The 2017 season is just a couple of months away. Let’s pass the time by rewatching last season’s conference games.
Nuss: So, we’re skipping over the first three games, and we were 1-2 coming off an annihilation of Idaho after dropping the first two to Eastern and Boise State. I remember having a bit of trepidation — feeling good about the fact that we dismantled Idaho and had beaten Oregon the previous year, but also wondering just what we had because of the first two losses.
BA: I was in a similar mindset to start the season. We’re gonna pick this season review up at conference games because 1. it’s convenient timing with the weeks before 2017 kicks off and 2. I had less than zero interest in re-watching Eastern. Heading into the Oregon game last year I was pretty confident we hadn’t seen the best of what WSU could do, they’re pretty good at not playing their best football at the beginning of the season.
Nuss: Me too. And I had a sneaking suspicion Oregon was actually pretty bad. They had just lost to Colorado the week before in Autzen, if I remember. Turned out that Colorado was pretty good, but that Oregon defense looked really susceptible, particularly to power running. And the game was at home!
BA: Yeah, you’d have to look pretty hard on the internet to find a non-Oregon fan site that thought Brady Hoke implementing a 4-3 with Oregon’s roster was going to be a good idea.
Nuss: Turned out to be a pretty bad one! Let’s watch how bad!
BA: Game on.
(If you have a Pac-12 Network subscription, you can follow along with us here.)
Oregon Drive 1: Oregon 0, WSU 0
Begins: 1st quarter 15:00
Result: Turnover on downs (12 plays , 45 yards; Time of Possession: 4:39)
BA: Keeping Royce Freeman in check was the major concern
Nuss: Yeah, seemed like there was a concerted effort to keep things in front, which we’d learn was a pretty big part of their defensive philosophy overall. Lots of soft coverage early on, trying to make sure there was nothing big over the top.
BA: Negative plays were so huge for WSU’s defense. Forcing Prukop to be the guy to make plays was always good.
Nuss: Yeah. I remember being so relieved that the 4th down pass sailed deep. We had double coverage out there and still got beat by a step over the top. But we definitely dialed up the pressure on the passing downs.
BA: Real sense of “if we can force him to try that every time we’ll be alright” after that drive.
WSU Drive 1: WSU 7, Oregon 0
Begins: 1st quarter 10:21
Result: Gabe Marks touchdown (6 plays , 65 yards; Time of Possession: 2:22)
BA: Gerard Wicks sets the tone early with the run game. Oregon comes out with their four DL-men and their backers have no idea how to cover WSU in space. Falk just shreds their intermediate level on this drive with run checks and crossing routes.
Nuss: Notable to me was just how much time Falk had to get comfortable in the pocket. Oregon was getting absolutely zero pressure, and Falk had loads of time to scan — even on that throw to the sideline, it’s not like he was in imminent danger, he just extended the play then found a guy on the scramble drill.
BA: They called Z-Shallow two times in a row in the red zone. Marks was wide open on the first one, where Falk went to H on the mesh so they just ran it again out of Ace. Wide open again. Playing zone against this team is hard enough, playing zone with backers that aren’t used to it isn’t doing yourself any favors.
Nuss: The last one for the TD was a thing of Air Raid beauty — put the linebacker in a position to choose between trailing Marks and picking up the H, and his indecision blew the entire thing.
Oregon Drive 2: WSU 7, Oregon 7
Begins: 1st quarter 7:59
Result: Royce Freeman touchdown (6 plays , 42 yards Time of Possession: 2:13)
BA: Nelson made some huge plays for them in 2015 and we kinda figured he’d factor into this game at some point. Giving up a huge return after a statement TD is such a let down. That’s negative puntos on the Rise Up board.
Nuss: So, this was the drive that had me a little worried. There was a enough “typical Oregon” in there that it felt like, OK, here we go — Charles Nelson’s big return to open up the drive, some misdirection to get a chunk, Freeman gashing us and rumbling into the end zone on a 4th-and-1 even as we brought seven guys on a run blitz.
BA: Oregon didn’t do anything particularly special here, lots of scheming to get one-on-one tackling into the boundary with their first few plays. WSU is battling well with the short field though, Hercules does a good job with timely run stuffs, forcing long 3rd downs. Unfortunately they get Pharaoh Brown (sp?) manned up with a DB, which will always be a mismatch.
WSU Drive 2: WSU 14, Oregon 7
Begins: 1st quarter 5:34
Result: Gerard Wicks touchdown (13 plays , 75 yards; Time of Possession: 5:38)
Nuss: It was pretty incredible how easily we were moving the ball. We weren’t gashing them for huge yards (with the exception of the very first run from Wicks), but there was just lots of time, lots of space, and a fairly simple, methodical march down the field.
