Long Time Coming

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Wazzu records its first Pac-10 win in two years.

Wazzu records its first Pac-10 win in two years.

The people associated with the Washington State football program will tell you that they saw this coming — that the Cougars had become increasingly competitive and were bound to break through for a Pac-10 victory.

And while it was true that Washington State had become slightly more competent this season, it was hard to realistically pencil in a win for any game on its schedule. Yes, the Cougars played Cal tight in a 20–13 loss last week, but the Bears were playing their first game without injured starting quarterback Kevin Riley.

That’s what makes Washington State’s 31–14 win at Oregon State all the more stunning. The Cougars, losers of 16 Pac-10 games in a row and the victim of many blowouts over the past three seasons, dominated the Beavers on the road. Washington State ran roughshod against Oregon State’s defense, rushing for 221 yards. They came in averaging just 76.1 rushing yards per game, last in the Pac-10. Meanwhile, the Cougars’ defense that entered the game ranked last nationally in total yards allowed held Oregon State star running back Jacquizz Rodgers to just 93 yards rushing. The Beavers only amassed 261 yards of offense and trailed 21–0 in the third quarter.

“It just feels excellent,” Washington State linebacker C.J. Mizell told the Seattle Times. “It’s awesome. It’s like you’re on top of the world.”

The Cougars’ last Pac-10 win came at the end of the 2008 season, when they beat rival Washington in overtime. They had no wins over BCS conference opponents during that span, and their only previous victory this season was by one point over Montana State, a Football Championship Subdivision opponent.

But Washington State did indeed start making strides this season. The Cougars led at UCLA in the third quarter and had it tied in the fourth quarter before ultimately losing by a couple of touchdowns. Washington State was competitive with Arizona, one of the top teams in the conference. The Cougars lost that game, 24–7. And Washington State had a flurry of late scoring to make its game with Stanford respectable, losing 38–28.

Then came last week, when Washington State was in it the whole time but couldn’t come up with a late scoring drive and fell to the Bears.

There was never any doubt Saturday. The Cougars dominated the Beavers from start to finish. “It’s so nice to finally be successful, with your family and your teammates,” Washington State wide receiver Jared Karstetter told the Times. “It’s just a real emotional win for us.”

Meanwhile, the Beavers are reeling. It looks as though the season-ending knee injury to wide receiver James Rodgers is affecting them even more than they anticipated. Oregon State has lost three of four since then, and not to particularly good teams. This was supposed to be the soft part of the Beavers’ schedule, but they now have losses to Washington, UCLA and Washington State

It’s rare to see Oregon St. so uncompetitive. The Beavers have been a model of consistency in recent years, consistently exceeding outsiders’ expectations and contending in the Pac-10. Oregon State has been in the Rose Bowl race up until the very end in each of the past two seasons. Now, the Beavers are going to be hard-pressed to qualify for a bowl game.

Simply put, the Washington State game was one Oregon State needed badly. That’s because the Beavers have to win two more games to become bowl-eligible and their final three contests are against No. 20 USC, at No. 7 Stanford and against No. 1 Oregon in the Civil War.

“Man, I can’t remember the last time I wanted to cry after a football game,” Jacquizz Rodgers told the Oregonian. “It’s been since high school, man. … I love to win. I wish everybody felt that way at times. You’ve got to put your heart into this. If you sign up for this, you’ve got to give it your all every time you step out there.”

Scoreboard
Washington State 31, Oregon State 14
Stanford 17, Arizona State 13
Oregon 15, California 13
USC 24, Arizona 21

FINDING A WAY
Championship football teams usually win a game or two that doesn’t follow the blueprint. That’s what happened to Oregon in its 15–13 win over Cal.

The Ducks were held 40 points under their scoring average and 250 yards under their average for total offense, yet still left Berkeley undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings.

The performance put the spotlight on Oregon’s underrated defense, which had to come through on a night when the offense was stymied by the Bears. The Ducks’ defense held Cal to 193 yards of offense, a season-low for the Bears.

SMALL PARTY
Oregon, Stanford and Arizona are the only Pac-10 teams that have become bowl-eligible, and it’s possible that as few as those three will make the postseason from the conference.

Cal needs one more win to get there, but hosts Stanford this weekend. But the Bears should be favored in their finale against Washington.

After that, it gets pretty dicey. Oregon State needs two more wins against a brutal schedule. Arizona State probably has the best chance — it needs to win its final two games against UCLA and at Arizona. The Bruins need their final two wins as well, at the Sun Devils and against USC. And Washington would have to win all three of its remaining games — against UCLA, at Cal and at Washington State.

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Athlon looks back at Week 11 in the Pac-10. Oregon holds on, USC pulls off the upset and it was a long-time coming for Wazzu.