Coming off a rough, emotional stretch of games in which WSU ran out to a 4-0 Pac-12 record, Oregon State was viewed by many fans as a great way to start a little run of eminently winnable games.
That lasted for all of about five minutes, as someone forgot to tell the Beavers they were supposed to lose easily.
OSU ran out to a 21-0 first half lead before the Cougars woke up and put together a third quarter for the ages to pull ahead and — after briefly falling behind again in the fourth quarter thanks to #SpecialForces — eventually close out a 35-31 victory.
In truth, the rough start was only surprising to those who weren’t paying attention. Besides the aforementioned stretch of games, Oregon State’s recent results — in which the Beavers beat Cal before narrowly losing to Utah at home — suggested the Beavers were better than most wanted to admit.
But an epic third quarter allowed the Cougars to come all the way back and secure bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season, moving to 6-2 overall and 5-0 in the Pac-12.
The second half didn’t start great, with the Cougs going three and out before Mike Leach and/or Eric Mele and/or Kyle Sweet decided a fake punt on 4th-and-11 from their own 23-yard-line was a good idea. It wasn’t, but the WSU defense came up huge and forced a three-and-out that ended in a punt thanks to a Garrett McBroom sack on second down.
Three plays later, the Cougs got the big play they needed, with Luke Falk finding Jamal Morrow behind the linebackers for a 66-yard touchdown:
After another three-and-out for the Beavers, a pass interference on Cracraft, plus a 20-yard run by Morrow, put the Cougs in prime position again. Then, Falk made the dumbest throw you can possibly imagine ...
... with the best imaginable result. After another three and out for the Beavers, Falk found Gabe Marks again, this time with a 28-yard dime in the back of the end zone.
Suddenly, a game that had felt pretty bleak had turned all the way around, as WSU led 28-24. As you can see in the table at the right, that’s a pretty good quarter.
The Beavers briefly reclaimed the lead after #SpecialForces reared its head again — Caleb Fossum muffed a punt that OSU recovered inside the 5, and the Beavers punched it in a play later.
But WSU marched right back down to take the lead again, this time for good. It was as clinical a drive as you’ll ever see: Five consecutive plays that went for first downs brought the ball all the way to the 3-yard-line. After James Williams was stuffed — he had rushed for 34 yards on his previous two carries — Falk found Robert Lewis, who had easily beaten his one-on-one coverage for Falk’s 5th TD of the day.
While it proved to be the game winner, it wasn’t easy to finish the game out; it took a failed fake punt and later a fourth-down stuff to keep the Beavers at bay. But when it came time to salt the game away, WSU took the ball down to OSU’s 16 and ran all but four seconds off the game clock to effectively end the game.
Early on, it looked like the Cougs might be heading back to Pullman with their first conference loss.
The game was a mess from the very beginning. Using a combination of a power running game and misdirection, the Beavers had the Cougs on their heels out of the gate. They marched down the field on the first drive, but WSU dodged a bullet when Garrett Owens missed a field goal.
No such luck on the Beavers’ second drive, which lasted all of two plays — the second an 89-yard burst by Ryan Nall right up the middle in which linebacker Paris Taylor appeared to miss his run fit. On the next drive, Peyton Pelluer failed to get across the formation fast enough, and Nall hauled in a 19-yard blitz-beater out of the backfield for another TD. The Beavers tacked on their third TD of the half on a trick play:
The Cougars had a lot to do with all that — there were a lot of missed tackles, one untimely penalty (an unfortunate low hit on the QB) that continued OSU’s second TD drive, cornerback Darrien Molton turning and running with a receiver while Seth Collins practically jogged into the end zone on the throwback, and a River Cracraft fumble.
But most of the credit went to OSU, which had a superb game plan — including the end around runs that have given WSU fits since approximately 2004.
The Cougars’ offensive game plan was puzzling, to say the least. There (again) was a general refusal to run the ball with any consistency, despite OSU possessing one of the worst rushing defenses in the Pac-12.
But that changed in the second half, as the Cougs piled up 111 yards on the ground and 364 yards total to escape with a win and return home with their undefeated conference record intact.
Luke Falk finished with 415 yards and 5 touchdowns and zero interceptions on 33-of-46 passing. Marks finished with 110 yards and two touchdowns on eight receptions, while James Williams finished with 74 yards rushing on 11 attempts.