BA: Yeah, this was Falk at his best. The ball was out quickly against backers. They were giving the receivers and backs all sorts of space in the intermediate and he found them all. One bad endzone fade and he’s otherwise pitching a perfect game so far.
Nuss: This also is where it starts to become evident that Oregon can’t just obliterate us with athletes anymore — even in the win the year before, it felt like we were outmanned and somehow pulled it out with a combination of grit/guts/guile. That hurdle by Jamal Morrow was just WHOA WOW WHOA
Oregon Drive 3: WSU 14, Oregon 7
Begins: 2nd quarter 14:56
Result: Punt (6 plays , 24 yards; Time of Possession: 1:48)
BA: That’s exactly how you’d want your defense to step-up after a methodical drive. Not exactly a three-and-out, but the things that might’ve turned into big plays were limited and the defense showed it can get sideline to sideline against Oregon.
Nuss: That was kind of their M.O. all season, right? Give up a few plays, but make a big one in a big moment. Also, I remember being kind of shocked that Oregon didn’t go for it — they punted from practically midfield on a 4th-and-5. No way they do that under Chip Kelly.
BA: Yeah that wasn’t very Oregon-like. So far their QB has completed a couple seams to Brown and the rest have been bootlegs. Not much of a drop-back passing game from them in a few series.
Nuss: Yeah, this is when you started suspecting Oregon might actually be pretty limited in what it would be able to do.
WSU Drive 3: WSU 14, Oregon 7
Begins: 2nd quarter 13:08
Result: Punt (3 plays , -1 yards; Time of Possession: 0:56)
Nuss: Major bummer here. Three-and-out when you’ve got a chance to really establish supremacy — especially when the first play is a first down if Falk makes a little better throw or if Martin’s got a little better concentration. And a false start at home on 3rd-and-manageable, followed by a drop that was going to be short of the sticks anyway.
BA: This could’ve been where WSU began to really separate, if they could’ve strung something together. That first play is a good example of what Oregon showed the whole game, really.
The Cougs run a simple mesh, with a little motion and RB wheel for flare. In another twist we’ve typically seen in the redzone, Martin runs a post on the wide side instead of a corner.
Falk has three huge throwing lanes with three wide open receivers to choose from. There’s minimal effort by Oregon to even get in the way of his throwing lanes, the backers are content to play in eachother’s hip pocket, flat-footed and seven yards off the ball.
Oregon Drive 4: WSU 14, Oregon 14
Begins: 2nd quarter 12:12
Result: Royce Freeman TD (9 plays , 54 yards; Time of Possession: 2:50)
BA: Great by #SpecialForces to cover that punt...bad that Oregon once again has a really short field.
Nuss: Royce Freeman carrying our entire defense on his back for a TD did not make me feel like a million bucks.
BA: Hey, at least he got stood up once by a dude.
Nuss: That’s the view you can take when you know you won the game lol
BA: Fair enough.
WSU Drive 4: WSU 21, Oregon 14
Begins: 2nd quarter 9:18
Result: Jamal Morrow TD (7 plays , 80 yards; Time of Possession: 2:39)
BA: Gotta love it when Falk stretches the field a bit. He’d been hammering the intermediate and Oregon was ripe for verts. Also, wouldn’t much mind if every drive ended in unsportsmanlike endzone celebrations from an offensive lineman.
Nuss: That throw to Sweet was an absolute dime.
BA: His best of the day by far.
Nuss: Like Wicks’ TD, this TD was another “shove it down their throats” job. The O-line deserved to get in on some of that end zone action.
Nuss: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Also, this is the second drive where WSU looked a lot more like Oregon than Oregon looked like Oregon — 7 plays, 80 yards, 2 and a half minutes. Love it.
Oregon Drive 5: WSU 21, Oregon 14
Begins: 2nd quarter 6:33
Result: Punt (3 plays , -11 yards Time of Possession: 1:05)
BA: D-line stole their lunch money and left them whimpering on the cafeteria floor. Oregon’s line was down a couple starters and had some freshman in. You could tell on that drive.
Nuss: That was stunning. I mean, we had been getting some negative plays, but that was overwhelming. If I believed in things like momentum, I’d be analyzing the current momentum swing.
WSU Drive 5: WSU 28, Oregon 14
Begins: 2nd quarter 5:28
Result: Gerard Wicks TD (10 plays , 55 yards; Time of Possession: 4:44)
BA: I remember writing about how Oregon’s pass rush was just too fast for WSU in 2012. Falk had an 8-Mississippi count to find Morrow at the goal line.
Nuss: He is just so in command of the offense. Remember how in 2015 that timer would go off in his head and he’d just start moving off his spot to move off his spot, whether there was actually pressure?
