Marcus Mariota found Keanon Lowe on a six-yard scoring throw with just over five minutes remaining in the game to break a tie and lead the Oregon Ducks to a 38-31 victory over an upset-minded Washington State team Saturday in Pullman.
The Ducks overcame an injury-plagued offensive line that allowed Mariota to be sacked seven times to beat the Cougars in a game that was closer than anyone could have anticipated.
Mariota was brilliant yet again in leading his Ducks to their third straight triumph to start the season. The Heisman candidate connected on 21 of his 25 passing attempts for 329 yards and five touchdowns. Wideouts Lowe and Devon Allen each caught a pair of scoring passes to help allow the Ducks to escape from a scrappy Washington State team.
The Cougars’ Connor Halliday gashed the Oregon defense with 436 yards, on 63 passing attempts, and four touchdowns.
The game came down to a play that arguably should have been a penalty on Oregon but was not called. With just over three minutes remaining, with WSU driving for a potential game-tying touchdown, a Ducks defender appeared to interfere with a Cougar receiver on a 3rd and 14 play. No call was made and Oregon sacked Halliday on the ensuing play to give the ball back to Oregon.
The Ducks converted a third-and-short with just over two minutes left and ran out the clock to end the game.
Two concerns for Oregon on this night were its banged up offensive line and its often porous defense. The Cougars took an early lead on two Halliday touchdown throws and went into intermission with a 21-21 tie.
Oregon scored the only points for either team in the third quarter on an eight-yard pitch and catch from Mariota to Pharoah Brown.
After trading field goals early in the fourth quarter, Washington State tied the score at 31 on a Halliday to River Cracraft touchdown pass. The Ducks answered as Mariota found Lowe once again with 5:33 left in the game.
Despite its struggles with protection and defense, Oregon rallied behind a calm and cool Mariota who made play after play down the stretch to ice the game.
Oregon moves to 4-0 on the season (1-0 in the Pac-12) while the Cougars fall to 1-3 (0-1).