It's not an unfamiliar story for the Ducks at this point. Their performance against Utah was very much a tale of two halves. After mustering only 17 points and 10 rushing yards in the first half, Oregon exploded with a 20 point 3rd quarter sparked by an 86 yard kickoff return for a touchdown by De'Anthony Thomas.
The return was the first of four consecutive scores which turned a three point game into a 44-21 decision by an Oregon team who wanted to move on after losing to Stanford a week ago.
"It just feels good to get that sour taste that a lot of us have had in our mouth for 8 or 9 days [out] and get a win," said Nick Aliotti.
With the rushing offense sputtering in the first half the offense was buoyed by a steadfast Marcus Mariota who threw two of his three scoring passes and 180 yards in the first half. He would finish with 288 yards and spend much of the fourth quarter watching the scout team.
Typically, after not experiencing success after the first half, it would be reasonable for a team to start doubting themselves. Not Oregon, said Marcus Mariota, "There was no sense of panic at all. We knew if we took care of what we had to do, we would be fine. The offensive line responded and started pushing the line of scrimmage in the second half and that was pivotal for us."
Oregon seemed to impose their will in the second half as Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner accounted for 101 combined yards on the ground in the second half. Noticeably absent from Oregon's rushing attack was the typically dynamic Marcus Mariota.
When pressed after the game, Coach Mark Helfrich stated that Mariota was healthy enough to run and Mariota commented that the defensive scheme was what took him out of the running game and not his hobbled knee.
"The look isn't there. The last couple games we've played, the teams haven't allowed me to pull. It's not because of my knee; I'm not going to let it be an excuse."
Once again, the defense found themselves as a bit of unsung heroes in the Oregon win. Before Helfrich called off the dogs, Utah had only managed two scoring drives. For the whole of the game, Oregon only allowed 2.8 yards per rush and only 6 yards per pass.
Despite a dominating second half performance by the Ducks, they still left points on the field. The most glaring of which being a punt return by Bralon Addison. Addison cut and spun his way into the end zone for an electrifying touchdown only to see it brought back because of a block in the back.
Penalties continue to be an issue as the Ducks committed 10 accepted penalties for 80 yards. Several of those penalties resulted in Utah being able to put points on the board or stymying Oregon's drives. In the case of the Addison run back, it took points off the board directly.
Oregon moves to 9-1 on the year and have a date with the Arizona Wildcats next week. Marcus Mariota alluded to being at 100% by next week but will not allow for an injury to be an excuse for an unsavory outcome. Oregon needs to continue to improve on cutting down on penalties and tackling as they have to deal with Wildcat running back Ka'Deem Carey next week.