BA: That’s what experience will do for you. He moves really well in the pocket, buying time within his pass protection. Granted, he walked up into a sack on the play before but that was more a coverage sack than anything else. Oregon finally mixed some pressures up that series, some worked but WSU handled it really well.
Oregon Drive 6: WSU 28, Oregon 14
Begins: 2nd quarter 0:37
Result: Isaac Dotson interception (7 plays , 41 yards Time of Possession: 0:37)
Nuss: This drive never really had a chance for Oregon, mostly because it had become abundantly clear at this point that the Ducks really had no faith in Prukop to throw the ball. Starting inside your own 20 and running the ball? Granted, they picked up a chunk on the ground on the first play, but when it came time to actually throw the ball for yards, WSU turned up the pressure, Oregon had nothing, and it fizzled with an interception on a duck forced by Hercules Mata’afa.
BA: They got it to around midfield on two plays which is what you’d figure they’d like to do. But they whiffed on their vertical down the sideline and Prukop didn’t make the plays they needed to after that to work field position for a field goal. They got themselves where they could take a shot but weren’t really creative about doing it and WSU was dropping a free safety at that point, expecting the shot to come too.
WSU Drive 6: WSU 28, Oregon 14
Begins: 3rd quarter 15:00
Result: Blocked FG (10 plays , 82 yards; Time of Possession: 3:23)
Nuss: Gonna be honest — that Y-Cross is starting to become my favorite Air Raid play. Who knows if that continues with Kyle Sweet, but the way River Cracraft would just find the empty space in that part of the field and Falk would drop it in is just classic Air Raid because the defense simply can’t cover every yard of the field. And it’s really been our most explosive play for a couple of years now.
BA: Fotu Leiato sighting. Yeah I wish ESPN would zoom out during gameplay and we could see how the secondary tried to play that. Looks like neither backer adjusted to motion and they rolled a safety down to cover it...Cracraft blows past that safety inside and the backers didn’t get great depth. Cracraft had that route perfected, he was so good at finding that open space. If fall is anything like spring, Easop Winston could be the guy sliding into that role too.
Nuss: This game would have been ridiculous if not for #SpecialForces.
BA: never punt...or kick field goals.
Oregon Drive 7: WSU 28, Oregon 14
Begins: 3rd quarter 11:33
Result: Fumble recovery by WSU (4 plays , 31 yards; Time of Possession: 1:16)
BA: Oregon hasn’t really adjusted much of their offense to start the second half. Power, counter, bootleg. WSU got caught on a nice screen there but Prukop’s only effective passes have been out of play action boots...and he’s only targeting the mid-level sideline route, whether that’s something from a play side WR or the drag coming across.
Nuss: Even the fact that they ran a screen on 3rd-and-10 ... I mean, I know it obviously can be an explosive play, but to me that’s indicative of where this game (and Oregon’s season) is going.
BA: That drive seems a little like Oregon being stubborn with what they want to do, watching it again. Zero adjustments, just thinking they can eventually do their Oregon thing and be fine. Which, well, Leach does the same thing sometimes so we can kinda empathize with that mindset.
WSU Drive 7: WSU 28, Oregon 14
Begins: 3rd quarter 10:17
Result: Turnover on downs (7 plays , 23 yards; Time of Possession: 2:13)
Nuss: Great field position squandered. I remember being pretty annoyed after this non-conversion that it wasn’t a 3- or 4-TD game at this point. Two times at the doorstep of the end zone with nothing to show for it.
BA: This was where I remember thinking WSU could finish them too. TD would have felt catastrophic for Oregon.
Nuss: Falk missed Gabe on a shallow cross on 3rd down trying to force it to Martin. Gabe wasn’t wide open, but he had a step and could have outrun his guy to the pylon.
BA: That drive had two missed TDs. The first was Wicks on the sideline one-on-one and he lost track of where he was and stepped out of bounds turning up-field. You’d like to see him win that battle in the redzone and force it in. The other was an errant throw on a perfectly called and ran smash to the field side. Had that corner route open by a few steps and sailed it out of bounds.
Oregon Drive 8: WSU 30, Oregon 14
Begins: 3rd quarter 8:04
Result: Safety (2 plays , -3 yards; Time of Possession: 0:33)
Nuss: I feel better now.
BA: Hercules is a beast.
WSU Drive 8: WSU 30, Oregon 14
Begins: 3rd quarter 7:25
Result: Punt (6 plays , 29 yards; Time of Possession: 3:49)
Nuss: It’s funny — I kinda forgot how the offense stalled a little early in the half. My memory is that we just ran over them. This is still feeling a little shaky. WSU is in control, but my inner Coug is like “OK, when does the other shoe drop?”
BA: I don’t know who’s more nervous when Falk scrambles, me or him.
Nuss: He is absolutely the worst. If I had more video skills, I’d speed this up and run Yakkety Sax over the top of it.
