Well Cougar fans can't say that they didn't see the final result coming, but the path to Saturday's 51-26 loss wasn't exactly what most expected with the Cougars showing a lot of fight in the first half. For a couple of quarters the Cougars were moving the ball through the air with ease without making any backbreaking mistakes and regularly bottling up Oregon's explosive running game in the backfield. The Cougar's first half in CenturyLink Field, was probably the most enjoyable two quarters of football that Cougar fans have been privy too in a while, but it was in fact short lived , with the Ducks immediately steamrolling the Cougars within a couple of minutes in the second half.
While being competitive with one of the best teams in the country for a half is something that should give the Cougars some much needed confidence, it shouldn't be celebrated too much, as the Ducks regularly don't play well in the first half. Oregon pretty much has two ways of beating teams - either coming out and getting 4 or 5 touchdowns in the first quarter and then coasting the rest of the way, or what they have done the last two weeks, appear clumsy on offense in the first half, but then adjust and sprint away quickly in the second. I would like to think that the tight halftime score had a lot to do with the strides the Cougars are starting to make under Leach, but am wary.
It would have been a miracle for the Cougars to pull off the win over the second-ranked Ducks, but my main problem with Saturday's game is that the venue severely limited the chances of that miracle. Hosting a yearly game in Seattle and allowing their Western Washington fans an opportunity to avoid the six hour trek to Pullman is a great idea, but having that game be against a conference opponent, especially ones from the state just to the South of Washington is a horrible idea, and needs to be stopped if the Cougars want to get back to respectability.
Hosting teams like BYU, Eastern Washington or UNLV would be perfect in Seattle, but taking away much of the fantastic home-field advantage that playing in Pullman can provide against a conference rival will eventually cost the Cougars a big win if they keep doing it. I'm sure there is some clause that makes sure that it will never happen, but there is the chance in the future when hopefully the Cougars are stronger, that they get a home game against USC or Oregon in November. A bad weather day in Pullman could easily provide the 1-2 touchdown swing that the Cougars could need to pull off the upset. But if that game gets scheduled in Seattle, that advantage probably disappears. Especially against Oregon, who has a creepily rising fan base in the state of Washington that can easily make games in Seattle regular quasi home games for the Ducks and their very boisterous fans.
So while you can't read too much into losing by 25 points to one of the best teams in the country, the Cougars two loses to the teams from the state of Oregon in CenturyLink Field the last two years should be enough to show the Washington State athletic department that scheduling conference games there isn't a very good idea.