The outcome surprises nobody, but it's never about the score, facing an outmanned opponent in a first game.
The Ducks handled their business and played with enthusiasm and purpose. They racked up 772 yards of offense and didn't have a turnover. They only had 5 penalties for 42 yards, but unfortunately that total included a 15-yard targeting penalty against Terrance Mitchell that got him ejected from the game.
My guys: Marcus Mariota looked in command and displayed leadership in the first start of his sophomore season, but appeared to press on some throws. The Ducks rode a big physical advantage to an easy 66-3 victory. (USA Today photo)
In a way it's good that happened--it's a teachable moment for the whole defense, and it happened in a game where the Ducks needed to empty the bench anyway. It happened in the first half, which is doubly good, because a second-half targeting foul results in the player having to sit the first half of the next game.
The call on Mitchell was correct--he slammed into a sliding quarterback with his helmet and shoulder, a classic application of the rule. But the new rule is problematical: it requires defensive players to calculate vectors at the speed of the game. Is the ball carrier going to duck? Will the receiver catch the pass? Do I need to blast the guy or let up? Player safety is the most important thing in the game, but at some point in the season a PAC-12 contender is going to lose a key player in a big game simply because he was trying to make a tackle. Sometimes the referees make a thorough botch of routine calls, and this rule requires a lot of judgment.
After the call, however, the Ducks young cornerbacks were going for the waist and the legs and wrapping up. Players like Ronnie Lott and John Boyett would've had to make drastic changes to their games under the current rules, and so will Oregon's hard-hitting secondary.
It was a mixed grade for much of the team, and coaches will have plenty of video for teaching and instruction. Marcus Mariota wound up with decent stats and operated the offense efficiently, opening the game with five straight touchdown drives and a field goal, all under two minutes. He sailed some passes and threw others on the run under pressure, completing less than 50% in the first half.
Mariota got into more of a rhythm after the break, finishing the game 12-21 234 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 113 yards on five carries with two more scores. Those are numbers that, in a blowout, won't hurt him in a Heisman race. It really does look like the Ducks have opened up the downfield passing game more this season: he had a completion to Huff for 46, Lowe for 40, Addison for 27 and a touchdown.
De'Anthony Thomas ran effectively and was Oregon's workhorse and lead back early in the game. In all he darted for 128 yards on 18 carries, a 7.1-yard average. Like many teams will, Nichols kicked away from him both times.
Offensively, the biggest bright spot was Byron "Smash" Marshall. After off-season speculation about whether the Ducks would be able to replace Kenjon Barner in the running game the Ducks had a school-record three 100-yard rushers, Marshall joining The Black Momba and Mariota with 124 yards on 8 carries, a day that included a 49-yard touchdown sprint and an 47-yard scamper around right end, Byron pushed out of bounds by a defender with an angle at the three. The 5-10, 207-lb. sophomore showed speed many doubted he had, breaking tackles and running hard, backing up what coaches had said about him in fall practice.
Defensively, the Ducks have work to do. Young players like DeForest Buckner, Torrodney Prevot and Arik Armstead showed some potential and the defensive line got a lot of pressure on the Nicholls quarterbacks, but it was an uneven effort by the defense as a whole. Nicholls gained chunks of yards between the 30s. For the game the FCS school, 2-20 in the last two years, had 22 first downs and 343 yards. They had the ball for 40:14, averaging 5.1 yards per pass and 2.4 on the ground.
In particular the linebackers have more work to do. Their undermanned opponent did most of their damage throwing underneath, screens, swings, drag routes and draws. Running back Marcus Washington had 11 catches for 92 yards, something that PAC-12 coaches will notice on film. Against better competition the Ducks will have to tighten up their coverage and reactions. The Colonels threw the ball 50 times and didn't suffer an interception. Last year the Ducks picked off 26 balls, tops in the nation. They did force two fumbles, the only turnovers of the game.
In their home opener Virginia beat BYU 19-16. The Ducks travel to Charlottesville next weekend for a much sterner test. Improvement between game one and game two is crucial, particularly for a team with high ambitions.
