Verdell (Justin Who?) Out-Runs the “Speed D” as WSU Loses 37-35!

(Photo Credit: The Oregonian)

Saturday night WSU went into enemy territory to take on their conference rival, the #11 ranked Oregon Ducks.  WSU came into the rivalry game looking to increase their winning streak against the Ducks to five in a row.  The odds of this weren’t high as Oregon was favored by two plus touchdowns.  Since the collapse against UCLA last month, WSU has gone on a tough slide, trying to rebuild their defense with new co-defensive coordinators.  Every team that they faced were licking their chops, knowing that they had a high chance of winning.  The Cougars felt their chances were good after their last couple of games.  We were soon about to find out as the 7:30 pm kickoff time approached in Eugene, Oregon.

Oregon received the opening kickoff and started at their own 25-yard line.  Oregon Duck QB Justin Herbert came out to lead the offense.  The senior, who everyone is saying will be a top pick in the 2020 NFL draft and is a supposed “Franchise” QB, moved his team quickly to near mid-field to have his drive come to a stop by a big penalty and a huge sack by the Cougars’ “Speed D”.  WSU and “Air” Gordon took over on offense.  Gordon looked the better of the two QBs to start the game.  He quickly moved his team down the field in 9 plays, that ended with a dropped pass for a possible touchdown by “Sure Hands” Roderick Fisher.  Blake Mazza made the field goal to put the Cougars up 3-0, an impressive drive against the stingy Ducks.

Sophomore running back C.J. Verdell took over for Oregon on the ensuing drive.  He accounted for nearly half the yards that lead to a game tying field goal.  Washington State would fail to move the ball on the next series after a 14-yard run by RB “Mad Max” Borghi, who looked like he was on a mission all night long. Punter Oscar Draguicevich III would pin the Ducks at the 11-yard line.

On the first play of the next drive, Verdell would take the handoff and out-run the Cougars’ “Speed D” for 89 yards for the touchdown!  Oregon took a 9-3 lead (extra point was shanked) as the crowd was going nuts in Eugene.  Gordon, as he has done all season, came out all cool and collective.  After another great return by Travell Harris, Gordon went to work.  He led his men down the field but because of a Brandon Arconado dropped pass into the arms of a Duck that would have been a touchdown, the drive ended with Oregon having the football on their own 6-yard line.

The “Speed D” was upset and took it out on Oregon on the next drive.  Herbert could not move the ball and 4 plays later they punted it back to the Cougars.  After a personal foul penalty, Wazzu started their series on the Duck 36-yard line.  Borghi and Gordon took over the next drive that resulted in another Cougar “Touchdown”.  Washington State had the lead 10-9 as they kicked it back to Oregon.  Justin Herbert took command of his troops.  In perhaps his best drive of the night (until the finale), he moved them down the field with ease.  C.J. Verdell took some of the load off his shoulders with some more big gains as Wazzu had no answer for this young rising star.  Herbert would end up getting sacked twice as his offensive line failed him.  It led to another punt back to the Cougars.

On the ensuing drive, Gordon looked asleep as he was sacked and threw an incomplete pass on the first two plays from scrimmage.  On play number three, “Air” Gordon threw an air ball that was picked off by the Ducks who brought it back for the touchdown.  With a 2-point conversion, the Ducks went up 17-10.  Halftime was coming up and Oregon seemed to have a commanding lead, but they seemed to forget who they were playing.  Travell Harris had another impressive kickoff return that had the Cougars starting at their own 41-yard line.  Gordon would go 3-3 on the drive (wrapped around two big Duck penalties), Renard Bell would score from 15-yards out as both teams would go into the half with a 17-17 tie.  Despite the mistakes by Washington State and not being able to stop Verdell, this was a football game (something Oregon certainly didn’t expect).

Washington State received the ball to start the 3rd quarter.  They failed to move the football, looking completely at loss to open the quarter.  After a punt, Herbert and his Ducks took over for the C.J. Verdell show.  They went on a 14 play / 65-yard drive that ate up nearly seven minutes off the clock.  Verdell was involved in 9 of the 14 plays and ran it in for the score for his second touchdown of the night.  Oregon went up 24-17 but Wazzu never gave up.  Gordon was focused and ready for his next adventure down the field.  Washington State went on a 12-play drive.  Gordon was on fire, until he reached the red zone.  The red zone (inside the opponents’ 20-yard line) seemed to be his Achilles Heel as he failed to score another touchdown.  Mazza came out and hit another field goal to cut the lead to 24-20.

C.J. Verdell and his Oregon Ducks took over and went on another time-consuming drive.  It led to another touchdown run by Verdell in the opening moments of the 4th quarter to put the Ducks up 31-20.  The feeling in the air was “game-over” or so it seemed.  Absolutely no team should doubt the air-raid offense, especially when someone like “Air” Gordon is running the show.  Gordon quickly picked apart the tired Oregon Duck defense.  Just over two minutes later, Wazzu was in the endzone after a touchdown catch by Brandon Arconado.  The Cougars went for two, where they don’t seem to have much success, with Arconado securing the 2-point pass.  Just like that, Wazzu was down only 31-28.

