The Oregon Ducks opened their 2014 season on Saturday night, dominating South Dakota 62-13 at Autzen Stadium.
Marcus Mariota was firing on all cylinders in the first half, going 14-of-20 for 267 yards and three touchdowns along with six carries for 43 yards and a touchdown. He also tied a bit of history during his season debut.
Byron Marshall was Oregon’s leading rusher and receiver on the night. Marshall carried the ball eight times for 89 yards and also caught eight passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
As a team, the Ducks racked up 664 yards of total offense, which included 380 passing yards and 284 passing yards.
Did you go to the fridge to get your first beer of the game? You probably missed Oregon’s first touchdown as Marcus Mariota found Dwayne Stanford deep for a 62-yard touchdown pass, the 80th of Mariota’s career and the most in school history. The Ducks, as they often do early, saw the opportunity to go for two and converted as Taylor Allie rushed in to give Oregon the 8-0 lead just 1:34 into the game.
South Dakota had a good mix of runs and passes on their opening drive, allowing them to get into field goal position, setting up a 47-yard field goal for Miles Bergner. The Coytoes were looking for as many methodical drives as they could to keep Oregon’s offense off the field.
Oregon’s offense took the field and once again, they found the end zone in the blink of an eye as Mariota hooked up with Byron Marshall for a 42-yard touchdown pass.
Royce Freeman had his first collegiate touch of his career with a nine-yard run, much to the crowd’s liking. After a 34-yard completion to Darren Carrington, Freeman capped off another quick scoring drive with his first touchdown to give Oregon a 21-3 lead.
Mariota was near perfect in the opening quarter, going 7-of-8 for 173 yards and a touchdown.
The only mistakes I saw from Oregon early were the penalties (5 flags for 42 yards). They might be able to get away with those against South Dakota, but they’ll need to be mistake free against Michigan State.
South Dakota finally forced Oregon to punt after a nightmarish first quarter in which Mariota and the Ducks had seemingly set the game sliders to Freshman difficulty.
The Coyotes managed to get some momentum going on their next drive with a pair of passes for 16 yards and 13 yards respectively from Kevin Earl, followed by a 13-yard run from Trevor Bouma to set up a 1st and Goal. Oregon’s goal-line defense stood tough, forcing a fourth down after two incomplete passes and a false start penalty. South Dakota would settle for a field goal.
During the drive, Ekpre-Olomu headed off the field after a play involving no contact as he just kind of pulled up limping. It appeared as if he tweaked his ankle a little funny while planting his foot.
On Oregon’s next drive, Royce Freeman broke free for his first big run, a 26-yard touchdown run to give the Ducks a 28-6 lead. At that point, Freeman had three carries and two touchdowns. That’s what we call efficiency.
Byron Marshall had a mental lapse on the first play of Oregon’s next drive. After breaking free for a 53-yard run that appeared to be a touchdown. Marshall tossed the ball aside before he actually crossed the line, giving South Dakota the ball back. Fortunately for the Ducks, they can get away with these mistakes, but again, it won’t fly against Michigan State next week. That’s why you play these games, to iron out any kinks before the big ones. And yes, the DeSean Jackson jokes have already been made about this play.
Is that you, DeSean Jackson? Oregon's Byron Marshall drops ball before crossing goal line, losing apparent TD. http://t.co/6OqONAwcN1— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 31, 2014
The Ducks caught a lucky break, forcing a fumble on South Dakota’s first play to get the ball right back. Mariota then found Marshall in the end zone, allowing him to redeem the earlier mistake.
South Dakota finally found the end zone late in the 2nd quarter as their drive was jump-started by a 45-yard run by Jasper Sanders. Trevor Bouma capped off the quick drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.
Oregon capped off the first half with another lightning-fast scoring drive, their fourth of the first half that lasted less than two minutes. Mariota finished his night with an easy 1-yard touchdown run, giving Oregon a 41-13 halftime lead.
At halftime, Helfrich said he was "as unhappy as you can be at 41-13." Between the penalties and Marshall’s mental lapse giving the ball away, Helfrich’s frustration is understandable considering who is rolling into Autzen Stadium next week. Spoiler alert: They’re better than South Dakota.
Mariota finished the first half 14-of-20 for 267 yards and three touchdowns along with six carries for 43 yards and a touchdown. Thomas Tyner and Royce Freeman split much of the rushing duties in the first half. Tyner carried the ball seven times for 50 yards while Freeman had five carries for 48 yards and two touchdowns. Byron Marshall also had a decent first half.
For the Coyotes, Kevin Earl completed 9-of-18 passes for 95 yards. Jasper Jenkins led South Dakota with 60 rushing yards while Trevor Bouma took much of the workload, carrying the ball 11 times for 52 yards and one touchdown.
Charles Nelson made his first splash of the night with a 50-yard punt return for a touchdown. And if you couldn’t tell from the approximately 32,963 tweets about it, Nelson is the new No. 6 on Oregon, just like De’Anthony Thomas. I’d like to think Thomas just gave Nelson his old jersey and it has some sort of magical powers like the shoes in Like Mike.
South Dakota quarterback Kevin Earl headed off to the locker room late in the third quarter after his hand hit off De’Forrest Buckner’s helmet. For both sides, you never like to see injuries anytime, but especially in a blowout.
Former basketball star Johnathan Loyd earned his first career reception with a short 2-yard catch late in the third quarter. I don’t really expect Loyd to play a big role on this team, but it’s fun to think of the possibilities. He later fielded a punt and had a brief shining moment when he spun and bounced out of a tackle for some extra yards, but nothing much came of it.
Jeff Lockie ran a nice little zone read play, ending in a flip to Pharaoh Brown for the touchdown to put Oregon up 55-13 early in the 4th quarter.
Oregon’s final scoring drive of the night saw Royce Freeman carry the ball on five of the 10 plays and was capped off with a 9-yard touchdown run from Kenny Bassett as the Ducks broke 60 points in their season opener for the second straight year.
The Ducks now turn their focus to their biggest non-conference game since facing LSU to start 2011. We’ll have plenty of time all week to discuss this game, but don’t forget the Ducks lost that game to LSU and still went on to win the Rose Bowl. This will be a hard fought game that will likely go down to the wire, but a loss wouldn’t necessarily be the end of the world, it’d just be a hiccup. With that said, let the hype and previews commence.