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WSU chokes away 4th quarter lead, loses to Oregon, 44-41

All too familiar.

Jack Ellis/CougCenter

The Washington State Cougars couldn’t hold a fourth quarter lead against the Oregon Ducks, giving up 22 consecutive points in the final minutes and losing, 44-41.

WSU (3-1, 0-1 in Pac-12) was outscored 29-14 in the fourth quarter, including 22-7 in the final 3:50. Oregon (3-1, 1-0) put the nail in the coffin with a pick six in the final minutes as WSU tried to complete a drive to either tie or win the game.

The offense wanted to get the crowd amped early. On the first play of the game, WSU ran a flea flicker and Cam Ward — who threw for 375 yards and 4 TDs — connected with Renard Bell down the field for 24 yards. WSU’s offense continued to gash through the Duck defense like a hot knife through butter. Ward polished off a nearly picture-perfect start with a five yard scramble into the end zone to give WSU the early 7-0 edge. Oregon was fast to respond. Bo Nix found Troy Franklin for a 38-yard completion to put the Ducks just outside of the red zone. The Ducks got a 1st and goal but couldn’t finish the drive, resulting in a short field. A theme that would haunt the Ducks for the game. The Cougs tacked on a field goal and again held the Ducks to another short field goal in the red zone as the first quarter shifted into the second.

Once again, Oregon drove through the Cougar defense and found themselves in the red zone. On first and goal from the WSU seven, Nix fluttered a pass into the flats that landed right into the hands of the preying Francisco Mauigoa, who danced his way down the sideline, avoiding desperate Ducks flying in to chase him down, for a near coast-to-coast pick six. The Ducks tacked on their third short field goal of the game as the Cougs took a 17-9 lead into the halftime break.

Oregon made their halftime known on the first play on the second half. Nix found a wide open Kris Hutson who snuck behind the WSU secondary for a 55-yard throw and catch to set-up the Ducks deep in WSU territory. The Ducks finally completed a possession in deep WSU territory two plays later on a Bucky Irving receiving touchdown from 12 yards out. The Ducks would go for two but not convert. On the ensuing possession, the Cougars completed a third and nine on a beautiful pass to the outside to Robert Ferrel near midfield. The next third down caught the Oregon defense napping. De’Zhaun Stribling teleported behind the Oregon secondary and Ward found him streaking down the sideline for what appeared to be a WSU touchdown. After review, Stribling’s foot just scraped the south sideline at the Oregon 11. The Cougars couldn’t punch it in again and would have to settle for a field goal to push the lead to 20-15. After an Oregon punt and a kick-catch interference, the Cougars took advantage of the short field. WSU drove down the field and rewarded Stribling with a 15-yard touchdown to put WSU in front by two scores.

The Ducks opened the final quarter on the goal-line and would punch the football across on a one yard Jordan James carry, bringing the game within five. On a 2nd and 10 on the next drive, Ward appeared to have a completed a screen pass over the middle for a short gain. The ball however ended up coming loose on the way down and ending up in the lap of a Duck for an interception. Fortunately, Oregon wouldn’t do much with the gift, punting three plays later. Aided by some Oregon penalties, the Cougars made their way down the field and scored on a Farrel touch pass at the one, putting WSU up 34-22 with 6:41 to play.

Oregon wouldn’t go away quite yet. The Ducks put together an 11 play, 75 yard drive in just 2:46 to pull back within a possession. In their first three games, WSU’s offense had been successful in these late-game situations with long drives to drain a majority of the remaining clock.

They did not do it today.

The Cougs only ran three plays and drained 59 seconds off the clock. WSU punted, giving Oregon the ball down five with about two and a half minutes to go. On a third and one from the 50, Troy Franklin had a step on the secondary and Nix found him. Franklin stayed on his feet and scored the go-ahead touchdown to lead 37-34 with 1:29 to go.

With a chance to tie or take the lead, Ward and company got the ball at their own 25. Nakia Watson started the drive with a six yard draw play, then Ward ended it. He tried to complete a screen pass, but three it right into the hands of a defensive lineman who secured the interception and stuck a dagger right into the hearts of the Cougars with a pick six. WSU would cover the spread with a touchdown in the final seconds, though.

The Cougs will look to bounce back against the California Golden Bears next week for homecoming.