Oregon Ducks Offense Shines in First Spring Football Game of Mark Helfrich Era

Freshman quarterback Jake Rodrigues eludes tacklers during the Spring Game. - Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

It never rains in Autzen Stadium, but it pours touchdowns.

Wearing a shirt that said "It never rains," new Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich defied his attire and made it rain touchdowns in front of the nearly 37,000 fans at Autzen Stadium.

"Obviously, very happy that our guys competed and ended up being injury free on the day," Helfrich said after the game. "What was good: we got the guys in there that we wanted to see; we had a set number of series for the first two groups on each side of the ball. Wanted to get some live kickoff work, wanted to get some live punt work, and get out injury free."

Leading the offensive onslaught – albeit primarily against the second-team defense – was sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota. A year after his breakout spring performance, Mariota finished with 169 yards and two touchdowns on 13-15 passing in just over a quarter of play.

The quarterbacks combined for 577 yards through the air, in large part due to the absence of De'Anthony Thomas from the game, and sophomore Byron Marshall only receiving six carries on the day.

"Marcus was really clean," Helfrich said. "He did a nice job. He did a really good job in the second quarter...had a little stagnant play up front, and he was really getting after them in the huddle and talking to them and again, taking another step in his maturity."

"We didn't do obviously a lot offensively from a scheme standpoint, so he was a little bit limited in that way, but he did a nice job with what he did."

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After the first quarter, the offense belonged to redshirt-freshmen quarterbacks Jake Rodrigues and Jeff Lockie as the two continued to battle for the job of backing up Mariota.

Both quarterbacks were subjected to early pressure from the starting defense, as each registered a three-and-out on their first two possessions, though Helfrich didn't register any tension or angst from either player as each sputtered early.

"I didn't sense any tension, it was just how it happened," Helfrich said. "Even more importantly for that is – and i think we talked about this a little bit the other day – a game like this which is where you see that happen. A guy needs some adversity."

"I thought they both – Jake had a couple drops, Jeff had a couple drops, that's where a guy is going to slow down and second guess himself, and you can't do that as a quarterback."

After the game, both Rodrigues and Lockie felt like they had performed well under the circumstances, and each took their fair share of positives and things to work on from the game, and Helfrich echoed those statements.

"Jeff and Jake did some good things, did some things that they're gonna watch in film and go 'ugh' you know, it's kind of day one," Helfrich said. A couple day one mistakes by each guy in terms of just a couple missed throws here and there. They made a couple plays where we had some dirty routes and stuff that we need to clean up, but took a step forward."

On the afternoon, Rodrigues was 13-19 for 165 yards and two touchdowns and Lockie was 22-28 for 217 and 2 touchdowns.

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Already down a projected member of the fall rotation, as sophomore Dwayne Stanford is out indefinitely with a knee injury, the wide receivers acquitted themselves well Saturday

Senior Josh Huff – playing from the slot in three-receiver sets – caught both of Mariota's touchdown passes, and inexperienced underclassmen B.J. Kelley and Chance Allen saw extended time with all four quarterbacks during the game.

The star of the receiving corps throughout the game however was sophomore speedster Bralon Addison. After playing extensively as a freshman last fall, Addison hauled in eight catches for 136 yards and a touchdown from Lockie.

Helfrich said that Addison had a breakout spring session and has set a new bar for himself going forward.

"Good, and typical of his spring," Helfrich said about Addison's performance Saturday. "Bralon had a outstanding spring. He's a guy that kind of early on in fall camp last year, the offense kind of came easily to him, naturally in terms of learning and all those things, and was a couple steps ahead of everyone else, of the newcomers."

"We had a great talk transitioning between winter phase and spring ball, and he had an outstanding spring. This is now his new standard as things move forward."

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On the defensive side of the ball, there were a few bright spots for a unit set behind the eight ball before the day even began, thanks to a lopsided scoring system that even Helfrich made fun of post-game.

On the defensive line, sophomore Christian French stood out among a bevy of guys trying to get a leg up in the rotations going into fall camp.

As the Ducks look to replace recent Dolphins draftee Dion Jordan at the hybrid end spot, French recorded nine tackles and a sack on the afternoon, a performance he hopes will continue to lead him down a path that already mirrors that of Jordan's.

Both came to Eugene as tight ends that wore the number 82 and shifted to defensive end with 96 on their backs. In fact, Jordan and French were roommates last season, and French was watching as his friend heard his name called in New York on Thursday night.

"Oh my god, I was jumping up and down," French said. "It's all love. He prayed on it and prayed on it, and he's a master of his craft."

In the defensive backfield, Isaac Dixon and Oshay Dunmore saw the majority of the snaps at free safety with senior Avery Patterson and freshman Reggie Daniels out due to injury. Dunmore in particular stood out with seven tackles and a pass breakup as well.

The only newcomer on campus this spring, sophomore linebacker Joe Walker made a few stops on defense, but Helfrich singled out his propensity for making plays on special teams as a big asset to the team, and noted that he made a pair of tackles on special teams during the game.

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Notes:

Players who did not play in the game: De'Anthony Thomas, Keanon Lowe, Reggie Daniels, Avery Patterson, Mana Grieg, Tyson Coleman (among others).

Both lineman Jared Ebert and running back Lane Roseberry returned to the field after suffering devastating knee injuries last fall.

Tyson Coleman has a serious leg injury, but defensive coordinator Nick Alliotti said that he'd be ready for fall camp.

Per Rob Moseley, Helfrich said on the television broadcast that one player may not play in the fall, and Moseley speculates that is Stanford.

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