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Oregon wins 42-25, but sputters in second half vs. Fresno State

Barner, Thomas make big plays in first half to lead Ducks to 2-0 start


EUGENE — The Oregon Ducks were fully in defensive mode on Saturday — after the game with Fresno State.

The Ducks moved to 2-0, beating the Bulldogs 42-25 at Autzen Stadium, but for the second consecutive game against a nonleague opponent, they burst to a big lead only to suffer a litany of mistakes and poor play the rest of the way.

Against Arkansas State, UO was outscored 31-7 with mostly backups in the game and after leading by 47 points. Against Fresno State, the tally was 22-7 against mostly first-teamers after being up by 32 points. Collectively, it's 53-14 for the opponents after Oregon has built big leads.

Oregon has built a reputation of being a second-half team under coach Chip Kelly, showing off its conditioning, using its pace and executing so well that opponents don't even sniff opportunities. With a lot of young players, including QB Marcus Mariota, the Ducks were supposed to use the 2012 nonleague schedule to build depth and consistency and be strong enough for Pac-12 play. But the Ducks haven't improved, despite thrashing outmanned opponents early.

Chances are Oregon won't suffer any drop-off when Tennessee Tech, a Football Championship Subdivision team, visits Autzen Stadium at noon Saturday, Sept. 15. But the Ducks haven't come close to playing a complete game against Arkansas State and Fresno State.

"Guys stopped playing a little bit. You've got to fight to the end," said running back/receiver De'Anthony Thomas, who had two long TD runs as part of UO's first-half offense. "But we're going to bounce back."

"It comes down to guys being dialed in the whole game," defensive end Dion Jordan said. "Don't turn it off when you get up on a team so fast."

The Ducks have taken for granted their big leads, Jordan said.

"It's definitely a big thing," he said. "We want everybody prepared to play. It was all effort (for Fresno State). We've got time to fix things, but ... it's never easy. It comes down to guys being mentally strong."

Said Kenjon Barner, who had a career-high 201 yards rushing and three TDs: "We came out (in the second half) like we had the game in hand. We didn't come out with the same intensity. That's what we have to learn from."

Behind the running of Barner and Thomas, the Ducks burst to a 35-3 lead in the first half. Barner had two short TD runs, and Thomas had scoring jaunts of 39 and 51 yards.

But in the second half, Fresno State outplayed the Ducks in every area. Oregon had only 149 yards offense after halftime, and 77 came on the clinching drive in the fourth quarter, when Barner scored on a 16-yard run on his 34th and final carry.

It salvaged the UO's second-half effort and, of course, put away the game. The Bulldogs had rallied to within 35-19 with about five minutes left.

Then again, the result was never much in doubt. The UO defense rose up, having to slow Fresno State after three second-half Oregon offensive turnovers — two on fumbles by Mariota, who made some nice plays but also faced and fought through adversity for the first time in his brief, two-game career. The offensive line suffered some injuries and played poorly, leading to Mariota being hit hard for the first time, and Fresno State smoked the unit on several occasions.

"We struggled a little bit, but that's good," said Mariota, who went 19 of 27 for 166 yards and a TD throw to tight end Colt Lyerla, and added 67 net yards on 14 carries (sacked three times). "To overcome it with that long drive ... that's going to help us down the road."

Mariota "played OK," offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. "There were several things that he has never done before, not been in whatever situation and dealt with adversity in those situations. That's good, we can plow through that and learn and grow. There are multiple players around him who are inexperienced guys."

With UO ahead 35-6 in the third quarter, Mariota lost a fumble on a blitz at the UO 22. Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr hit Isaiah Burse on an 18-yard TD pass.

Then, Oregon's Bralon Addison fumbled, with FSU recovering at the UO 12. Buoyed by plays by Kiko Alonso and Taylor Hart, the UO defense held the Bulldogs to a field goal.

Mariota fumbled again on a jarring sack and lost the ball, but the Oregon defense again held the Bulldogs to a field goal, Quentin Breshears' fourth of the game.

"We had to pick up the offense," Jordan said. "They were struggling, and dropped the ball. If this was a big game, they would've really needed us."

The Ducks regrouped, marching the 77 yards and taking 5:49 off the clock to score on Barner's TD run. Still, Fresno State marched for another score with 1:30 left, not exactly the way the Ducks would have liked to end the game.

Oregon had its share of other less-than-positive happenings. Center Hroniss Grasu had some bad snaps. The Ducks had eight penalties. Fresno State had no turnovers, and Carr went 29 of 47 for 234 yards and Robbie Rouse rushed for 115 yards on 27 carries.

Two Ducks, offensive guard Carson York and receiver Josh Huff, left the game with injuries; safety John Boyett, supposedly injured, did not play, which forced the Ducks to use more nickel package with Avery Patterson and Erick Dargan.

York appeared to re-injure the right knee that required surgery after the Rose Bowl win. Huff said he hurt his knee, but vowed to be back to practice Monday. Boyett remained "day to day," according to defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, who wouldn't be specific about why the four-year starting safety sat out the game.

But, a win is a win, Kelly said. "For us, it's 2-0. We won this week," he said. The last drive was something for the Ducks to "hang our hat on," the visor-wearing coach added.

Thomas scored his fourth and fifth TDs of the season, while rushing for 102 yards on seven carries and catching four passes for 36 yards. The UO offense had 532 yards, including 366 on the ground.

Helfrich knew that the UO offense needed some time to develop in nonleague action.

"There is not a concern," he said.

Overall, added safety Brian Jackson: "We're doing what it takes to win. The other team finds ways to make adjustments, put up points, maybe stop the offense. There's nothing to be upset about at all."

FRESNO STATE    3-3-10-9-25

OREGON  14-21-0-7-42

FRESNO STATE: 1st, 10:16, Quentin Breshears 39 FG

OREGON: 1st, 9:25, De'Anthony Thomas 39 run (Rob Beard kick)

OREGON: 1st, 6:41, Kenjon Barner 3 run (Beard kick)

OREGON: 2nd, 12:47, Colt Lyerla 22 pass from Marcus Mariota (Beard kick)

OREGON: 2nd, 7:45, Thomas 51 run (Beard kick)

OREGON: 2nd, 1:10, Barner 3 run (Beard kick)

FRESNO STATE: 2nd, 0:01: Breshears 43 FG

FRESNO STATE: 3rd, 7:47, Isaiah Burse 18 pass from Derek Carr (Breshears kick)

FRESNO STATE: 3rd, 4:14, Breshears 25 FG

FRESNO STATE: 4th, 9:40, Breshears 37 FG

OREGON: 4th, 3:51, Barner 16 run (Beard kick)

FRESNO STATE: 4th, 1:30, Robbie Rouse 2 run (pass failed)