Ducks playing for a cause, avoiding a trap

Oregon hopes to celebrate homecoming by being pretty in pink.

The Saturday night game with Washington State, however, promises to be anything but pretty.

The No. 2 Ducks (6-0, 3-0) faced their first test of the season last week at Washington and came away with a 45-24 win. The Cougars (4-3, 2-2), meanwhile, led Oregon State 24-17 in the third quarter before collapsing in a 52-24 defeat.

Oregon, a 38-point favorite, is at Autzen Stadium for the first time since defeating California 55-16 on Sept. 28.

Sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota strengthened his Heisman Trophy bid last week, throwing for 366 yards and three touchdowns while running for 88 yards and a touchdown. On the season, Mariota has thrown for 1,724 yards and with 17 touchdowns. He has rushed for 426 yards and eight touchdowns.

WSU quarterback Connor Halliday has thrown for 2,241 yards thus far in 2013 with 14 touchdowns.

The difference, however, comes in their ability to protect the ball. Mariota hasn’t thrown an interception since last November, while Halliday has thrown 13 picks this season, including three last week in a disastrous fourth quarter.

Last week marked the first time this season the Ducks didn’t score at least 50 points. Oregon is averaging 56.8 points and 630.5 yards per game, both second in the country.

While uniforms are always a hot topic for Oregon, this week’s combination will have a different hue. Oregon players will wear black uniforms with pink helmets, socks, shoes and gloves in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Twenty-five helmets will be auctioned to raise money for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, named for the former North Carolina State women’s basketball coach who died from the disease in 2009.

The pink presence might provide the only excitement as the Cougars will be hugely overmatched Saturday. For the Ducks, it’s a brief respite before facing No. 9 UCLA and No. 13 Stanford in the next two weeks.

That doesn’t mean the Ducks aren’t aware of this potential trap game.

“Guys understand that for the last couple years we’ve let one go,” Mariota said. “Guys don’t want to have that happen again, so guys have the right mindset.”

WSU, meanwhile, try to bounce back from a big loss by playing at hostile Autzen. The lone bright spot the Cougars: their two conference wins have been on the road.

“We just have to keep playing, it’s as simple as that,” WSU coach Mike Leach said. “There’s no magic formula.”