I liked Byron Marshall yesterday. I'll bet he was champing at the bit while DeAnthony got all the first calls. When he finally got the call he showed a lot of speed. I would like to see Byron Marshall bringing it from the backfield and DeAnthony back in the Taser role.
One pass to CL, must be hiding him from Virginia. CL looked like a new age Larry Csonka dragging defenders down the field. Good game to get the butterflies out. No interceptions, from the best secondary in the country? Nicholls got a lot of yards but not a lot of points. Ohio State and Alabama looked beatable. Georgia lost. MH was active on the sidelines. DAT is a beast. Marshall showed promise. Out of bounds kickoffs? Mariota can still run. Good warmup. As Francis P. Church would say, "Yes Virginia, there is an Oregon Duck, and he's coming straight at you". GO DUCKS!
The game did go as expected with the exception of all the yards we gave up on defense. This game was a nice one to have coming out of the gate. Everyone got a taste of live play and will have reels of film to study. Next week is a much different story. We need to tighten up a bit each game if we actually hope to content for the big one this year.
I thought the colonels played a great game. The score did not tell all regarding their effort and tenacity. Mr. Washington (#22 running back) is an exceptional player who could play for any (old school) Division 1 team. The backup QB seemed better than the starter.
As for the HIT. Tough call. I can't believe that Mitchell intentionally targeted or wanted to injure an opposing player. He is not that kind of baller. What it looked like to me was just what it looked like to everyone else. By rule he's "out-a here!!" Again, a teachable moment for the team. This rule will impact a game down the road for someone.
All in all, we have some work to do.
Go Ducks WTD
Looks like Washington and Keith Price are back. They destroyed #19 Boise State. First tough game for the Ducks?
I was pleased with the effort today. The offense looked fine running basic plays and limiting the variety. The defense did much of the same, playing vanilla schemes and limiting blitzing to pressure the young qbs. I think the lbs played a good game all in all considering they were asked more to defend the pass than stop the run. A 2.4 yard average is pretty good to me as well as a 5 Yard average through the air. The defense should be just fine next week against a UVA team that lost A LOT on offense from the year before.
I was so happy to see Ayele Ford bust off a big run today. And I'm assuming Tyner didn't see the field because of his recent lower leg injury. Happy to see Terrodney force a fumble too! The D line as a whole looked scary good today. Tony Washington Buckner and Armstead all look absolutely imposing on the defensive line. Gotta love Joe Walkers hair too. Didn't see Dungy at all, injured?
@SonomaDuck Marshall showed the coaches he's ready for a bigger share of the offensive load, and it looks like he'll have a very productive season. I agree, SD. Get DAT in space and let Smash do a lot of the hard work inside. Both looked good against suspect competition yesterday, running inside or on the edge.
@duckified Df, great to see Lyerla get carries. Intriguing wrinkle for short yardage situations. He is a load to bring down. On his one pass reception he broke three tackles and dragged the pile for extra yards after contact. It was a typical game statistically for the Oregon defense. Nicholls ran 87 plays and possessed the ball for over 40 minutes. Ducks certainly had a better day than Ohio State or the Beavers. Mariota's long, graceful strides eat up a lot of turf, and he was able to run very effectively without taking a lot of contact. Wouldn't it be something if the Ducks had three 1,000-yard rushers this season, after the experts said they were in danger of not having one at all?
Looked to me like Mitchell was leading with his helmet. I've seen Oregon defenders leading with their helmets when tackling in the past, KA used the technique frequently. Now, with the new penalty, this technique could seriously affect our season. Proper tackling technique HAS to be a HUGE part of next week's practices.
