If I asked you before kick off, "Would you rather Oregon's passing or rushing attack play below their averages?" what would you say?
It is a difficult question because the Marcus Mariota-led offense is so dangerous that it's a pick your poison type of proposition. Personally, I would have picked for their rushing game and surprisingly, Xavier Cooper and the Cougs did just that.
Before the game I was looking at what the possible stat lines would be if Oregon played to WSU's rush defense averages and vice versa:
If WSU rush defense holds Oregon to it's avg's, stat line is 44 carries, 173 yards, 3.6 runs of 10+ yards and 2 TDs (not gonna happen)— Zane (@zane_rm) September 20, 2014
Oregon's rushing stat line ended up at 42 rushes, 172 yards, 5 runs of 10+ yards, 0 touchdowns.
Now, Mariota played an incredible game; I don't know if he could have played better, and you can see that below when looking at the TD% by YPA metric I've posted on before. By that measure, he is the best QB in the country right now.
Mariota rarely gets sacked and one thing that has been hindering the WSU defense all year is that they've struggled to get pressure on the QB. The performance against Oregon was the best of the Breske era. The Cougar defense, led by Cooper, Kache Palacio and Darryl Monroe posted 7 sacks, their highest mark since Colorado in 2012.
So all things considered there, I was really happy with the front seven's performance.
Going into the game I was confident that Connor Halliday and company would move the ball, but the big question was could they turn it into points? The Oregon defense was forcing its opponents to throw an interception every 28 drop backs heading into Saturday's contest and had only given up four passing touchdowns through the first 3 games.
Halliday went 63 attempts without an interception, posted 4 touchdowns and a 6.3 TD % (Oregon was holding opposing QB's to a 3.51% TD before Saturday). It was a massive performance.
If he continues to play like this (with his current YPA of 8.0 and attempts per game of 59, he is tracking toward 5,200 yards passing), and we get production out of the running backs like what Jamal Morrow posted (15 touches, 112 yards), we will be trouble for every team we face from here on out.
This team has struggled with inconsistency during the Mike Leach era and to beat Oregon we needed to play a near perfect game, but a couple of bounces (two lost fumbles come to mind) didn't go our way.
Utah is going to pose a tough test next week, but here's to continued improvement across the board and a celebratory .gif party after a win (if it happens, I ain't guaranteeing anything).