PULLMAN, Wash. — So much for parting the crimson sea.
No. 12 Oregon’s offensive line, which opened up a sizable hole for CJ Verdell’s game-winning touchdown to beat Washington at Autzen Stadium a week earlier, was out of sync from the get-go against No. 25 Washington State.
The ominous start — the Ducks’ first drive included a bad snap for a 7-yard loss, a false start penalty and a delay of game penalty — set the tone for Saturday’s 34-20 loss at Martin Stadium.
“I think that really shook us,” left guard Shane Lemieux said of the noise generated by the capacity crowd of 33,152. “There’s three guys on the offensive line who played Wazzu for the third year now and we kind of expected it. I don’t know what happened.”
There were actually three of Lemieux’s classmates in the starting lineup with Calvin Throckmorton moving to left tackle, Jake Hanson at center and Brady Aiello rejoining the group at right tackle.
True freshman Penei Sewell, who started the first six games at left tackle, could miss the rest of the regular season with a high ankle sprain suffered against the Huskies.
Coach Mario Cristobal said he thought the unit could use its normal cadence, but being backed up right in front of the student section for the first drive proved to be problematic.
“It was louder than we expected, and you’ve got to give a lot of credit to them,” Lemieux said. “We went to the silent cadence kind of mid-series, and that was kind of a jumble. Once we got that (down), I think we got it rolling."
The Ducks cut a 27-0 halftime deficit to 27-20 in the fourth quarter, but Justin Herbert was sacked three times and the visitors were held to 58 net yards rushing.
“That certainly was a tough way to start the football game,” Cristobal said. “We just kept plugging away and found some grit to try to make things better in the second half."
Targeting Larry Scott
A few hours before ESPN’s "College GameDay" turned the lights on for its first broadcast in Pullman, an unwanted spotlight shifted back on Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott.
Through a public records request, Yahoo Sports obtained a trove of text messages between Mike Leach and other Pac-12 executives, which it reported late Friday night.
The Washington State coach questioned the conference’s commitment to player safety in the wake of a no-call on a play in which quarterback Gardner Minshew absorbed a helmet-to-helmet hit from USC linebacker Porter Gustin on Sept. 21.
Last week the Pac-12 modified its replay protocols after Woodie Dixon, the conference’s general counsel and senior vice president of business affairs, was identified as the third party that overruled the officials on a different targeting call review during the Cougars’ loss at the L.A. Coliseum.
“I characterize my relationship as great with our coaches,” Scott said during a scrum with reporters in the press box at halftime. “I spend a lot of time with our coaches at coaches meetings. I’m very communicative in a lot of different ways with our coaches. I don’t know how others do it, but I would assume I’m considered to be one of the most engaged commissioners with coaches.”
Some of the texts by Leach included:
“Woodie is a total coward and is afraid of USC,” to David Coleman, the Pac-12 vice president of officiating.
“Don’t ever waste my time, making me sit through some sanctimonious speech or demonstration on player safety or targeting if you are going to continue to alibi what happened last Friday,” to Dixon.
“The Pac-12 cannot say with any credibility, that they are actually trying to protect student athletes,” to Scott.
Scott acknowledged again that procedural mistakes were made and reiterated that the protocol has been changed.
“I’ve been told it’s an isolated incident,” he said.
Sophomore quarterback Braxton Burmeister, who was out three weeks after undergoing knee surgery, was a full-go at practice leading into the game and made the trip to Pullman.
True freshman Tyler Shough was still listed as Herbert’s backup on the depth chart.
With Sewell left home, sophomore Sam Poutasi packed his bags as Oregon’s 12th offensive lineman.
Running back Darrian Felix (foot), wide receiver Tabari Hines (knee) and offensive lineman Justin Johnson (arm) stayed in Eugene due to injury.
Herbert extended his streak of consecutive games with a touchdown pass to 22, which is the nation’s longest active streak. He also extended his streak of consecutive passes without an interception in Pac-12 road games to 205. … Senior linebacker Kaulana Apelu’s career-high 14 tackles were the most by an Oregon player since Joe Walker had 15 against USC on Nov. 21, 2015. … This is Washington State’s first four-game winning streak in the series since 1981-84. … Representatives from the Rose, Orange, Sun and Alamo Bowls attended the game.
"It was a big win because Oregon's a great team," Minshew said. "So getting into the thick of our Pac-12 play is huge. We want to be in a position where we can control our own destiny, we don't want to have to be sitting back and waiting to see what somebody else does. And we took a step in the right direction with that tonight."