@Duckbill That's a solid and valuable checklist of observations. Any time you want to do a game review or Ken Woody-style post game article you're invited. Agree strongly on several of your points: Prevot's quick, active, aggressive play, an impressive debut by the freshman who looks ready to contribute the way Michael Clay did his first year, Wade's one-handed throw down a testimony to his emergence in the middle. Mariota must be sharper and more precise against better competition. Keanon Lowe had a very good game with a 40-yard pass reception and a 48-yard kick return. Wogan must turn it around next week, or the Ducks should hand the job to Maldonado and recognize that he's earned it. The Ducks did in fact have zero punts in the game; they turned it over on downs twice, and scored on all their other possessions save letting the clock run out at the end of the game.
@Duckbill I feel like everyone thinks DAT is some fragile child or something.. He's been running through tackles since he arrived in Eugene. The likelihood of someone getting injured is the same when Smash carries it, or Ford, Tyner, Basset, Roseberry, MM, any of those guys. DAT isn't a fragile burner. He's a legitimate tough runner. His size isn't a factor in his toughness. He carried dudes on more than a few of his carries between the tackles.
@hoboduck Backup qb Henderson impressed me. He battled all game long, and so did the Colonels, particularly Marcus Washington, who made a lot of first downs.
Agree with you that it was a good start with plenty to correct.
The Ducks have to improve a lot in the next five weeks to be ready for that game. You have a hungry Washington team with a senior quarterback, 1400-yard rusher, a dangerous outside receiver in Kasen Williams, a load at tight end in Austin Rastafarian-Jenkins, an improved defense led by linebacker Shaq Thompson, and a newly-remodeled stadium. The Huskies will be amped for that game, and the Ducks can't afford to overlook them even a little. As Drake points out, Virginia is next, but it will be improve or die in a very competitive PAC-12, and that game in Seattle shapes up to be one of the most dangerous hurdles of the season. College Football Matrix and other prognosticators have pointed it out as a game the Ducks might lose, expecting them to slip back a little.
@SonomaDuck the warshington cornhuskies were playing with a $280 million renovation mojo chip on their shoulder as pay back for their last bowl game. A nice looking pro-style stadium is a good venue for the Ducks D line to pressure Price into some mistakes and quiet down the West bleachers. As always, Virginia first.
@Mahunashizzle Colonels averaged 3.94 yards per play and scored just 3 points. The defense didn't have a perfect game, but considering the number of plays and the fact that they stayed vanilla, they were reasonably effective. They played a lot of kids. and some of them Washington, Buckner, Armstead and Prevot in particular, had some great moments. Great moment too for Ayele Forde, dashing up the right side for 45 yards. Getting some touches always builds the enthusiasm in practice throughout the roster.
@duckified Jackson and Dargan were wrapping up and leveling players all day long. Same with Lokombo.
@duckified How do we get that if Aliotti disagrees with the call?
E=MV, or energy released at impact equals mass times velocity. The best analogy: When a Ford F250 hits a Prius, the Prius is destroyed and the F250 suffers relatively little damage because it's mass overcomes the mass of the Prius (literally pushing through it) and the results are not pretty. The Ford suffers little damage and the next of kin in the Prius get a sad phone call. It happens every day.
Should DAT make a single misstep, get blind-sided, or (God forbid) decide to lower his head at a 250lb linebacker coming at him at a velocity equal to or greater than his own, the force of impact will be enough to overcome ligaments, tendons, and bones. It takes exactly one hit. This is the exact reason NFL scouts discount small, fast players as a risk. They are prone to injury because they simply do not have the mass to compete at the next level.
@Mahunashizzle @Duckbill DAT's plenty tough and has run hard inside his entire career. Some of his biggest plays have come on inside runs (the 96-yard dash in the Rose Bowl, for example) and he was very effective picking his way through the defense in both the Stanford and Oregon State games last fall, 17 carries for 122 yards versus the Beavs, 7 for 43 versus The Cardinal. What scares some people is how he gets tossed and thrown around on some carries. He's the most dangerous weapon in college football, but at the same time he's 5-9, 169 on the program, and may be smaller than that. The Ducks have to keep his touches in the 15-20 range, or risk wearing him down.
@Duckbill Fisher's injury is a concern, and a situation to watch. Benyard and Andre Y are next up.
