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Cougar Classics: WSU vs. Oregon 1984

Take a stroll down memory lane with us, to a day when a Coug made history.

Welcome to something we're calling "Cougar Classics." Today, we're reviewing the 1984 game when WSU faced the Oregon Ducks, and some guy named Rueben Mayes set the all-time NCAA single-game rushing record. Who came up with this idea? Well, let's just say when it's Sunday afternoon and you're sitting by yourself with little on television, the internet is your friend.

I stumbled upon this little gem when our own Britton Ransford linked a WSU highlight video. It was then that I decided to take notes throughout the broadcast to re-create it for you folks. My guess is that a great many of you weren't even born when this game took place, so hopefully this will give you an even better appreciation for what Rueben Mayes and the Cougs accomplished on that day in Eugene.

Let's start from the top. Where the heck else should we start? The broadcast opens with a highlight package from the WSU game a week prior, when they traveled to Stanford and dug themselves a 42-14 hole. Normally, a four touchdown second half lead would be good enough against a primarily run-based team such as WSU. Not on that day! The Cougs stormed back with five straight touchdown to win it 49-42.

As an aside, I still remember a die-hard Coug neighbor of mine (Mr. Thielman, who I mentioned in one of my first ever posts on this site) had a highlight tape of that game, another one where Rueben Mayes ran wild. The soundtrack to the highlights was "I'm So Excited" by the Pointer Sisters. Those sisters were all aunts to former WSU receiver/return man Deron Pointer. If nothing else, we like to come full circle here at CougCenter.

Back to the Oregon game. The telecast took place on something called the SuperChannel. The theme song was accompanied by a SuperSonics logo, which made me sad. Anyway, the announcing team on what would become this historic afternoon was Mariner announcer Rick "say friends" Rizzs and former Seahawk Paul Johns. Johns was a Seahawks receiver who had his career cut short due to injury.

The game opens with WSU receiving the opening kick. The first thing I noticed was the helmet stickers. I miss the helmet stickers. The Cougs had been notoriously slow starters in 1984, scoring all of seven first quarter points so far that season. That wasn't the case today. The Cougs take the opening kick and use a mix of runs and short passes to get inside the 10. After Richard Calvin is stopped just short of the goalline, Mark Rypien sneaks across for a touchdown. 7-0 Cougs

After giving up a long kick return (this happened OFTEN in this game), the WSU defense doesn't allow a first down, and the Cougs get the ball back. After three plays gain just three yards, WSU faces fourth down from its own 22, and brings on the punt team. Did they punt? Umm, no. Upback Rick Chase takes the snap and runs a quick option to his right. After breaking a tackle, he's loose. He picks up a great block at the Oregon 40 and takes it the distance. It was an amazing play, mostly because it's the kind of play that today's coaches would NEVER EVEN TRY. 14-0 Cougs

Leading 14-0, the Cougars kick to the Ducks. The Ducks return it the the WSU 19. Seriously, the kick coverage team was really bad in this game. At the 28-minute mark of the video, somebody from the netherworld takes over the audio. Trust me, it happened. Later, Oregon faces fourth-and-two from the WSU 10 and decides to go for it. As the teams line up, several players jump and flags are everywhere. The call? The refs penalize nobody and call for a do-over! See kids, #Pac12refs has been around alot longer than you think. A few plays later, Oregon punches it in. Rich Brooks then channels his future inner-Chip Kelly and fakes the PAT. The try is unsuccessful. 14-6 Cougs

The ensuing kick brings more #Pac12refs action. The kick results in a touchback, but WSU is flagged for a block in the back. Oregon declines the penalty. HUH??!! Once again, WSU moves the ball at will. Rypien completes a deep pass to Michael James, and the Cougars are in business once again. Mayes scores from three yards out and the Cougs take a 21-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.

