We've been waiting all season for what happened yesterday. Since the Cougs gave UCLA and Oregon better games than expected, it seemed inevitable that this team would breakthrough for a win. Some of that enthusiasm was dampened thanks to some disappointing performances against ASU and Cal, which were both games that Coug fans had circled as "winnable."
Even in those "winnable" matchups, we knew a victory would not come easy. It would require the Cougs to take care of the ball and avoid penalties. No scoring opportunity could be squandered and a few big plays would have to come along. If all of that happened, WSU could steal a late victory in conference play.
Well, yesterday didn't exactly go as planned. Washington State flat-out dominated Oregon State. They were able to overcome mistakes (of which there were many, we'll have more on that later) and put up a convincing victory. The game probably wasn't even as close as the final 17-point margin.
The Cougs were in control from their opening series. Moving from the shadow of their own endzone deep into Beaver territory before having a series of mistakes stall the drive. It didn't produce any points, but it was clear from many postgame quotes from the players and coaches that the first series set the tone for the rest of the game. WSU was not going to be pushed around, and they were looking to do all they could to keep Jacquizz Rodgers off the field.
That they did, possessing the ball for over 39 minutes and holding Oregon State to their lowest number of offensive plays in nearly two decades. They moved the ball on the ground for the first time all year, putting up 221 rushing yards. Their scores, which the exception of the final one, came off of legitimate clock-killing marches down the length of the field. There was nothing "flukey" or "lucky" about it. In fact, it was Oregon State that was left to try and capitalize off Cougar mistakes, as their first touchdown came off of a Cougar turnover in their own territory.
The defense played their part, too. Most of the season, success on the defensive side could be found when the Cougs were taking the ball away from the other team. Yesterday, the Cougs only generated one offensive turnover (the other two came off of kickoffs), but still were able to keep the OSU offense at bay. Outside of a 28-yard gainer, Rodgers was relatively kept in check for much of the game. For the first time all year, we saw the opposing team facing the third and longs that our own guys have become accustomed to. This allowed the front four to pin their ears back on passing downs, and OSU quarterback Ryan Katz had pressure in his face all day long.
In the end, WSU was able to come away with a victory without any late game heroics or overtime field goals. No frantic finish was needed. This was a methodical beat down of a Pac-10 team on the road. For the first time in a long time, the Cougs outplayed somebody. This win should leave you feeling a lot better than the Apple Cup or SMU, because for once our guys were on the giving side of a butt-kicking, and luck played no part in it.