By NICHOLAS K. GERANIOS
PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Oregon quarterback Bo Nix was piling up the yardage, but the No. 15 Ducks were not getting into the end zone in the first half against Washington State.
That all changed with less than seven minutes left in the game, when Oregon scored three late touchdowns to come back for a 44-41 win over the Cougars on Saturday.
Nix threw touchdown passes to Cam McCormick and Troy Franklin, and Mase Funa returned an interception 27 yards for a touchdown as Oregon (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) erased a 34-22 deficit.
“Today was not what I expected,” said Oregon coach Dan Lanning. “But what I did expect and what I did see was toughness, resilience, and a team of guys who won’t give up. And they did that, they showed up and gave their all when we needed it.”
Nix completed 33 of 44 passes for 428 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. The Ducks produced 624 yards of offense in winning their third consecutive game.
Lanning said his team did not give up.
“Our locker room never wavered. They were composed, and ready to get back out there and convert some of those red zone chances,” Lanning said. “We knew a lot of those were self inflicted wounds, and we felt we could fix that.”
“I didn’t see any selfishness on our sideline. I don’t think anyone had a doubt in their mind about what we could accomplish if we started executing,” Lanning said.
Washington State coach Jake Dickert pointed to Oregon’s offensive production.
“You’re not going to win a lot of games giving up 600 yards of offense,” Dickert said. “We’ve got a lot of kids disappointed in there.
“It was them out-executing us in the fourth quarter.”
Oregon’s only loss was at No. 1 Georgia in the season opener.
The Cougars scored on their first possession, as Ward capped a 75-yard drive by running the final five yards for a touchdown.
Washington State linebacker Francisco Mauigoa returned an interception 95 yards for a touchdown and a 17-6 lead for the Cougars. They led 17-9 at halftime.
Oregon came out fast in the second half, with Nix throwing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Mar’Keise Irving with less than a minute gone.
Nix threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Franklin with 1:21 left to give Oregon its first lead. Funa’s interception return for a touchdown provided the deciding points with a minute left.
“That was a great instinctual play by Mase, he got his hands up and anticipated that throw and that was all him,” Lanning said.
Washington State’s Nakia Watson added a touchdown in the closing seconds.
WASHINGTON STATE OFFENSE
Washington State QB Cameron Ward completed 37 of 48 passes for 375 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. The Cougars produced 416 yards of offense in the game. “You saw the best of Cam Ward today,” Dickert said. “He has magic with the ball in his hands.”
All six Pac-12 schools hosting conference games on Saturday honored Spencer Webb, a tight end on the Oregon football team who died this summer in a cliff-jumping accident. Washington State, Oregon State, Colorado, California, Washington and Arizona State, all painted the 4-yard line stripe yellow, instead of white, in honor of Webb.
Washington State was looking to knock off a ranked team for the second time this season, after winning at Wisconsin earlier. Oregon had scored 110 points in its previous two games, victories over FCS Eastern Washington and No. 12 BYU, and proved its offense was tough to contain.
Oregon hosts Stanford next Saturday.
Washington State hosts California next Saturday, it’s third consecutive home game.
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