CORVALLIS, Ore. – Few college football teams in the country have lost more games in recent years than Washington State, but the Cougars found new and interesting ways to record their latest defeat Saturday afternoon at 14th-ranked Oregon State.
In a game between two of the top-rated passing offenses and lowest-rated pass defenses in the country, the Cougars wasted a stellar defensive performance by throwing four interceptions in a 19-6 loss at sold-out Reser Stadium.
“With the way our defense played, that should be a win for us 10 out of 10 times,” WSU quarterback Connor Halliday said.
Halliday was benched for the second and final time after throwing his third interception of the day on WSU’s first possession of the third quarter. Former starter Jeff Tuel replaced Halliday and fared better, but the Cougars never got the ball back after Oregon State senior cornerback Jordan Poyer grabbed his third interception of the day by picking off Tuel at the Beavers’ 32-yard line with about 31/2 minutes left to play.
WSU coach Mike Leach said he has not decided who will start at quarterback in the Cougars’ next game against visiting California (7:30 p.m., Pac-12 Networks) on Saturday.
Scott Crichton, a sophomore defensive end who played at Foss High School and who chose Oregon State over WSU, said Poyer delivered “a beast performance.”
Crichton wasn’t too bad himself. He registered all three of Oregon State’s sacks, and his four tackles for loss tied for the third most in one game in school history. A record crowd of 45,579 roared it approval on a gorgeous afternoon.
Leach, whose pass-happy offenses ranked with the nation’s best during his 10 years as coach at Texas Tech, watched in frustration as the Cougars were held to a pair of field goals for the second time this season. The first time came in the season opener at Brigham Young, when WSU posted a season-low 224 total yards.
The Cougars managed 227 total yards Saturday. One hundred of those yards came on two first-half passes – a 49-yarder by Halliday, and a 51-yarder by Tuel.
Halliday said Oregon State “mixed it up real well” in terms of defensive strategy. Halliday was 9-for-20 passing for 81 yards. Tuel went 11-for-17 passing for 126 yards.
Tuel was the victim of all three Crichton sacks. The Beavers took turns blitzing and overloading defenders in pass coverage.
“They kept us guessing,” Halliday said, “and for the most part, the whole offense was confused.”
The same could be said for Oregon State’s offense. The Beavers totaled 370 yards, a season low for a Washington State (2-4, 0-3) opponent.
WSU junior safety Deone Bucannon, who had a game-high 11 tackles and his career-high fourth interception, said WSU’s defensive performance was “by far” the best in his three years with the Cougars.
“We went out there and played as hard as we possibly could,” Bucannon said.
Added Tuel: “They did a great job. They gave us every opportunity in the world to win the game.”
Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion, ranked fourth in the nation coming into the week with 362.7 passing yards per game, went 25-for-42 for a season-low 270 yards, one touchdown and a season-high three interceptions.
“Washington State’s defense caught us off guard at first, myself included,” Mannion said. “As the game went on, we really settled down.”
The Beavers (4-0, 3-0 Pac-12 Conference) led 6-3 at the end of a sloppy first half when WSU holder David Gilbertson – son of ex-Washington Huskies coach Keith Gilbertson (2003-04) –fumbled the snap on an attempted field goal in the final seconds.
Oregon State opened the second half with a 10-play, 75-yard scoring drive that Mannion capped with a 12-yard pass to star receiver Markus Wheaton.
Mannion’s passing keyed the final scoring drive of the game, which ended with Tyler Anderson’s 1-yard run with 4:27 to go.