Washington State beats Oregon, puts itself in prime position in Pac-12 North

Washington State’s big weekend ended with a win, and now the road to the Pac-12 North title goes through Pullman.

No. 25 Washington State, hosting “College GameDay” for the first time, was in the national spotlight as it hosted No. 12 Oregon on Saturday night. The Cougars came flying out of the games, taking a 27-0 halftime lead before the Ducks fought back and cut the lead to 27-20 with 6:38 to play.

Washington State’s high-powered offense scuffled throughout the second half, gaining a total of 38 yards on its first three drives. But when big plays were desperately needed, Washington State executed in the clutch and came away with a massive 34-20 victory.

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First, quarterback Gardner Minshew lofted one downfield to Travell Harris, who fought through two Oregon defenders, ripping the ball away from one, for a crucial 37-yard gain. Soon after, when the Cougs faced fourth-and-6 from the Oregon 34, Minshew went back to Harris, this time for 11 yards and a huge first down.

Two plays later, Minshew pulled out the dagger when he found Dezmon Patmon for a 22-yard touchdown that allowed the Wazzu faithful to finally breathe easy.

WSU controls its own destiny in the Pac-12 North race

With the win, Washington State is now 6-1 overall with a 3-1 mark in Pac-12 play. The Cougars are among three teams in the Pac-12 North with just one conference loss alongside No. 15 Washington and Stanford. Washington State has yet to play either of those teams. That means Washington State’s destiny is essentially in its own hands.

It won’t be easy, however.

That journey continues next week on the road against Stanford, a team that has been up-and-down to this point in the season. The Cardinal (5-2, 3-1) snapped a two-game losing streak by beating Arizona State 20-13 on Friday night.

If the Cougs can get through Stanford, things will get a little easier in November with Cal, Colorado and Arizona on the schedule with the Apple Cup looming on Nov. 23. That game could potentially have the division title on the line — but that hypothetical is a long way down the road.

WSU is pretty much the Pac-12’s final Playoff hope

No team with two losses has ever reached the College Football Playoff. Because Washington State beat Oregon and Washington beat Colorado, WSU is the only one-loss team remaining in the Pac-12.

The Pac-12 was left out of the CFP in both 2015 and 2017. Unless Washington State somehow runs the table, it could end up being three times in five years without a Pac-12 team in the field of four.

The Cougs were ranked No. 25 entering Saturday’s action and will make a move up the polls on Sunday, but there’s still a long way to go.

Gardner Minshew has been a huge addition

Following the tragic death of Tyler Hilinski, Mike Leach brought in Gardner Minshew, an under-the-radar graduate transfer from East Carolina. He has proven to be a perfect fit for Leach’s air-raid scheme.

Minshew, though he threw a few ill-advised interceptions on Saturday, has proven to be very accurate in the short and intermediate passing game. That helped the Cougs keep the chains moving in the first half. And when he was called upon to go downfield late in the fourth, he delivered with a great ball to Patmon.

In the win, Minshew 323 yards and four touchdowns, meaning he has thrown for at least 300 yards in all seven of his games in a WSU uniform.

Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Oregon in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew (16) throws a pass during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Oregon in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

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