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WSU football: things we learned from (almost) beating Oregon

Washington State almost pulled off the impossible, narrowly losing at home to Oregon 38-31. Powered by a suddenly rejuvenated defense, the Cougars held the high powered Duck ground game to a paltry 172 yards and sacked Marcus Mariota seven times.

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

The Cougars almost pulled off the one of the biggest wins in school history, but in the end fell to Oregon 38-31. This was easily the best the Cougars have played all season, and they gave the Ducks all they could handle. Neither team led by more than a touchdown, but the #2 ranked Ducks pulled out the win in the end.

Nobody expected Washington State to win this game. In fact, nobody expected this game to be close. Here are some thins we learned about the Cougars in Pullman Saturday night.

Washington State plays pretty good at home.

After going 0-2 on the road, the Cougars whipped Portland State 59-21 in Pullman and almost beat the second ranked Ducks. Maybe the new facilities and big crowds are helping. The Cougars have had full houses at both games, even selling standing room only tickets for the Oregon game. The addition of the new Football Operations Building on the west side of the stadium has also greatly increased crowd noise.

The Special teams still need work.

Coming into the season special teams were a question mark. They still are. The Cougs have a new punter and two new kickers (both of whom have missed field goals this year). The biggest problem has been muffed punts, with costly fumbles costing WSU against both Rutgers and Oregon. Both times the punt returner should have called for a fair catch, did not, and fumbled after contact.

The run defense has suddenly gotten better.

Washington State's run defense has been suspect all season. They gave up over 200 yards rushing against both Rutgers and Nevada. Everyone expected Oregon's high powered running attack to shred the Cougars, but they held Oregon to a paltry (for them) 172 yards and more importantly 4.1 yards per carry.

This game showed the Cougars are making progress. While they are only 1-3, this close loss against one of the nation's best teams was actually very impressive.

Washington State will need to continue to work, but they still have four more home games at Martin Stadium, and no team will be eager to play the Cougars in Pullman now. If they can win out at home, and sneak in one upset on the road, a bowl game is still possible.