the ground game, leading to a team-wide average of 7.5 yards per carry for the Ducks.

The edge rushers for WSU were not as impactful as last game. They failed to record a sack and only had one hit on the quarterback, which came from freshman Moon Ashby, who was playing in place of an injured redshirt junior Willie Taylor.

Redshirt sophomore edge rusher Brennan Jackson played well against the run, racking up two tackles for loss.

The Cougars’ lone sack came from senior linebacker Jahad Woods, who also led the team with 11 tackles, eight of which were solo tackles.

The WSU offensive line put together another good game, keeping de Laura clean in the pocket. They only allowed one sack and only four quarterback hits throughout the game.

Sophomore defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux had two of those quarterback hits, along with two tackles for loss. The rest of the Oregon defensive line seemed to be neutralized by the Cougars’ group upfront.

The offensive line also paved the way for another good game from redshirt senior running back Deon McIntosh. He ran 16 times for 92 yards and had his second touchdown of the season.

Ryan said McIntosh is underrated and is a very talented and consistent running back.

“Deon’s been doing this the whole time he’s been here,” he said. “He just hasn’t gotten the reps in the past.”

The Cougars will look to get back to a winning record when they play Stanford at 8 p.m. Saturday in Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, California.