Oregon Ducks overcome awful 1st half, defeat Washington State 43-29


It was a night to forget Saturday for the men from Eugene, Oregon, but a win is a win. 

The No. 11 Oregon Ducks (2-0) overcame a poor first half, which included three first-half turnovers, to defeat to the Washington State Cougars (1-1) 43-29 at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Washington.

It was the Ducks' first win in Pullman since 2014. 

Here are the key takeaways from the contest. 

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent]

1. Moorhead's Offense Will Not Stop Attacking

With the hiring of new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, Mario Cristobal also welcomed a more aggressive, downfield philosophy on that side of the football. 

Nothing was more evident than the team electing to take a shot downfield with 17 seconds remaining in the first half, rather than taking a knee or running the ball. The result? A 57-yard bomb to Jaylon Redd to set up a 3-yard CJ Verdell touchdown run. 

Rather than heading into halftime down 12, the Ducks trailed by just five with the ball coming their way to open the second half. 

Then in the second half, Moorhead used some creative play-calling to move the ball down the field, including this gorgeous seam route from Travis Dye for the go-ahead touchdown. 

That play exemplified what makes Moorhead so special as a play designer. Setting Jaylon Redd into motion forced the linebacker to key in on him, which allowed Dye to get behind the defender, opening a lane to the endzone in the process. 


2. Turnovers Gifted Washington State Points

The story of the first half was three, awful turnovers that gifted Washington State 10 points. Travis Dye fumbled the ball, Tyler Shough threw an interception on a screen where Johnny Johnson III was pulled and Shough fumbled when trying to pull the ball from Verdell's breadbasket. 

All three turnovers were caught or recovered by Washington State linebacker Ayden Hector coincidentally. 

Oregon cannot afford to turn the ball over if it wants to be an elite football team, but lucky for Oregon, all three can be explained as flukes to an extent. Even Shough's interception had his intended target get pulled back from the ball but the sophomore quarterback needs to improve at progressing through his reads. For the second consecutive game, Shough failed to see a floating linebacker and threw an interceptable pass, however it was dropped this week, unlike against Stanford. 

3. Poor Open Field Tackling

My largest concern for Oregon, beyond the turnover margin, to come out of Saturday has to be the tackling, or lack there of. The Ducks defense did a solid job of reading the Cougars plays but frequently would miss open field tackles, allowing what should be minimal gains to grow to first downs. 

The Pac-12 conference has no shortage of offensive difference makers and if Oregon cannot make tackles in space, then opposing teams will call plays to create those situations.  

Next, the Oregon Ducks (2-0) will host the UCLA Bruins (0-1) at Autzen Stadium on Saturday, November 21st.