CFN Take: Oregon Destroys Arizona For Title
2014 Oregon Ducks ... Head Coach: Mark Helfrich
Dec. 5 Pac-12 Championship
Aug. 30 South Dakota W 62-13
Sep. 6 Michigan State W 46-27
Sep. 13 Wyoming W 48-14
Sep. 20 at Wash St W 38-31
Sep. 27 OPEN DATE
Oct. 2 Arizona L 31-24
Oct. 11 at UCLA W 42-30
Oct. 18 Washington W 45-20
Oct. 24 at California W 55-41
Nov. 1 Stanford W 45-16
Nov. 8 at Utah W 51-27
Nov. 13 OPEN DATE
Nov. 22 Colorado W 44-10
Nov. 29 at Oregon State
Dec. 5 Arizona W 51-13
Oregon 51, Arizona 13
And You Care Because … After a sluggish start, Oregon destroyed Arizona on the way to the Pac-12 championship as Marcus Mariota ran for three touchdowns and threw for two more. The Ducks had to settle for two of Aidan Schneider’s three field goals in the first quarter as the offense kept making mistakes. It didn’t matter as Oregon got out to a 30-0 lead before Arizona finally got on the board on a 69-yard Cayleb Jones touchdown catch thanks to a busted coverage. Mariota answered right back with a four-play drive finishing with an 11-yard scoring pass to Darren Carrington. The Wildcats’ second score came on a 25-yard Jerrard Randall run with no time remaining.
What Else? Oregon QB Marcus Mariota completed 25-of-38 passes for 313 yards and two scores, and ran ten times for 33 yards and three touchdowns
- Arizona quarterbacks combined to complete 9-of-26 passes for 113 yards and a score with an interception. 69 of the yards came on one play.
- Total yards: Oregon 627 – Arizona 224
- Time of possession: Oregon 37:12 – Arizona 22:48
Game Rating: D
Nov. 29 Oregon 47, at Oregon State 19
And You Care Because … Oregon never let the game get interesting, getting out to a 30-0 lead with Marcus Mariota throwing three touchdown passes and running for a 23-yard score. Byron Marshall took a pass 77 yards for a touchdown, and Charles Nelson and Royce Freeman each came up with touchdown catches, while Mariota added a third quarter one-yard touchdown run. Nelson added a 27-yard touchdown catch in the fourth to keep Oregon ahead after Oregon State kept it from turning into a brutally ugly Civil War with a three-yard Storm Woods run.
What Else? Oregon QB Marcus Mariota completed 19-of-25 passes for 367 yards and four touchdowns, and ran ten times for 39 yards and two scores
- Oregon State RB Storm Woods ran 22 times for 128 yards and a touchdown
- Oregon RB Royce Freeman ran 22 times for 135 yards, and caught two passes for 19 yards and a score
- Total yards: Oregon 565 – Oregon State 362
Game Rating: D+
Nov. 22 at Oregon 44, Colorado 10
And You Care Because … Marcus Mariota ran for a 46-yard touchdown and threw for three – with two to Charles Nelson – and Royce Freeman cranked out touchdown runs from 20 and seven yard out as Oregon coasted. Down 37-3, Colorado didn’t get into the end zone until late in the third quarter on a five-yard Donovan Lee catch, but Mariota answered with a 14-yard pass to Nelson to keep the blowout going.
What Else? Oregon QB Marcus Mariota completed 24-of-32 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns, and ran eight times for 73 yards and a score
- Colorado quarterbacks combined to complete 16-of-32 passes for 105 yards and a score
- Oregon RB Royce Freeman ran 17 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns
- Total yards: Oregon 597 – Colorado 226
Game Rating: D+
Nov. 8 Oregon 51, at Utah 27
And You Care Because … Utah was up 7-0 on an eight-yard Bubba Poole run, and appeared to be going up 14-0 as Kaelin Clay took a pass 78 yards, but he celebrated too early, dropping the ball before crossing the goal line. Oregon’s Joe Walker ended up picking up the ball in the end zone and took it 100 yards for a score. That sparked a run of 24 straight Duck points with Marcus Mariota throwing two short touchdown passes and Aldan Schneider hitting a 39-yard field goal. Utah didn’t go away, with Andy Phillips hitting three field goals and Devonte Booker taking a pass 27 yards for a score to pull within seven, and a Westlee Tonga 13-yard scoring catch pulled the Utes within three in the fourth. Mariota had an answer taking the Ducks 75 yards in five plays and finishing off with a 34-yard pass to Dwayne Stanford. Mariota and Royce Freeman each ran for scores as part of Oregon’s run of 21 unanswered points.
