WSU Notebook: Cougs take no consolation

PULLMAN –, previewing the Oregon-Washington State football game, hastened to point out that it is “never easy to play in the Palouse.” On Saturday night, the Cougars did their best to make ESPN look wise.

Playing before a raucous, sellout crowd on a gorgeous evening in the Palouse, the Cougars played the second-ranked Ducks evenly before a late touchdown gave Oregon a 38-31 victory at Martin Stadium.

“We should have beat them,” WSU offensive guard Gunnar Eklund said. “There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it.”

Washington State (1-3, 0-1 Pac-12) has lost eight in a row to Oregon, with the previous margins of defeat ranging from 15 to 49 points. The Cougars took no consolation in a close loss to the Ducks, who were 24 point favorites.

“We’re kind of past the, ‘If it’s a close game, feel good about that,’” quarterback Connor Halliday said. “It’s just an opportunity we let slide.”

“We played very hard,” coach Mike Leach said. “I thought we took a step today … we’ve got to be a little better.”

--The Cougars manhandled Oregon’s injury-riddled offensive line. Highly mobile quarterback Marcus Mariota made some brilliant runs and passes, but he was sacked seven times.

“We’ve got the best (defensive line) talent I’ve seen in the country,” WSU defensive end-tackle Xavier Cooper said. “I think sometimes we know what our talent is, so we tend to not practice to our ability.

“These past games, we saw we need to practice (harder) and need to push ourselves harder. This week, we pushed ourselves hard. It showed out there.”

--Sophomore wide receiver River Cracraft led the Cougars with eight catches for 107 yards, and many of his receptions were impressive. Halliday bemoaned the fact that he missed Cracraft on a couple other opportunities.

“River played great,” Halliday said. “Steady Eddie. I love River Cracraft. He’s a guy you never have to worry about.”

Halliday and Leach praised the offensive line and redshirt freshmen running backs Gerard Wicks and Jamal Morrow.

“Jamal and Gerard, they ran their butts off,” Halliday said. “And I can’t say enough good things about the offensive line.”

-- The crowd of 32,952 included former WSU standouts like Marcus Trufant, Lamont Thompson, Jason David and Devard Darling. David flashed the Super Bowl ring he won as a member of the Indianapolis Colts in 2007.

--WSU wore all-white uniforms and helmets (except for crimson numbers and such) for the first time since 1963.

-- Mariota threw five touchdown passes, moving the junior into a tie with former WSU star Alex Brink for eighth in Pac-12 history with 76 in his career.

-- Halliday had four touchdown passes and no interceptions in 63 pass attempts, with 43 completions. The senior is tied for 10th in conference history with 74 career TD passes. Halliday climbed into 17th place in Pac-12 history with 9,332 career passing yards.

-- The Cougars have lost their conference home opener 11 straight years.

-- WSU junior linebacker Kache Palacio recorded his first two-sack game. Cooper and linebacker Ivan McLennan both had 1 1-2 sacks. Linebackers Jeremiah Allison (making his first start) and Darryl Monroe led the Cougars with 10 tackles each.

--WSU led Oregon (7-0 and 14-7) for the first time since leading for 48 seconds early in a 43-23 loss in 2010 in Pullman.

--The Ducks have won three straight in Pullman since bowing 34-23 in 2006.

-- The Cougars face their second straight undefeated team next Saturday at Utah (5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks). The Utes (3-0, 0-0) are coming off a 26-10 victory at Michigan.

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