WSU (4-3, 1-3 in Pac-12) again struggled to find any sort of rhythm offensively against OSU (5-2, 2-2), a theme that has began to haunt the Cougars the past few weeks. They were held to just a touchdown in the first half two weeks ago, shutout in the second half last week and held to just 10 points today.
For a program that has built an identity of being an offensive juggernaut for nearly the past decade, this has been an unwelcome surprise. They have lived for sprinting goal line to goal line for sixty minutes every Saturday. Since Pac-12 play has started however, the Cougar offense has struggled to get to that goal line more than a handful of times.
Despite kicking off nearly five hours after the Mariners and Astros started game three of the ALDS, the Beavers scored before either baseball team could. Silas Bolden took the opening kickoff all the way out to the WSU 40. The Beavers converted a 4th and 5 from the WSU 35 and scored from a yard out four plays later. WSU started their day on offense with three straight incompletions, punting it right back to OSU after just 23 seconds of possession. OSU got to around midfield and faced a 3rd and 8 from their own 46. Ben Gulbranson looked deep but floated the pass far too short and right into the hands of WSU safety Sam Lockett III. The Cougars again sputtered on offense, gaining just one net yard on their second straight three and out. The Cougars ended the first quarter with one total yard of offense to the Beavers 149. OSU controlled the ball for all but 1:44 of the first quarter.
The Beavers were held to a field goal a minute into the second quarter after a touchdown was wiped off the board after replay review. Trailing 10-0, the Cougars finally looked to wake up on offense. WSU got help from just about everybody on the drive. Cam Ward, Robert Farrell, Jaylen Jenkins, Donovan Ollie, Tsion Nunnally and De’Zhaun Stribling all contributed to putting the Cougars into Beaver territory. The Beavers held WSU out of the end zone, anchored by a 12-yard sack on first down from the OSU 15. Dean Janikowski knocked home the 29-yard field goal to put WSU on the board, down 10-3. After five punts, WSU had a chance to score again before the half with the ball at their own 30 and 1:12 to go. The Cougars drove all the way up to the OSU 42 with 23 seconds to go, but couldn’t get a yard further. Ward heaved a shot towards the end zone as the clock expired that hit the turf, sending the Cougs trailing 10-3 at the half.
After a punt from WSU to open the second half, OSU again put together a long drive, paper-cutting the Cougar defense. On a 1st and 10 from WSU’s 17, Gulbranson was flushed out to the left and floated a pass into a cluster of Beavers and Cougars that landed into the lap of OSU’s Anthony Gould for a touchdown. The Cougars answered right back with a 3rd and 7 conversion to Leyton Smithson, a 23 and 30 yard completion to Farrell and a nine-yard touchdown for Jenkins pulled WSU back within seven at 17-10. Not to be outdone, the Beavers punched right back. Damien Martinez dashed right through the WSU defense for a 50-yard run all the way to the WSU four. Jack Colletto punched in the two-yard touchdown to open the fourth quarter and the Beavers would take the 24-10 lead.
Despite the defense giving the Cougar offense chances to pull back in the game, WSU’s offense continued to get the motor running. Farrell set-up the Cougars with a chance after somehow staying on his feet on a short drag route and taking off all the way to the Beaver 37. WSU ended up going no further after a false start on fourth down wiped away the four yards of progress WSU did get. Going for it on 4th and 11, Ward’s pass to Ollie was popped up into the air and intercepted. The defense forced back-to-back three and outs and the offense rewarded them with a punt and another turn over on downs.
OSU missed a field goal with under four minutes to go that would have iced the game away, gifting WSU yet another chance to try and find any rhythm on offense. The Cougars were able to get a few chunk plays together to get into the red zone. On a 3rd and 9 from OSU’s 15, the Beavers sent six on a blitz and the linebacker got right through the offensive line that had struggled all night, sacking Ward for a loss of 10. Ward tried to keep the game alive on fourth down, scrambling out of pressure again but was forced out of bounds seven yards short of the first down marker. OSU went into victory formation and captured their first win in nine years over WSU.
The Cougars looked flat from the jump. Dropped passes, constant pressure on Ward and missed tackles defensively bit WSU in the rear all night long.
Thankfully, WSU will have plenty of time to get right with their next game not coming for another 12 days with a bye week separating a rare Thursday night date in Pullman with the Utah Utes, who just defeated the previously ranked #7 USC Trojans.