What Else? Turnovers: Oregon 4 – Utah 1
- Oregon QB Marcus Mariota completed 17-of-29 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns, and ran 18 times for a team-high 114 yards and a score
- Utah QB Travis Wilson completed 18-of-28 passes for 297 yards and two touchdowns with two picks
- Utah WR Kaelin Clay caught five passes for 152 yards, and RB Devontae Booker ran 18 times for 65 yards and caught eight passes for 110 yards and a score
Game Rating: B
Nov. 1 at Oregon 45, Stanford 16
And You Care Because … Oregon proved it could handle Stanford as Marcus Mariota found Charles Nelson for a six-yard score and ran for a 22-yard touchdowns in the first quarter. Stanford fought back with two of Jordan Williamson’s three field goals, and a one-yard Patrick Skov run to pull within 24-16, but Thomas Tyner’s 21-yard touchdown run sparked an unanswered run of 21 points. Mariota added a seven-yard score and a 25-yard touchdown pass to Darren Carrington.
What Else? Oregon QB Marcus Mariota completed 19-of-30 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, and ran nine times for 85 yards and two scores
- Stanford QB Kevin Hogan completed 21-of-29 passes for 237 yards and an interception, and led the team with 42 rushing yards on 11 carries
- Time of possession: Stanford 35:38 – Oregon 24:22
- Third down conversions: Oregon 8-of-13 – Stanford 6-of-13
Game Rating: C+
Oct. 25 Oregon 55, at California 41
And You Care Because … There were 1,150 yards, 21 combined penalties and four turnovers with Marcus Mariota throwing his first interception of the year, but Oregon was almost unstoppable throughout. After getting down 14-7 in the first half, Charles Nelson came up with a brilliant 58-yard punt return for a score as the Ducks rolled up 24 straight points, but they didn’t take control. Marcus Mariota threw five touchdown with two to Dwayne Stanford from 22 and 24 yards out and two to Pharaoh Brown from nine and 21 yards away to keep Oregon ahead, even though Cal stayed alive. Jared Goff threw two touchdown passes, and Luke Rubenzer ran for two scores, but Oregon kept answering time and again. Royce Freeman ran for two touchdowns for the Ducks, including a backbreaker from two yards out midway through the third.
What Else? Oregon QB Marcus Mariota completed 18-of-30 passes for 326 yards and five touchdowns with a pick, and ran six times for 36 yards
- Penalties: California 11 for 111 yards – Oregon 10 for 106 yards
- Cal QB Jared Goff completed 32-of-52 passes for 360 yards and two touchdowns
- Total yards: Oregon 590 – California 560
Game Rating: B
Oct. 18 at Oregon 45, Washington 20
And You Care Because … Washington got two Cameron Van Winkle field goals in the first quarter while Oregon came up with a 37-yard Royce Freeman touchdown run, and then it was all Ducks, generating 28 straight points as Freeman ran for two more of his four touchdown dashes, and Marcus Mariota found Byron Marshall and Dwayne Stanford on touchdown passes. The Huskies tried to make it interesting with Deontae Cooper catching for a three-yard score and Troy Williams ran for a seven-yard score, but it wasn’t close – Oregon was never threatened after the first quarter.
What Else? Oregon RB Royce Freeman ran 29 times for 169 yards and four scores
- Washington QB Cyler Miles completed 19-of-28 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown with an interception.
- Oregon QB Marcus Mariota completed 24-of-33 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns, but was held to -1 yard rushing
- Fourth down conversions: Washington 3-of-3 – Washington 3-of-4
Game Rating: C-
Oct. 11 Oregon 42, at UCLA 30
And You Care Because … Oregon bounced back from the Arizona loss in a big way, starting out with a 21-3 lead with Marcus Mariota running for a 13-yard score and finding Thomas Tyner and Pharoah Brown for touchdowns. UCLA made it interesting late in the first half with Brett Hundley running for a 16-yard score with three seconds remaining, but it was all Oregon to start the second half with Mariota taking off for a 23-yard score and Royce Freeman running for two short touchdowns. UCLA got some late scores, with Jordan Payton scoring twice as part of a run of 20 unanswered points, but the Ducks were able to close out late.
