Not quite swinging their sword, but the Cougars are making progress. They come to Autzen 4-3, with a 10-7 win over a disorganized USC squad in The Coliseum, and that came in week two after they'd played even-up with Auburn of the mighty SEC before losing 31-24.
The Cougs enjoyed blowout wins at home against Southern Utah and Idaho, got blown out by Stanford 55-17, doubled up Cal in a game Connor Halliday threw for a swashbuckling 521 yards and 3 tds, 44-22. They were 4-2 on the eve of a visit by the Beavers. At Rico's Public House and The Paradise Creek Brewery patrons were starting to use the "B" word. Maybe the mountain lions of the Palouse could make a bowl for the first time since 2003.
Smells like Coug spirit: Astride a fearsome moped, the bug-eyed Snagglepuss of the last hapless six seasons strides into town with his merry mates. They're spirited, they're hopeful, and they can drink like denizens of the deep.
Not so fast, my friend. Though they took a 24-24 tie into the fourth quarter against the Beavs, it all imploded like the same old Cougs during a 28-point barrage of gunpowder and chainsaw sound effects. In fifteen minutes of mayhem they gave up a long drive to Sean Mannion and Brandin Cooks, suffered a bad snap on a punt and Halliday threw three interceptions on three possessions. It was a miserable night in Martin Stadium, 52-24.
The Mike Leach-led Cougs are playing tougher in the coach's 2nd year, and a shocking win over the Ducks would be just the thing to ignite enthusiasm like a rusty cannon echoing across the empty plateau that stretches from Yakima to Spokane. It is isn't likely but they have a flintlock's chance in the fog: Connor Halliday ranks 10th in the nation in passing yards at 320.1 per game. Unfortunately he also leads the country in dubious futility, throwing 13 to the people in the wrong-colored jerseys. He's also been sacked 10 times.
The Beavers picked off four in all, three by Halliday in the fourth quarter fall-behind, one by backup Austin Apodaca of Longmont, Colorado. They also forced a pair of fumbles, six misbegotten turnovers on the road for the Cougs; it meant an impossible hole. Sunday morning they woke to the reality that this week could be even worse, traveling to Autzen Stadium to take on the #2 team in the nation. The OSU game ended late. Leach called a 9 p.m. practice for Sunday night, but a chunk of the players couldn't get there until 10, working out about 45 minutes under the lights.
The arid wheatlands of Eastern Washington are no country for old men. Former Oregon athletic director Bill Moos runs the show now for WSU, and on his radio show yesterday he was fuming because Olympic soccer star Hope Solo, the paramour of Husky legend Jerramy Stevens, referred to the Cougs "little brother" while doing a guest pick 'em segment on ESPN College Game Day from Seattle on Saturday. On his weekly radio Moos declared gruffly, “I’m not her little brother, and neither are any of us Cougars.”
Be that as it may, the no-brother-of-mine Crimson and Silver run the risk of going over the century mark in two lopsided defeats via the Willamette Valley if they're not careful. They're a team that hasn't been able to run the football so far this season, 113th in the country at 66.4 yards per game. Marcus Mason and Teondray Caldwell are capable enough, averaging 4.5 and 5.4 yards per carry; they just don't get the ball much. That might change this week after the Coug brain trust watches the film of Bishop Sankey rumbling for 167 yards against the Ducks front seven last Saturday.
Most of the time the Air Raid spreads the ball. Fourteen different receivers have caught passes. For the season a dozen different guys have at least 10 catches. Nine have at least 100 yards receiving. Halliday ranks number three in the country in passing yards with 2,241.
The receiver corps features a Mayle-man. Vince Mayle has emerged as a reliable target for Halliday, leading the team in receptions in each of the last two games. He's 6-3, 240 at wide receiver, an imposing load for Ekpre-Olomu, Mitchell and Hill, all of whom weigh a little less than three sacks of gold. Mayle nabbed 4 passes for 113 yards and 2 tds against the Bears, one of those for 72 yards.
The Cougars have a former Duck at punter in Mike Bowlin. Last week he uncorked a 68-yarder that died at the three. Field goal kicker Andrew Furney is 5/6 from beyond 40 yards, so there's that.
The defense, though, is in a sad and woeful state of disrepair, the mizzen mast of a once-stout ship that leans miserably to the left, as if constructed by Jack Sparrow himself. The Beavs' Sean Mannion dropped back 54 times behind a patchwork offensive line in the Corvallis night, and the Cougars didn't sack him once. Anthony Carter did pick off a pass in the end zone though. Safety Deone Bucannon is the defensive leader, a stout buccaneer of a fellow who's earned both an eye patch and a Jim Thorpe Award nomination. Thus far this season he's compiled 64 tackles, 2 forced fumbles and a team-best 4 interceptions, 5th in school history in tackles, 4th in career acts of aerial larceny.
I have to miss this game. Committed to the wife a looooooong time ago so I guess I get to check the score occasionally.
Jim Rome interview with Marcus Mariota: http://jimrome.com/2013/10/14/marcus-mariota/
@SonomaDuck Date? Wedding? Anniversary? Family birthday party? Who schedules those during football season. You're a good husband, SD. We'll get you a full recap, and send along the highlights from Oregon Duck Soup.
@SonomaDuck Jerry n Jorgy on Oregon IMG Sports through local radio or tunein.com is the best. ESPN gamecast is tedious, but you get highlights thru your smart phone. Twitter almost gives you a play by play, too. Then DVR it and watch it later. OK, then.
@DrakeMallard White jerseys. I saw the white jerseys, remembered the white jerseys, then criss crossed everything else. What a goof up. Thanks for the correction.
@Duckbill @Dale Newton Saban has proven to be a great closer in the recruiting wars. Alabama had about four number one classes since he's been there. But yes, Helfrich's genuineness and humor ought to play well in homes. If my son were being recruited I'd be proud to have him play for Helfrich, and I'd trust the coach to help him grow as a man and an athlete.