Aliotti wasn't pleased with Washington State's aggression late in the fourth quarter.
Having already dispatched one air raid offense this season, many figured the Oregon Ducks would do the same against Washington State and erratic quarterback Connor Halliday.
Over the course of the evening, Halliday broke the Autzen Stadium for passing attempts (89), completions (58), and total plays (93) and the Pac-12 records for both passess attempted and completed, which were set by Arizona’s Matt Scott last season.
In fact, the 89 passing attempts surpassed the conference level and broke former Purdue quaterback Drew Brees’ FBS record of 83.
“I’ve never been in a game where the team throws the ball 89 times,” defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. “Usually a team doesn’t get 89 snaps. I knew they were going to throw it a lot, I think they rushed for like four yards...we’re going to have some great run stats.”
Washington State continued to throw the ball late into the game with the outcome no longer in doubt, and Aliotti made it clear that he wasn’t happy with Cougars’ head coach Mike Leach’s aggressiveness until the final whistle.
“I’m pissed off that they scored those last two touchdowns,” Aliotti said. “I’m not a diplomat and I don’t care if I’m a diplomat. All I care about is winning games and that the kids get better and we play hard, and I think it was shit that he threw the ball at the end of the game like he did. You can print that, and you can send it to him and he can comment too. I think it was low class and I think it was bullshit to throw the ball when the game is completely over against our kids that are basically our scout team.”
One reason for Halliday’s inconsistent play was the pressure he continually felt from the Ducks’ defensive line. Led by senior Tony Washington’s pair of sacks, the Oregon front seven was able to harass Halliday all night long.
“I think were just trying to disguise our blitzes a little more and that kind of helped me get back there,” Washington said. “I also think our DBs did a great job of just getting depth in coverage and that made the quarterback hold onto the ball a little bit longer.”
Washington and the Oregon defensive line was able to disrupt Halliday's momentum all night.
Thanks in large part to the defensive line’s pressure, the Ducks intercepted four Halliday passes, including Terrance Mitchell’s touchdown return early in the fourth quarter.
The Washington State air attack did manage to cause a few headaches for defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti throughout the night. The Cougars were able to capitalize on Oregon turnovers and drive-extending penalties by Erick Dargan and Derrick Malone en route to 24 first half points.
To put that in perspective, no other team had even scored 24 on the Ducks over the course of an entire game.
In the third quarter, as is often the case with Oregon, the Ducks came out and stifled the Washington State offense. The Cougars didn’t score in the second half until the 3:48 mark of the fourth quarter.
“I was really pleased how we came out in the second half,” Aliotti said The first half, we didn’t put our best foot forward.”
Even though the secondary took their lumps on Washington’s State numerous slant and drag route completions, they succeeded in disguising their coverages and tricking Halliday into throwing the ball right to them on multiple occasions.
Senior safety Avery Patterson said that the defense thought they’d be able to outwit Halliday after watching his tendencies on film.
“We saw on film that he takes chances and he throws the ball up if he reads it pre-play,” Patterson said. “That’s something we kind of keyed on, and we were able to capitalize.”
Mitchell had one of four Oregon interceptions on the evening, but was the only one to score.
Aliotti later added that even though Washington State threw the ball almost 90 times, they weren’t able to find big plays against the Ducks through the air, in large part due to the intelligence of his safeties.
“Avery Patterson, Dargan, and Jackson are three of the smarter safeties I’ve ever had the privilege to coach,” Aliotti said. “I don’t know if you throw the ball 89 times and you throw for 500-something yards...that’s about seven yards an attempt.”
Even while fuming about the Cougar’s late-game actions and looking ready to hit the sack, Aliotti was elated about one particular aspect of Saturday’s contest after calling out Pac-12 officials’ handling of pass interference calls earlier this week.
“89 and 32 makes 121 passes,” Aliotti said. “How many pass interference calls were there? There’s a method to the madness. It was zero in 121 passes, that’s almost impossible.”
The previous passing records were held by: Ty Detmer (Autzen pass attempts), Kellen Clemens (Autzen pass completions), Drew Brees (FBS pass attempts).
Terrance Mitchell said his interception return felt more to him like a punt return, and that it was the first time he’d seen the end zone since the 2010 spring game.
Washington State averaged 9.6 yards a pass completion and 5.5 average yards per play.