What Else? Total yards: UCLA 553 – Oregon 468
- Oregon QB Marcus Mariota completed 17-of-27 passes for 210 yards and two scores, and ran seven times for 75 yards and two touchdowns
- UCLA QB Brett Hundley completed 26-of-37 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns with an interception, and ran 22 times for 89 yards and a touchdown. Paul Perkins ran 21 times for 187 yards
- Oregon RB Royce Freeman ran 18 times for 121 yards and two touchdowns
Game Rating: C+
Oct. 3 Arizona 31, at Oregon 24
And You Care Because … In a thriller, Arizona’s game-winning scoring drive got a second chance on a celebration penalty when Oregon’s Tony Washington was flagged for taking a bow after a defensive stop. The Wildcats took advantage with a one-yard Terris Jones-Grigsby touchdown run for a 31-24 lead, but Marcus Mariota had one final shot. The drive stopped with a forced fumble and recovery from Scooby Wright, and Arizona was able to grind out the clock. Oregon’s offense was held in check in the first half, but Mariota came up with a 26-yard touchdown catch off a trick play for a 7-3 halftime lead. And then Nick Solomon and the Arizona offense went to work scoring on two short runs and taking a pass 34 yards for a touchdown and a 24-14 lead, but Mariota would answer with a good drive that stalled on the goal line that led to a field goal, and a nine-yard pass to Keanon Lowe to tie it. Arizona scored on the ensuing drive for the win.
What Else? Marcus Mariota completed 20-of-32 passes for 276 yards and two scores, and ran nine times for one yard with a 26-yard touchdown catch.
- Arizona QB Anu Solomon completed 20-of-31 passes for 287 yards and a touchdown with a pick
- Penalties: Oregon 10 for 79 yards – Arizona 9 for 78 yards
- Arizona RB Terris Jones-Grigsby ran 27 times for 115 yards and a score and caught four passes for a team-leading 95 yards
Game Rating: A-
Sept. 20 Oregon 38, at Washington State 31
And You Care Because … The two teams got into a nip-and-tuck dogfight, but Oregon survived after taking the lead for good with a six-yard Keanon Lowe touchdown pass with 5:33 to play. Washington State had another shot, but couldn’t move the ball, and the Ducks held on. Marcus Mariota threw five touchdown passes with two to Devon Allen – highlighted by an 80-yarder - and two to Lowe, but Wazzu kept up the pace with Connor Halliday throwing for four scores with first quarter throws to Dom Williams from 18 and eight yards away.
What Else? Oregon QB Marcus Mariota completed 21-of-25 passes for 329 yards and five touchdowns and ran 13 times for 58 yards
- Washington State QB Connor Halliday completed 43-of-63 passes for 436 yards and four touchdowns
- Oregon WR Devon Allen caught seven passes for 142 yards and two scores, and Keanon Lowe caught five passes for 104 yards and two scores
- Total yards: Oregon 501 – Washington State 499
Game Rating: A
Sept. 13 at Oregon 48, Wyoming 14
And You Care Because … It took a little while to get going, but down 7-0 in the second quarter, Oregon roared back with 41 straight points highlighted by Marcus Mariota touchdown runs from 15 and 18 yards out and a 30-yard Byron Marshall dash. Mariota also threw two touchdown passes. Wyoming started the scoring with an 18-yard Tanner Gentry catch, and came up with a fourth-quarter 12-yard D.J. May scoring grab.
What Else? Marcus Mariota’s Heisman campaign took yet another major step forward completing 19-of-23 passes for 221 yards and two scores, and ran five times for 71 yards and two touchdowns including a diving leap into the end zone for one of them.
- Wyoming was able to move the ball a bit. QB Colby Kirkegaard completed 19-of-33 passes for 284 yards and two touchdowns with two picks, and Shaun Wick ran for 122 yards on just 16 carries.
- Oregon’s machine needed a little bit to get going, but once it did, the running game was devastating averaging 7.1 yards per try.
- How efficient was Oregon after everything started to work? The O converted 9-of-11 third down chances. Wyoming converted 9-of-17 and 2-of-3 fourth down tries.
Game Rating: D+
Sept. 6 at Oregon 46, Michigan State 27
And You Care Because … Down 27-18 late in the third, Oregon scored 28 unanswered points as Marcus Mariota threw two third quarter touchdown passes and Royce Freeman scored on runs from 38 and 14 yards out, with the last one closing out the Spartans for good. The Ducks took an 11-0 lead, but Michigan State roared back with Connor Cook throwing seven-yard touchdown passes to Tony Lippett and Josiah Price, and Jeremy Langford running for a 16-yard score, but Oregon stayed alive with a 70-yard Devon Allen scoring play.