@SonomaDuck @Dale Newton @duckified Looks like maybe they wanted to work on and establish that part of the game to make more room for those possession throws later on. 500 yards rushing is a big day against anyone, most ever in school history. Ducks ran very few bubble screens, hooks or slants in this game; the passing was predominantly vertical, and that could change later.
I believe the refs are going to give the ball carrier the benefit of the doubt when there is a close decision. Why can't the players be taught to tackle with their hands and arms rather than their head? All you have to do is stick out your arms out if front of you when you launch yourself at someone and not aim for the head. I know Mitchell was already airborne but if he had his hands out front, he might not have been ejected.
@Duckbill @SonomaDuck @Dale Newton @duckified As I look at the replay of that hit, Mitchell launches himself before Hebert starts his slide. A player can't afford to lead with the helmet, but I don't think this was head-hunting. It looks bad at full speed. Take it frame-by-frame, and Mitchell's making a football play that turned out to be a bad collision. He was diving at his legs, and they hit heads.
I'm not trying to make excuses or minimize the importance of safety and respecting the new rule. I'm just suggesting and trying to illustrate how the rule puts defenders in a very difficult spot. They're reading and reacting in a violent game.
But yes, absolutely, the players have to understand how serious this is. When games against Washington, UCLA and Stanford come around, the Ducks need Ifo, Mitchell, Dargan, Jackson and Patterson on the field, not disqualified by a flagrant foul.
@SonomaDuck @Dale Newton @duckified It's something they have to take way more seriously than that. What if the opponent had been Stanford or Washington. A winning sideline is always good to be a loose, happy place, but this targeting rule is a big deal. Someone will lose a key player and a big game this season with a targeting foul.
@duckified @SonomaDuck The Ducks have always been an aggressive hitting team. I remember big highlights by Kenny Rowe or Eddie Pleasant versus Stanford WR Chris Owusu, big plays that would risk ejection under the new rule. Teams and players have to adjust and change their technique, because the rule isn't going away.
@Duckbill @Dale Newton Rodrigues impressed me. He took off for a 27-yard run and zipped two tight spirals for big completions to Chance Allen the second for a td. He has a pro arm. Lots of fans and readers here like Lockie and I can see why--he's heady and he battles, but I watch Rodrigues throw and run and I see a future star in this conference. He has better tools, in my opinion. The secret to the success of the spread is that it makes the defense defend the whole field and account for the quarterback running and throwing. JR has the potential to stretch the field vertically, throw the 20-25 out route with precision, and beat opponents with his legs.
But the two of them will get an extended audition this September, and coaches will have a better idea. They can win with either one of them in the future.
@zduckfan @Mahunashizzle @Duckbill Helfrich has been asked numerous times how many carries DAT can handle, and he says, "You never want to know what that number is" meaning he wants to keep him in a range that keeps him healthy and at full speed. They want to feature him and make defenses account for him without wearing him down.
@rgyle @Dale Newton @hoboduck Ducks let up a little after a big early lead, played looser, and emptied the bench, trying out new combinations. Charlie Stubbs and the Nicholls staff did a good job of adjusting, countering the Ducks aggressiveness with underneath routes, screens and draws. The Colonel players kept battling; they didn't quit the way New Mexico did in 2010. Oregon's linebackers have to react better in coverage. Still like Nick Aliotti said, you can't complain much about 66-3. They'll need to keep getting better, and the whole organization knows that.
@Duckbill @Dale Newton @SonomaDuck The Virginia is important particularly because this is when most teams make the most improvement, week one to week two. Ducks have to adjust, learn and refocus. They won't have any games that are as easy as this first one was, although they may have others that are one-sided. Virginia is the only game they can win this week.
@Duckbill @Dale Newton @Mahunashizzle Pellum and Aliotti rotated a lot of players at outside linebacker in particular, getting a good look at a number of kids. Nicholls punted 7 times and lost fumbles twice, turned the ball over on downs once, but in between they kept the ball for 40 minutes. The Ducks definitely did not succeed in tiring out their defense, just outrunning it.