Twenty-one unanswered points and a defense that found some traction helped Oregon get to 2-0 on the season.
Travis Dye’s 71-yard touchdown catch from Tyler Shough midway through the fourth quarter put the 11th-ranked Ducks in full control Saturday night on their way to a 43-29 win against host Washington State at Martin Stadium in Pullman.
In a little more than a quarter, Oregon put three turnovers in the rear-view mirror and turned a 12-point deficit just before halftime into a nine-point advantage early in the fourth quarter.
The Cougars (1-1) created 13 points out of those three turnovers. But the Ducks outscored WSU 36-10 the rest of the way.
“We came out in the second half and said we’re going to take care of the ball and each do our job individually, and that showed,” said Shough, making his second career start. “We felt they couldn’t stop us when we were doing our jobs and not turning the ball over.”
The Cougars got three points back after Oregon led by nine, but Dye ran past a defender down the right sideline and Shough hit him in stride for the easy score with 8:25 left.
Dye knew from practice he was likely to match up against a defensive lineman there.
“I told Tyler before the play, ‘if I’m even I’m leavin’.’ And I was even with the guy at the line of scrimmage and I left him. So, it was simple,” Dye said.
WSU answered back with its own score, but Oregon wasn’t done.
The Ducks gashed the Cougars with a 22-yard run by CJ Verdell and jaunts of 24 and 23 more on consecutive plays by Dye before Cyrus Habibi-Likio put the cherry on top of the victory with a 1-yard touchdown run with 1:40 remaining.
After a loss to WSU on the same field two years ago and dealing with the pandemic, Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said he was interested to see how his young team would deal with adversity in its first road game of the season.
“Of course you want to find out,” he said. “I can’t say I’m surprised. I thought these guys would handle this well.”
On the opening drive after halftime, Oregon had a chance to cut what was a 12-point first-half deficit to two. But kicker Camden Lewis pushed a 37-yard field goal wide right.
But the Ducks’ defense got a stop and Oregon took the lead on its next possession.
Verdell ran right for 40 yards on first down to the WSU 28. And four plays later Shough hit Travis Dye down the middle for a 16-yard touchdown. One snap earlier, Shough converted a third down with a 6-yard scamper.
After Verdell’s two-point conversion was called back on a penalty, the Ducks kicked the extra point for a 21-19 advantage.
The Oregon defense got a three-and-out and the offense went hunting for more points.
Getting the Cougars to bite on a fake handoff to Verdell, Shough covered 33 yards with his feet to the WSU 47. Devon Williams caught a 16-yard pass and DJ Johnson grabbed a tipped third-down toss to move the chains.
Jaylon Redd ran for 11 yards before Johnny Johnson III caught his first ball of the night, a 2-yard touchdown as Shough rolled right that extended the lead to 28-19.
Sparked by Jayden de Laura passes of 24 and 28 yards, the Cougars went down the field to get a field goal to close within six.
But the Ducks had an answer to create all the cushion they needed with Shough’s long pass to Dye.
“We were missing on things we are typically good at,” Mario Cristobal said of the first half. “Once we got refocused, guys did great job just taking over the football game.”
Shough finished 21-of-30 passing for 312 yards with four touchdowns and an interception. He also rushed nine times for 81 yards.
Verdell ran 18 times for 118 yards and a score and also hauled in five balls for 36 yards. Dye had 54 rushing yards on five tries and his two catches totaled 87 yards. Redd added 99 yards on five grabs.
Oregon’s defensive slowed down de Laura, a true freshman quarterback, and the Cougars in the second half.
De Laura was 25-of-39 passing for 321 yards, with most of that coming in the first half, with two touchdowns.
Deon McIntosh rushed 16 times for 92 yards and a touchdown, while Renard Bell had 10 receptions for 158 yards and a score.
The Ducks trailed by just five at halftime despite turnovers on three straight drives.
Oregon held WSU to just 16 yards — on three completions — on the opening possession of the game.
Pinned at their own 8 after a punt, the Ducks’ offense put together a 15-play drive capped by DJ Johnson’s 13-yard touchdown catch from Shough.
The Cougars nearly had an interception on the fourth play of the possession. But Oregon went on to convert a third down on a 16-yard reception by Verdell and a 4th-and-2 catch by Kris Hutson deep in WSU territory.
The Cougars came back and gashed the Ducks with five plays of 9 yards or more in six snaps, and Lucas Bacon scored on an 18-yard pass. After an Oregon penalty on the point-after try, WSU failed on a two-point pass.
The Cougars kept the momentum when two plays later Ayden Hector recovered a Dye fumble on a run play. Bell then caught a 44-yard bomb and later a 4-yarder for a touchdown to put the home team ahead.
Three plays into the next Ducks’ drive, Hector, a freshman defensive back, made a diving interception to give WSU a short field. But Noah Sewell got a first-down sack and Oregon forced a three-and-out.
After the Ducks got to the Cougar 28 on the ensuing possession, Verdell fumbled on a muffed exchange with Shough and Hector was there to return it 12 yards to the WSU 44. The Cougars eventually got a first down at the Oregon 15 but only came away with a Blake Mazza 39-yard field goal and a 16-7 lead.
After an Oregon punt, WSU drove for a 49-yard Mazza boot with 24 seconds left in the first half.
The Ducks had little time to work with but made the most of it.
Mykael Wright returned the kickoff 39 yards to the Oregon 40, Shough found Redd behind the defense for a 57-yard gain, and Verdell finished it off with a 3-yard touchdown run up the middle with three ticks left on the clock to close the gap to 19-14.
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