What Else? Oregon QB Marcus Mariota was sharp under pressure, completing 17-of-28 passes for 318 yards and three scores, and running nine plays for 42 yards.
- Michigan State QB Connor Cook has now thrown for 300 yards or more in his last three big games (Ohio State, Stanford, Oregon) completing 29-of-47 passes for 343 yards and two scores with two picks.
- Michigan State LB Marcus Rush was fantastic, leading all players with 11 stops with a sack and 2.5 tackles for loss. Shilique Calhoun only made four tackles and no plays behind the line.
- Oregon’s Devon Allen caught three passes for 110 yards and two scores, while Michigan State’s Tony Lippett caught 11 passes for 133 yards and a touchdown.
Game Rating: B
Aug. 30 at Oregon 62, South Dakota 13
And You Care Because … Oregon cruised to a 21-3 first quarter lead starting out with a 62-yard pass play from Marcus Mariota to Dwayne Stanford, and Royce Freeman and Byron Marshall each scored twice before Mariota capped off the half with a one-yard run and a 41-13 lead. The Ducks scored 27 unanswered points helped by a 50-yard punt return for a score from Charles Nelson.
What Else? Marcs Mariota completed 14-of-20 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns and ran six times for 43 yards and a score, while Jeff Lockie came in and completed 11-of-12 passes for 113 yards and a score.
- RB Byron Marshall ran eight times for 90 yards and led the way with eight catches for 138 yards and two touchdowns.
- Oregon had the ball for just 21 minutes, but it came up with 673 yards of total offense.
Game Rating: C-
After failing to appear in a BCS bowl game for the first time since 2008, the Ducks are out to restore the order in 2014 by returning to the top of the Pac-12.
Oregon didn’t like the way last year felt, squandering a late-season lead in the North Division and playing a meaningless bowl game on Dec. 30. From the top of the program down, the Ducks are committed to not only capturing the division and the conference, but also appearing in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
Oregon football is built on the motto of winning the day. In 2014, it must seize the day. The reality around Eugene is that the rest of the league has narrowed the divide on the Ducks. Stanford has had their number the past two years. USC is moving further away from the depths of NCAA sanctions. And UCLA, Arizona State and Washington are steadily climbing up the pecking order. Oregon, now more than ever, needs to take advantage of the decisions of QB Marcus Mariota and CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu to return to school for another year.
The Ducks aren’t going anywhere. They remain one of the nation’s top programs, with the facilities and the reputation to continue reeling in top-flight talent. But the roads to Pasadena and the College Football Playoff are becoming increasingly congested as the Pac-12 improves. And second-year head coach Mark Helfrich knows it. He also knows that Alamo Bowl invitations won’t cut it. Such is life as Chip Kelly’s successor.
The return of Mariota means Oregon has a good shot of averaging at least 45 points a game for a fifth year in a row. He’s one of the more dynamic weapons under center in college football, and he’ll be joined in the huddle by four veteran linemen and the one-two running punch of Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall. The unit’s lone concern is at wide receiver. Last year’s top four receivers, including injured star Bralon Addison, are no longer available, heaping pressure on senior Keanon Lowe, sophomore Dwayne Stanford and redshirt freshman Devon Allen pick to pick up the slack.
The Ducks are about to find out what the defense will look like without Nick Aliotti calling the shots. The popular—and successful—assistant was on staff for more than a quarter-century, the last 15 as the coordinator. Taking Aliotti’s place will be Don Pellum, another longtime Oregon coach. Pellum takes the reins of a D that’s strong at linebacker, the position he played in Eugene, but retooling up front and in the back end. The Ducks return one full-timer on the D-line, DeForest Buckner, and one from the secondary, Ekpre-Olomu. Pellum will be mining for new stars, like DE Arik Armstead, CB Dior Mathis and precocious rookie S Tyree Robinson.
Oregon will start this season much the way it began the last five—favored to win the Pac-12 and contend for national honors. Anything less goes down as a stumble, especially since Mariota’s return was an unexpected gift. It’ll be a particularly big year for Helfrich, who missed the target in his debut, and will be judged even harsher in his encore.