Now was the time to stop the quacking of C.J. Verdell and his Ducks.  Did the “Speed D” have anything left in them?  Oregon would have something to say about that as they went on a 12-play drive, with C.J. Verdell pulling off another 28-yard run to keep the drive alive.  It ended with Herbert missing on his last two passes.  Oregon would hit another field goal to go up 34-28.  After another good return by Harris, Wazzu wasted a time out on first down.  Gordon would then throw 3 straight incomplete passes as the Cougars once again had to punt (the game had to be over now wouldn’t you think?).

With just over five minutes and the ball on their own 37-yard line, the Ducks sniffed victory.  All they had to do was hang on to the ball and take some time off the clock (especially with the Cougars having few timeouts due to their bad clock management).  After losing a yard on the first play from scrimmage, Herbert hit Verdell for 27 yards out of the backfield (something the Cougars would do being up in the 4th quarter, not something Oregon would do.  Was this perhaps a slap in the face?).  Oregon was now at the WSU 37-yard line.  Herbert would not run down the clock (still scratching my head on that one) as he threw on 2nd and 3rd downs.  They would punt the ball back to the Cougars who would take over at their own 10-yard line with just over 3 minutes left.  We still had a chance!

“Air” Gordon came out looking as calm as ever.  He knew he had three minutes and 90 yards to make something happen.  On the 8th play from scrimmage he would hit Brandon Arconado for the score!  Wazzu led 35-34!  They had pulled off the miracle comeback against the 11th ranked Ducks.  There was a problem though as they left a minute on the clock.  With the Cougars’ defensive problems and the strength of the Duck offense, there definitely was a chance that Oregon could pull it off.  This was college football; anybody could come back that quickly to tie or win a game.  Washington State knew that, but could they quickly react?

After Washington State allowed a 39-yard kickoff return, we all had a sense they were doomed (our beloved Cougs) and seven plays later Oregon pulled out a victory with a field goal at the buzzer (why we didn’t rush the QB on the final drive and play prevent defense instead I will never understand).  The final score was 37-35 as the Cougars lost another nail biter and the Oregon Ducks strengthened their chances at winning the Pac-12 North and playing for the Pac-12 championship.

Takeaways from the loss to the Oregon Ducks!

  • CJ Verdell is a stud. Everyone says “The Cougs Couged it!”  That’s a bunch of baloney.  Verdell is the real deal. CJ had a combined 300 plus total yards on Saturday night. He now leads the conference in rushing and he’s only a Sophomore.  If this kid can stay healthy, there is no reason why we won’t see his name playing on Sundays soon. As for Couging it, watch the football game and decide yourselves instead of making judgment.  The Ducks were the better team and we played them tough until the very end.

  • Borghi needs 20 plus touches a football game. He had a combined 16 touches for 124 yards and a touchdown.  I get that we run the “Air-Raid” offense, but “Mad Max” (yes, I keep changing his nickname) needs perhaps 25 touches for the Cougs to be successful.  “Mad Max” certainly made himself noticed across America on Saturday night (to those who stayed awake on the east coast).

  • Anthony “Air” Gordon hit 7 different receivers for over 400 yards and 3 touchdowns. Gordon did throw 2 picks (one of them wasn’t his fault) and have problems in the red zone but he kept his team in the football game up until the clock struck zero.  This kid is a blessing in disguise.
  • The “Speed D” is back. I have tried and tried not to call them by the “Speed D” but they truly have returned.  It was a pleasure to watch them these last couple of weeks no matter what the outcome was.  Wazzu stands at 4-4 with four games to go.  There is no reason why they can’t go 3-1 to close it out but the “Speed D” must continue to get better.  Don’t disappoint us, OK!
  • Pac-12 officials are the worst. Watch the game, look at the stats.  They continue to do an awful job (they were bad to both football teams on Saturday night, not the reason why we lost but it didn’t help).
  • Linebacker Travion Brown is only a Freshman. He is a needle in a haystack.  What a great find by Coach Leach and his staff.  Travion got called for a bogus targeting call on Saturday night.  Don’t give up on this young man.  We are in for a treat, perhaps our next Peyton Pelluer?

Next up is California on November 9th, after another bye week for Washington State.  This is perhaps what the team needed to finish off the season strong!  Let’s go Cougar Nation.  We must not give up on these young men.  Can we smell a bowl game in our near future?   I don’t see why not, even with the mishaps we have had to overcome.  What does everyone think???

Go Cougs!

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Brian joined the SSU in 2017 and covers the Everett AquaSox. I'm a graduate of Washington State University and I'm a die-hard baseball fan.