PULLMAN, Wash. >> Oregon coach Mark Helfrich had one word to describe Marcus Mariota’s play against Washington State: “Ridiculous.”
Mariota threw for 329 yards and five touchdowns to stay in contention for the Heisman Trophy and help Oregon hold off Washington State 38-31 Saturday night in a matchup of two of the top offenses in the nation.
Mariota completed 21 of 25 passes without an interception and also rushed for 58 net yards despite being sacked seven times.
“He did a great job of rattling the defense in the second half,” Helfrich said. “The guy is special.”
Devon Allen and Keanon Lowe each had two touchdown receptions for Oregon (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12). Allen caught seven passes for 142 yards.
“A road win in this conference is hard,” Helfrich said after the Ducks rallied to beat Washington State for the eighth consecutive time. “We are 4-0 and we got a big win on the road.
“There was a ton of adversity,” Helfrich said.
Connor Halliday threw for 436 yards and four touchdowns, completing 43 of 63 passes, for Washington State (1-3, 0-1). The Cougars, who boast the nation’s top passing attack, came into the game as 24-point underdogs but kept it close in an entertaining game.
“I thought we took a step in the right direction today,” WSU coach Mike Leach said. “I thought we played extremely hard the entire game.”
Washington State played stout defense in the first half, sacking Mariota five times and recording seven tackles for losses, while holding the Ducks to a total of 210 yards. The score was tied 21-all at halftime.
However, the Cougars’ offense stalled in the second half, as the Ducks outscored them 17-10 to take the win.
Oregon drove to the Cougars’ 15 on the first drive of the second half, but Matt Wogan missed a 32-yard field goal.
The Ducks then recovered a fumble by Washington State’s Jamal Morrow on its own 35. On fourth-and-10, Mariota ran for 28 yards to the 8-yard line. On the next play he threw a touchdown pass to Pharaoh Brown for a 28-21 lead with 4:32 left in the third.
WSU replied with an 87-yard drive that ended with Quentin Breshears’ 30-yard field goal to pull to 28-24 early in the fourth.
However, Oregon marched down to the WSU 17, where Wogan kicked a 34-yard field goal to extend the lead to 31-24 with 11:04 left.
Halliday then led the Cougars on a 75-yard drive, with a 54-yard pass to Morrow covering most of the distance. River Cracraft caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in the end zone to tie the score at 31-31 with 8:57 to go.
Oregon came right back with a 79-yard drive in nine plays, with Mariota passing to Lowe for a 6-yard touchdown pass and a 38-31 lead with 5:33 left.
The Cougars weren’t done, as Halliday’s 34-yard pass to Vince Mayle brought WSU to the Oregon 35. But Washington State stalled and turned the ball over on downs with 3:34 left.
“I’m real proud of the way we played in the second half,” Oregon center Hroniss Grasu said. “We played our game.”
The Ducks finished with 501 yards of total offense, while Washington State had 499 yards.
Last year, Halliday threw the ball an NCAA-record 89 times as Oregon beat the Cougars 62-38 in Eugene.
Oregon beat its first three opponents this season by an average score of 52-18.
Washington State scored first, as Halliday hit Dom Williams in the back of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
The Cougars had a chance to extend the lead but Breshears hit the left upright on a 29-yard field goal attempt.
Oregon took over on its 20 and Mariota connected with Allen at midfield on the first play, and Allen outran the defense for an 80-yard touchdown play that tied the score.
Washington State regained the lead on its next possession as Halliday hit Williams in the end zone with an 8-yard scoring pass on 4th and 2. Halliday threw for 167 yards in the first quarter.
Mariota threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Lowe to tie the score at 14-all early in the second quarter.
After the Cougars turned the ball over on downs at the Oregon 31 on their next possession, Mariota ran for 41 yards on the Ducks’ first play. He later threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Allen in the end zone to give Oregon its first lead at 21-14 with just under 9 minutes left in the first half.
Washington State replied with a 14-play drive that covered 74 yards, with Halliday connecting with Rickey Galvin on a 6-yard pass to tie the score at 21-all with 2:47 left in the half. The drive was aided by facemask and pass interference penalties against Oregon.