What to watch for on offense: A bigger, more physical O-line. The Ducks have spent the offseason somewhat altering their identity in the trenches. Known for being a little smaller and a lot quicker than their peers in the Pac-12, they’ve collectively bulked up by 100 pounds since the end of last season. Oregon knows it can carve deep running lanes into most defenses on the schedule. But the true gauge of this offense will come against the likes of Stanford, which manhandled the Ducks at the line of scrimmage last Nov. 7, holding them to 62 yards on 24 carries.
What to watch for on defense: The cornerback battle opposite Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. When opposing quarterbacks drop to throw, they can either challenge one of the nation’s top corners, Ekpre-Olomu, or go after his unproven tag-team partner on the other side of the field. Since the latter is the far more likely scenario, it’s incumbent upon seniors Dior Mathis and Troy Hill to push each other to higher ground this summer. If they struggle, redshirt freshman Chris Seisay and JUCO transfer Dominique Harrison are capable of making this a four-Duck race.
The team will be far better if… it stiffens against the run. The Ducks allowed 3.8 yards per carry in 2013, not bad at face value. But digging a little deeper reveals issues that need to be addressed. Oregon yielded 194 yards to Washington, 219 to UCLA, 274 in a loss to Stanford and 304 in a loss to Arizona. Teams that committed to the run did just that versus the Ducks. Now the D must replace Wade Keliikipi and Taylor Hart, two of the staples at the line of scrimmage.
The Schedule: It’s not all that bad, but only if the Ducks are able to get by Michigan State in a Rose Bowl-caliber showdown in Week 2. There’s a nasty interdivision date at UCLA in what might be a Pac-12 championship preview, but Washington and Stanford are at home. Outside of the date with the Bruins, the road games are relatively breezy, going to Washington State, California and Utah before closing out the season at Oregon State. Missing USC is never a bad thing, and not having to play Arizona State is a positive. With a week off to prepare for the revenge game with Arizona at home, and with only one game in November outside of the state of Oregon, the Ducks should be in for a big year.
Best offensive player: Junior QB Marcus Mariota. This is a huge season for Mariota, who’ll have a chance to become the most accomplished Oregon quarterback in program history. He’s aiming to win his first Pac-12 championship, contend for the Heisman Trophy and prove to NFL scouts that his mechanics and accuracy won’t be impediments to next-level success. Mariota is one of the best playmaking quarterbacks in the country, blending a Colin Kaepernick-like gait with emerging passing skills. But the coaching staff is especially fond of his poise, grasp of the system and leadership skills that he brings to the huddle.
Best defensive player: Senior CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. The return of Ekpre-Olomu in 2014 was a gift for an Oregon secondary that’ll be breaking in three new starters. The defensive backfield is a need area this fall. It would be a crisis if No. 14 decided to go to the NFL. Ekpre-Olomu has the instincts and the ball skills to completely cut off one side of the field for opposing quarterbacks. And when he gets the ball in his hands, he traverses the field with all of the explosiveness of a Duck back. Even when Ekpre-Olomu isn’t getting into the stat sheet, he’s doing something to frustrate the other guy’s gameplan.
Key players to a successful season: The D-linemen. Oregon has vowed to get much tougher this season, partially in response to back-to-back losses to Stanford. The O-line added 100 pounds, and returns four starters. The D-line must now raise the level of its play, especially since two-thirds of the starting unit has graduated. DeForest Buckner and Arik Armstead, literally immense talents, need to perform up to their capabilities. And junior NT Alex Balducci will be expected to congest the middle of the line on a regular basis.
The season will be a success if ... The Ducks snap their two-year streak without a Pac-12 title. Mariota’s back. Mark Helfrich has that transitional first year out of his system. And Stanford is retooling both sides of the ball. There’s no reason why Oregon can’t win the North, continue its domination of the South and qualify as one of the four teams in the inaugural College Football Playoff. Mariota didn’t return for his junior year to play in a Holiday Bowl. And Helfrich can ill-afford to run second-best to anyone else in the league.
Key game: Nov. 1 vs. Stanford. The Sept. 6 visit from Michigan State will be a very interesting matchup that tests the Ducks’ questionable physical prowess. But the Stanford visit is by far the most meaningful game on the schedule. If Oregon is unable to handle the muscle of the Cardinal for a third straight year, there’s a very good chance that its goals of a Pac-12 title and a playoff berth will evaporate accordingly. Stanford is the undeniable roadblock that the Ducks must clear in order to return to title form.
2013 Fun Stats:
- Rushing touchdowns: Oregon 42 – Opponents 17
- Yards per pass: Oregon 9.4 – Opponents 5.5
- Time of possession: Oregon 25:33 - Opponents 34:27
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