As the second quarter begins, the rain begins to fall and the turf becomes quite slippery. It was at this point that I noticed the referree making every call while facing away from the camera. What a circus. On the next posssession, Oregon runs a reverse pass which goes poorly, as a WSU defender drops an easy interception. On the next play, Oregon runs a nearly identical trick play, which WSU is somehow unaware of. The result is an easy touchdown. The Ducks go for two again(!!!), but the Cougs hold. 21-12 WSU

Shortly after this sequence, Rick Rizzs remarks that Mayes had a quiet first quarter, and he's right, relatively speaking. Rueben tallied 41 yards on nine carries. In a moment that would make Nostradamus proud, Rizzs then says Mayes will probably gain a lot more. As if on cue, Mayes takes a pitch and goes 70 yards for a touchdown.Loren Langley John Trout misses the PAT. 27-12 WSU

The shootout is officially on, as Oregon easily moves 72 yards for another touchdown. The touchdown was a beauty of a fade pass from Chris Miller (who was terrible in this game) to Lou Barnes in the corner of the endzone. Mike Leach would have been proud of the play's execution. Oregon goes for two again! This time they convert. 27-20 WSU

The Cougs face third-and-long on the next possession when Mark Rypien throws a serious fastball off his back foot. John Marshall catches it to convert, and the Cougs are again on the march. After another long Mayes run, the Cougs are primed to score again. Rypien makes a bad decision, however, throwing to a covered receiver despite great protection. The pass is intercepted and the Cougs are denied. Paul Johns brilliantly says, "that was not a good pass."

The Cougar defense holds, and WSU gets the ball back with 1:41 to play before halftime. A draw to Rueben Mayes gets 15 yards. After two incomplete passes, Jim Walden comes to his senses and gives the ball back to Mayes. Mayes gets 21 yards. Mayes and Rypien combine for another first down, and the Cougs face first-and-goal and the nine. Despite having a timeout in his pocket, Walden ignores Mayes and calls three straight passes. Rypien misses a wide open receiver on third down and WSU settles for a Trout field goal. WSU leads 30-20 at halftime.

Halftime is also interesting. One of the bump music selections is Christopher Cross' "Ride Like the Wind." As you can tell, Mayes had a big second quarter. He compiled 197 yards on 20 carries for the half, meaning he had 156 in the second quarter alone. As a team, WSU had 302 rushing yards and 415 total. The Coug cheerleaders were wearing pins that said "Pluck the Ducks." It was a simpler time.

Oregon takes the second half kick and WSU drops another tailor-made interception. After a Duck punt, John Marshall drops a pass that is ruled a fumble, which Oregon recovers. If that play happened today, it would have absolutely been ruled an incomplete pass. Alas, Oregon gets a field goal. 30-23 WSU

Rueben Mayes goes over 200 yards on the next WSU possession, but the Cougs are forced to punt. Oregon is on the march once again, quickly getting into WSU territory. The drive stalls at the WSU 27 however, and Oregon is forced to kick another field goal. The 44-yard try sails through, and the Ducks are getting close. 30-26 WSU

WSU gets hit with an unexplained penalty, which results in Oregon kicking from the WSU 45. Oregon rightly tries an onside kick, but the Cougs recover. Mayes gets 15. Then Rypien takes an option keeper, BREAKS FOUR TACKLES, and gains 25. Three plays later, following a Mayes 12-yard run, Richard Calvin takes a counter trap through a gaping hole for an easy score. 37-26 WSU

After Satan briefly takes over the audio, WSU gives up yet another long kick return. This time, the Duck ball carrier fumbles and WSU recovers at the Oregon 47. Two WSU male cheerleaders then somehow pull off a 360 High 10 with flawless execution. It was something to behold. Mayes gains another 21, and the quarter ends with Rizzs saying "Mayes may gain 300 yards." Mayes finishes the quarter with 253 yards on 25 carries.

The fourth quarter begins with the Cougs threatening to score yet again. Mayes gets a couple more carries, and WSU faces fourth-and-inches at the Oregon 11. Who do you think was getting the ball? Yep. Mayes takes an option pitch and goes in untouched. 44-26 WSU

The Ducks didn't give up. A Miller pass to Lou Barnes sets up Oregon with first-and-goal at the WSU two yardline. Then another bizarre play occurrs. Miller rolls left and is tackled. As he goes down, WSU safety Jeff Dullum dives in and takes out the head referree, bending his knee in a direction it was not meant to go. The ref stayed in for a few plays, but then left the game. I'd bet he tore his ACL. Two plays later, Tony Cherry takes a handoff into the endzone. Once more, Oregon goes for two. Once more, they convert. 44-34 WSU