BA: Brain farts happen sometimes. Like to see Williams be able to pick this up, too. This was Oregon’s sack.
They line up with five on the DL. That’s hat-on-hat with the OL so Williams reads the middle backer. If he blitzes he picks him up. If the backer stays, he bubbles out to give Falk a safety throw. Thing is, Oregon stunts and twists the boundary stand-up end and Williams doesn’t see it happen, bailing to get open on a route and leaving the middle wide open.
Oregon Drive 9: WSU 30, Oregon 20
Begins: 3rd quarter 3:36
Result: Royce Freeman 75-yard TD (2 plays , 82 yards Time of Possession: 0:34)
Nuss: Oh. There’s the other shoe.
BA: Dotson filled playside and Paris Taylor (20) filled the wrong cut-back gap. He took backside B and should’ve filled A.
Nuss: Such a subtly vicious cut though. He reminds me so much of Marshawn Lynch sometimes.
BA: This play pissed me off so much when I was in the stands but it also felt sort of inevitable. Freeman is too good to be held from doing something like that for an entire game.
Nuss: Side note — I can’t believe we have to play him AGAIN. Screw that.
WSU Drive 9: WSU 37, Oregon 20
Begins: 3rd quarter 3:02
Result: Jamal Morrow 14-yard rushing TD (12 plays , 75 yards; Time of Possession: 4:59)
Nuss: Hahahaha I forgot about the fumblerooski!
Nuss: Also, let’s just all enjoy River Cracraft murdering a DB on 3rd down.
BA: Salt-away-the-game drive right there.
Nuss: I feel better.
Oregon Drive 10: WSU 37, Oregon 20
Begins: 4th quarter 13:03
Result: Punt (5 plays , 14 yards; Time of Possession: 2:23)
Nuss: This is rolling downhill on Oregon now.
BA: Yeah not much of anything there. Still don’t think Prukop has completed more than a couple downfield that weren’t off play action boots. If your QB can’t complete anything except WR screens from the pocket you’re in all sorts of trouble.
WSU Drive 10: WSU 44, Oregon 20
Begins: 4th quarter 10:40
Result: James Williams 38-yard rushing TD (5 plays , 82 yards Time of Possession: 2:23)
Nuss: The Jamal and Boobie Show started heating up last drive, but now it’s just on full takeover. We Oregoned Oregon — their defense is completely gassed and can’t keep up with Williams’ athleticism. Game over.
BA: That one-cut was explosive as hell.
Nuss: Like I said — Oregoning Oregon.
BA: Jeff I enhanced the image and it’s incredible.
Oregon Drive 11: WSU 44, Oregon 26
Begins: 4th quarter 8:17
Result: Charles Nelson KO return TD
BA: Sometimes bad things happen to good people. This...also felt inevitable.
WSU Drive 11: WSU 51, Oregon 26
Begins: 4th quarter 8:17
Result: James Williams 3-yard TD (9 plays , 83 yards Time of Possession: 5:04)
Nuss: The good news is that the KO return TD meant the offense got back on the field sooner!
BA: Oregon couldn’t do much of anything against WSUs ground game. A lot of that was on the RBs and OL playing well but some would also be on them just not being very good against the run.
Nuss: Oregon is such a train wreck on defense at this point. Nobody sets the edge and Williams just runs around the crashing DE for the TD.
Oregon Drive 12: WSU 51, Oregon 33
Begins: 4th quarter 2:47
Result: Justin Herbert 4-yard rushing TD (8 plays , 85 yards Time of Possession: 2:01)
Nuss: Thank goodness Helfrich didn’t put in his best QB sooner, amirite?
BA: Eh, one nice completion on a 10 yard out route to the TE that busted isn’t going to get me too worked up. Things happen. Prukop was really bad though.
Nuss: I’m still annoyed the game was even this close.
WSU Drive 12: WSU 51, Oregon 33
Begins: 4th quarter 0:46
Result: End of game (1 plays , -4 yards Time of Possession: 0:46)
Nuss: Not WSU related, but in retrospect — Helfrich gets that last TD, then doesn’t onside kick, and doesn’t use his timeouts. I mean, I know the game is over ... but man, you just don’t see very many coaches just wave the white flag like that. Very Wulffian end to the game. I’d have been pretty steaming as an Oregon fan.
BA: OR. Kick the ball deep and get the hell out of Pullman. Take your ass-beating home with you.
Nuss: Sure. But most coaches preach scrapping and scraping until the very end as an enduring attitude. I don’t know how big of a deal it is, but in retrospect, it certainly fits with the narrative of Oregon becoming un-Oregon last year.
BA: On a personal note, I’m not going to miss looking at those anthracite jersey numbers.
Nuss: Neither will the announcers.
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