Defense stars as Oregon Ducks wallop Wildcats
EUGENE Beware of the potent Oregon .... defense.
Chip Kelly's offense stumbled, and mistakes filled Oregon's Pac-12 opener against Arizona, but the Ducks' experienced defense came to the rescue as Oregon beat the Wildcats 49-0 Saturday night at Autzen Stadium.
The Wildcats had seven drives reach the Oregon 30-yard line or better, and the 'Cats failed to score every time as the Ducks built a big lead and cruised.
Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu put an accent on UO's defensive performance, intercepting quarterback Matt Scott and returning the pick 54 yards for a touchdown and a 35-0 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota had two touchdown passes to lead the Oregon offense.
Oregon (4-0, 1-0 Pac-12) will play Washington State (2-2, 0-1) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
The Ducks led 13-0 Arizona at halftime, but the Wildcats blew several excellent scoring chances advancing to the UO 4, 18, 2, 14 and 30 on its first five drives and failing to score.
Mariota threw a TD pass to Daryle Hawkins, and Rob Beard booted two field goals to give the Ducks their 13-point cushion.
Both defenses continued to rise up, and mistakes continued to pile up early in the second half, but then the Ducks broke through for more points.
After De'Anthony Thomas ripped off a 35-yard punt return, Mariota threw a 35-yard pass to Colt Lyerla.
Backup QB Bryan Bennett and tight end Lyerla, who got some carries in a unique UO offensive set, held the ball together going into the end zone for one TD, with Lyerla getting credit for the 1-yard rushing score.
A two-point pass from holder Jackson Rice to kicker Beard made the score 21-0 with 6:41 left in the third quarter.
Although struggling, Arizona stayed alive, thanks to Jonathan McKnight's interception of Mariota. The Wildcats had the ball at the UO 35. But the Ducks stopped the visitors again, as Kiko Alonso intercepted Scott on fourth down at the UO 20.
Oregon's offense then broke through with a big play, as Mariota hit Bralon Addison for a 55-yard touchdown pass for a 28-0 advantage.
Then came Ekpre-Olomu's big play on the other side of the ball.
The Ducks continued their defensive gem by stopping UA ball carrier Ka'Deem Carey on fourth-and-1 at the UO 14.
With 4:02 remaining, Bennett dashed 8 yards to the outside for another Oregon touchdown and a 42-0 lead.
Then defensive back Troy Hill intercepted at Arizona pass and scored all but untouched on a 29-yard run straight to the end zone at the 3:53 mark. The PAT made the score 49-0.
Arizona blew its chance to win the game in the first half.
The Ducks, who failed on a fourth-down conversion enemy territory in last week's game against Tennessee Tech, tried it again on the first series. Again, Mariota was tackled behind the line of scrimmage, handing the ball to the Wildcats at the UO 35.
Arizona picked up a couple third-down conversions, but Scott threw high on third-and-goal. Then the holder mishandled the snap on John Bonano's field- goal try, giving the ball back to the Ducks.
A little later, Mariota burst out of the pocket on third down, only to get the ball jarred from him by Jake Fischer, and UA's Reggie Gilbert recovered at the UO 11.
But the Ducks returned the favor, as Ekpre-Olomu picked off Scott at the UO 12.
Oregon marched for its first score, picking up large chunks of yardage, including a third-down Mariota-to-Dwayne Stanford pass and 11 yards by Lyerla on a rush. Bennett ran a rush play, before Mariota threw a 17-yard scoring strike to Hawkins.
Scott returned to the field after a brief trip to the locker room and engineered a long UA drive. He threw 17 yards to Dan Buckner on third down, and then got another 12 on a pass David Richards, with Oregon defensive lineman Taylor Hart whistled for a personal foul, late-hit penalty.
A pass interference penalty on Ekpre-Olomu put UA at first-and-goal at the 2.
But the Ducks held, with Scott stopped on fourth down.
Arizona got yet another golden opportunity when Thomas fumbled after a hit by Jared Tevis, and Fischer recovering at the UO 34. Another Ekpre-Olomu interference call gave UA another first down. However, the Duck defense held again, with Wade Keliikipi blocking Bonano's 31-yard field-goal attempt.
On UA's fifth drive, Johnny Jackson caught a Scott pass at the UO 30, but Oregon's Michael Clay jarred the ball from him, and Hart recovered.
The Ducks marched, slowly, for a field goal. Mariota hit Stanford for 13 yards on third-and-9. Thomas picked up a first down with a nifty run. Bennett and Lyerla got more action with carries. The Wildcats stiffened, and Beard made his first field goal of the year from 27 yards, putting UO ahead 10-0.
After a UO stop, Thomas ran for six yards on fourth-and-2 at the UO 34. Slowly, again, the Ducks drove. Mariota and Lyerla connected for 18 yards and Mariota hit Barner for 16 yards on a screen to the UA 14. But a botched direct snap to Barner set back the Ducks. Beard's second field goal, a 41-yarder, gave Oregon a 13-0 lead just before the end of the first half.
NOTES: Injured receiver Josh Huff did not play. ... Autzen Stadium sold out for the 86th consecutive game, with a standing-room-only crowd of 58,334.
OREGON: 1st, 5:42, Daryle Hawkins 17 pass from Marcus Mariota (Rob Beard kick)
OREGON: 2nd, 5:55, Rob Beard 27 FG
OREGON: 2nd, 0:28, Beard 41 FG
OREGON: 3rd, 6:41, Colt Lyerla 1 run (Rob Beard pass from Jackson Rice)
OREGON: 3rd, 1:01, Bralon Addison 55 pass from Mariota (Beard kick)
OREGON: 4th, 14:08, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu 54 interception return (Beard kick)
OREGON: 4th, 4:02, Bryan Bennett 8 run (Beard kick)
OREGON: 4th, 3:53, Troy Hill 29 interception return (Beard kick)