The Cougs get the ball back and go right to the bell cow. Mayes gains 12. Then Mayes gains 28 to eclipse the 300 yard mark. Three straight run plays only net eight yards, and John Trout comes on to try a 41 yarder. The kick is ugly but knuckles through. 47-34 WSU

The ensuing kick bounces to the Oregon four and, you guessed it, is returned clear to the WSU 48. #SpecialForces has nothing on these guys. On the next play, Miller hits Barnes to the WSU 12. A Cougar late hit by Dullum sets up Oregon with first-and-goal from the six. Once again, things get weird. Oregon runs for a yard, throws an incomplete pass and runs for four yards. So it should have been fourth-and-goal, only it wasn't. Somehow, Oregon is given another first down. The only thing I can figure is that the officials gave Oregon first-and-five from the six after the personal foul. That is not close to the right call, but once again, #Pac12refs.

Oregon faces first-and-goal from the one. Then they face second-and-goal. Then they face third-and-goal. Then they face fourth and goal from the two. After somehow getting a seventh play after starting at the six yardline, Oregon punches it in, and WSU's lead is just 47-41.

WSU gets another penalty, and Oregon once again sets up an onside kick from the WSU 45. This entire officiating crew should have been fired before they reached the dressing room. The onside kick goes right to safety Jerald Waters, who scoops it up for the Cougs.

The Cougs take over on their 34. Mayes for six. Mayes for five. Mayes for four. Mayes for five. On third-and-one, Mayes gets six more and WSU is already at the Oregon 40, chewing the clock perfectly. Mayes then loses his shoe, so Rypien takes over with a 13-yard carry to the Oregon 28 with two minutes to go. Three plays net only six yards, and John Trout comes on for a crucial 39-yarder to seal it. Perfect. 50-41 WSU

Oregon would mount a desperation drive, but it comes up empty. WSU wins the game 50-41 to improve their conference mark to 2-2 on the season. Mayes would finish the game with 39 carries for an NCAA record 357 yards. The funny thing was that the announcers had no idea it was a record. How did we survive without the internet??!!

Other random observations:

  • It feels really weird to watch a game without a score/clock bug.
  • Oregon had a defensive lineman who weighed 296 pounds. He was WAY bigger than the other players. Today, he'd be just another guy.
  • Rueben Mayes' mustache should have its own plaque in the WSU Hall of Fame.
  • Chris Miller was borderline terrible.
  • Mark Rypien's game closely resembled that of Randy Johnson's early years. Cannon for an arm, but you had no idea where the ball was going.
  • Erik Howard would go on the the more successful pro career, but Milford Hodge was a damn beast at defensive tackle
  • Oregon had a running back named Kevin McCall. No word on whether he'd become a successful rap music producer like the WSU Kevin McCall did.
  • The jerseys were incredibly loose, especially compared to today.
  • WSU's passing attack would have given Mike Leach fever dreams.
  • Linebacker Lee Blakeney was a tackling machine. Couldn't cover a tree stump, though.
  • Don Pellum was playing for the Oregon defense, so it's no mystery why they gave up half a hundred.

The 1984 Cougs had a very star-crossed season. After opening 2-2 in nonconference play, which included a narrow loss at Tennessee, two very close wins over Utah and Ball State and a butt-kicking at the hands of Ohio State, they stood at 2-2. Their next two games were home against USC and at UCLA. They lost both by a combined five points.

Despite those two heart-breakers, they rebounded to stage the monumental comeback at Stanford. They then rolled into Oregon and left with a victory. Two more victories easy victories over OSU and Cal followed and the Cougs stood at 6-4 as they headed into the Apple Cup. They should have won that one too, but a costly personal foul on Rico Tipton changed the game, and they lost to the eighth-ranked Huskies to finish 6-5. That would've easily been good enough for a bowl game today, but not back then.

Both Mayes and offensive lineman Dan Lynch were named First-Team All-Americans, and things were looking bright for 1985 as the RPM (Rypien, Porter, Mayes) backfield was primed to make a Pac-10 run. I still remember the RPM schedule poster that I had in my room. It was not to be, though, as the Cougs finished a disappointing 4-7 and Jim Walden departed.

Regardless of that, I hope you enjoyed this little trip down Cougar Football memory lane. The game was very entertaining to watch and write about. Go Cougs.