Much tougher test awaits Oregon
CORVALLIS The Oregon Ducks head into their rematch in the Pac-12 Conference championship game after beating one of the worst teams in the league Saturday at Reser Stadium for the second week in a row.
No one can deny the Ducks possess one of the country's best offenses, maybe the best player in QB Marcus Mariota, an 11-1 record and top-five ranking and seven consecutive wins since their surprising 31-24 home loss against the Arizona Wildcats on Oct. 2.
But Oregon dispatched of Oregon State 47-19 in dominating fashion. Mariota went 19 of 25 for 367 yards and accounted for six touchdowns (four passing, two rushing). Royce Freeman rushed for 135 yards on 22 carries. And the Ducks outclassed the Beavers in every phase in leading 30-0 in the second quarter. The seventh consecutive win in the Civil War game came seven days after the Ducks whipped Colorado 44-10.
So, Oregon cruises into the Pac-12 title game, 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5, at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., having routed the league's two worst teams on consecutive weekends.
The Beavers finished 5-7 overall and 2-7 in the Pac-12. Colorado was 2-10 and 0-9. That's a combined 7-17 and 2-16.
The North Division champion Ducks (8-1 in the Pac-12) say they are ready for their rematch with Arizona (10-2, 7-2).
"It's just another game," said Oregon's Byron Marshall, who had six receptions for 131 yards, including a 77-yard TD reception, on Saturday. "They (the Wildcats) beat us twice (2013, 2014), but I think we played two terrible games against Arizona. That eats at us.
"We're really clicking on all cylinders. We're excited to come out and play. We try to execute and play a perfect game."
Coach Mark Helfrich, who moved to 2-0 in Civil War games and 22-3 as UO head coach, refrained from saying the Ducks were playing their best ball of the year. He realizes that Oregon has to prepare well to play the Wildcats, and "we'll try to get a little bit healthier and a little bit smarter and compete like heck during the week to get ready for Arizona."
Mariota, who said that last year's 36-35 win ranked as No. 1 in his Civil War highlights, says the Ducks are playing well, as evidenced by how well they played in the first half against Oregon State. The Ducks had 365 of their 565 yards offense in the first half and scored points on their first five possessions.
The Ducks established the run right away with the offensive line and Freeman.
"We always try to get the passing and running game started early," Freeman said. "Whoever dominates the trenches is going to win the game, I feel. We were pretty dominant in the trenches, and the line did a good job of opening things up."
Mariota threw the first of two TD passes to Charles Nelson to start the scoring a 29-yard play just 2:23 into the game. The Ducks flubbed the conversion play, but it didn't matter. The points would keep coming, and the UO defense got into the act by stopping the Beavers on third-and-1 (Storm Woods run) and fourth-and-1 (Damien Haskins).
Matt Wogan's 30-yard field goal made it 9-0, and then the Ducks produced three touchdowns in the second quarter as the Beavers punted three times, failed to recover a Nelson fumble on a punt and watched their upset bid quickly disappear.
Freeman juggled and caught a 12-yard TD pass from Mariota, his team-leading 17th TD of the season.
Marshall caught and ran for paydirt on his 77-yard TD play, avoiding a tackle attempt by Ryan Murphy.
And Mariota scored on a 23-yard TD run.
The Beavers failed on another fourth-and-1 (Tyler Anderson run), but forced a punt and moved and scored as time expired in the first half on Garrett Owens' field goal. The Ducks led 30-3 for the second consecutive week.
"I'm really proud of how we came out in all three phases," Helfrich said. "We knew the kind of challenge we were up against, with a bunch of guys here that are ending their careers. Sean Mannion, just a ton of respect for what that guy has done throughout his career; defensively, you have really 10 starters are on their way out. We had to be ready to go."
Added Mariota: "Starting fast for us is always the key. To start out fast and get ahead quickly really set the tempo for the rest of the game."
Mariota scored on a 1-yard TD run and threw a 27-yard TD pass to Nelson in the second half, the latter play coming with 6:45 left in the game and Oregon leading 40-17. Before he exited in the fourth period, Mariota took some hits, but he left the game unscathed. He has now produced 48 touchdowns this season as the leading contender for the Heisman Trophy.
"He missed a couple throws," Helfrich joked. "That guy is just such a stud. He did some things with his legs (10 carries, 39 yards, four sacks), he did some things with his head, that make him the player he is."
Not to be outdone, the UO defense allowed 362 yards, with Woods doing the most damage with 22 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown and six receptions for 58 yards. But, in his final game for OSU, Mannion went 19 of 39 for 162 yards and a touchdown (to Hunter Jarmon). His final collegiate pass was an incompletion, before OSU coach Mike Riley took him out of the game.
The Beavers couldn't spread out the UO defense by successfully throwing the ball downfield. Mannion's long throw was 23 yards to Woods.
"They played hard and ran to the ball really well and tackled better," Helfrich said. "It's still not exactly where we want it to be. But anytime you can limit those guys to those points and numbers, it's big."
The top receivers combined for 10 receptions and 77 yards: Victor Bolden, four receptions for 13 yards; Jarmon, three for 36; Rahmel Dockery, two for 22; Jordan Villamin, one for six yards.
Said cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu: "To stop a quarterback like that you have to put the man over the receiver and slow verticals (routes). You can't let the (receiver) run down field making plays. You have to have as much press coverage as you can, force him to get out of the timing of the route. You have to play a lot of covers where you can reroute the receivers. We did a good job. We didn't give up any deep balls."
And, now it's a rematch with QB Anu Solomon, running back Nick Wilson, coach Rich Rodriguez and the Wildcats, whose diverse and playmaking spread offense led the way in the win at Autzen, as did the defense, especially Scooby Wright's sack and forced fumble of Mariota that clinched the victory. Of course, the Ducks played without offensive tackle Jake Fisher and allowed five sacks.
"Everybody knows the coulda, woulda, shoulda of that night," Helfrich said. "And, Arizona's pretty good. Anytime you don't put your best foot forward ... taking nothing away from Arizona."
Said Mariota: "We're going to approach it like any other game. Just play our game."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
OREGON 9 21 10 7 -- 47
OREGON STATE 0 3 7 9 -- 19
OREGON Charles Nelson 29 pass from Marcus Mariota (rush failed), 12:27
OREGON Matt Wogan 30 FG, 7:01
OREGON Royce Freeman 12 pass from Mariota (Wogan kick), 14:32
OREGON Byron Marshall 77 pass from Mariota (Wogan kick), 12:22
OREGON Mariota 23 run (Wogan kick), 9:48
OREGON STATE Garrett Owens 39 FG, 0:01
OREGON Wogan 22 FG, 10:03
OREGON STATE – Hunter Jarmon 20 pass from Sean Mannion (Owens kick), 5:46
OREGON Mariota 1 run (Wogan kick), 2:19
OREGON STATE Storm Woods 3 run (Owens kick), 14:08
OREGON Charles Nelson 27 pass from Mariota (Wogan kick), 6:45
OREGON STATE Team safety (UO snap out of end zone), 4:03
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