It was a first half for the record books, but in no way what the Beavers had planned for. The Cougars came out firing exactly where they left off against the Ducks, and the OSU defense not only were left on their heels, they were stumbling backwards like something straight out of Benny Hill. Every running lane was open, every receiver was beating coverage, and Luke Falk had enough time in the pocket to make a sandwich, finish his homework, or even finish planting his garden before he needed to throw the ball.
That led to a drive chart for the WSU 1st half that read like this:
Touchdown, Touchdown, Touchdown, FG, Touchdown, Touchdown, Touchdown.
All those drives resulted in a 45 point half for the Cougars. As far as I could find that was the most scored in a half against the Beavers since 2000, which is as far as the game logs on Sports-Reference have listed. It was a conference record for touchdown passes in a half.
The secondary was getting burned[ every corner was beat at some point, including the above touchdown by Dom Williams on a fade pattern that beat Treston Decoud. And that was before Larry Scott went down with an injury.
Even before leaving, Scott struggled to elevate, and that led to Gabe Marks' touchdown, above that opened the lead to 21-3 12 seconds into the 2nd quarter.
The secondary also struggled to find anyone who could match up with Williams, who on several occasions high-pointed balls, like above, for big catches, on his way to an 11 catch day, for 158 yards, both game highs, and 2 for scores.
That was only one part of the problem though as the defensive line struggled something fierce.
They launched directly into the waiting blocks of the Cougar offensive line and then once caught in those blocks lacked the quickness or the strength to disengage from blockers. Throughout the game they rushed straight into blocks and were rendered ineffective. That lack of pressure made things even tougher on the rest of the defense but they weren't helping themselves with a plethora of missed tackles in space. This all combined into an absolute black hole of a half where the Cougars were sucked into the Beavers end zone, they might have not been able to stay out if they had tried.
The Beaver offense was a mess as well, Seth Collins struggled with his reads and with pocket presence often leaving a complete pocket to half-scramble while looking to try and go downfield. With a lack of running called and poor gains when those plays were called it was a disaster of a half.
The Beavers were already down by 21 points when Victor Bolden got a 100 yard touchdown kickoff return, above, but only 1 good drive for Oregon State in the first half, with several positive Collins runs resulting in a touchdown, below.
That did little to offset the scoring by Washington State and the game was essentially in hand by the time both teams went into the locker rooms with the score at 45-17.
Oregon State did come out and play better in a second half though the outcome was essentially determined. They only allowed one score on a interception return and even had a couple solid run-based drives that sputtered in the red zone. Part of that was Falk coming out of his zone and throwing a couple picks in combination with the tackling improving, allowing far fewer yards after the catch.
Collins still struggled in the passing game however throwing a couple of 4th quarter picks, both to Shalom Luani, including a pick 6, above, and demonstrating the same problems with getting through his reads. These are normal problems for a young quarterback, but if Oregon State is going to get another win this year he needs to perform at a higher level.
Collins accounted for 300 yards of offense, throwing for 176 yards, and a touchdown, on 17 of 30 passing, and also rushing for a game high 124 yards on 23 carries, but a lot of plays ended with Collins getting clobbered, as above.
The second half offense was buoyed by the run game however, with Storm Barrs-Woods, Damien Haskins, and Ryan Nall each showing some life there. It gives the tiniest sliver of hope that the offense can be viable in the next home game against Colorado.
The special teams had an alright showing with the exception of the opening kickoff and an abysmal fake punt early in the first half deep in Oregon State territory. They had the Bolden return touchdown, a failed and a successful onside kick, and a blocked punt late in the game by Chris Brown. Clearly a mixed bag, but at least they made some positive plays to offset the poor ones.
Falk, above, finished after throwing for 407 yards on 39 of 50 passing, including 6 touchdown tosses in the first half, though both Romel Mangeo and Brandon Arnold, below, would pick him off late.
The Cougars even ran for an uncharacteristic 111 yards, led by Gerard Wicks, below, who had 8 carries for 69 yards.
The same inability of the Beaver defensive front to win battles that allowed Falk plenty of time to survey the field before throwing also was a factor in not controlling the Washington State rushing game; note Wicks being able to slide down the line just looking for a lane to turn up in.
An absolute stinker of a performance combined with a pretty good performance by the Cougars resulted in a blowout, but maybe (read: hopefully) the Beavers can build from the garbage time second half where they didn't allow an offensive score and even won the half 14-7, although less should be drawn from a half with little pressure to it. The real takeaway is what we already knew. This is a young team, with new schemes, and still lacking some talent. Perhaps a return home will energize the team and give them a much needed spark, we'll find out at Reser next Saturday at 7:30 when Colorado comes to town.
(Photos by Andy Wooldridge)