The Prelims are over, and they went exactly like they were supposed to. Oregon demolished five weak teams and earned a 5-0 record and a #2 ranking in the polls. Marcus Mariota emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate with 14 touchdowns passing and 7 rushing. He has not had a fumble or a pick.
Saturday against the Buffaloes, Mariota passed for five scores and ran for two, the seven touchdowns setting a modern Oregon record for productivity in one game. Seven touchdowns. That's Ernie Nevers, Red Grange territory, legendary, back-of-the-Wheaties-box stuff. After the game the 19-year-old from Honolulu (his birthday is October 30th, between the UCLA and Stanford games) was his typical modest self, praising his receivers, coaches and offensive line, patiently answering that he didn't mind sitting out fourth quarters because his backups worked so hard in practice.
Open range: He'd look more Heisman-like if extended his right arm in the famous stiff arm pose, but Marcus Mariota is more concerned with getting the yards, protecting the ball and running the next play than winning awards (Ron Chenoy USA TODAY Sports photo.)
In every way Mariota is the anti-Manziel. He does things with the minimum of flair or self-aggrandizement. He's preternaturally calm and unaffected by being one of the biggest stars in college football. Keith Price and Kevin Hogan get just as much credit for being three-quarters as good, and part of the reason is that Mariota does his work with such ease and efficiency that it seems effortless; he's like an Olympic diver that enters the water so smoothly he scarcely upsets the surface.
The Ducks are like that too. Saturday afternoon in Boulder they led 29-10 after the first quarter, 57-16 by the end of the third, and parked the offense in the fourth. Everybody played except De'Anthony Thomas in a boot. Colt Lyerla was left home for unspecified disciplinary reasons. Duck fans got a glimpse of the future, with Sam Kamp, Alex Balducci, Torrodney Prevot, and Reggie Daniels recording tackles.
Colorado competed furiously. They tried an onside kick to open the game and a clever pooch kick later. They scored on a wide receiver reverse pass, went for it on fourth downs, and heaved the ball deep, completing just 12 passes in 34 tries. A couple of the Buffs gave outstanding efforts: linebacker Addison Gilliam roamed and raged, tacking up 15 tackles, the fiercest defender on either sideline. Paul Richardson, their sleek outside receiver, caught 5 passes for 134 yards, one a diving one-handed grab down the left sideline with Ifo Ekpre-Olomu pulling on his right arm to prevent another touchdown. He also shot-putted the 75-yard reverse option throw to D.D. Goodson, only the second touchdown and the seventh reception of Goodson's college career.
After the game, Colorado coach Mike McIntyre told Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera, "We talked about, 'Don't stick your toe in the water.' You know how sometimes the pool is cold? You go, 'I don't know if I want to get in.' Well you can do that with Oregon. You know, 'Do I want to go play?' We dove right in the pool and we started swimming.
"... I was pleased with how hard we played. I was pleased with our fight. I was pleased with our aggressiveness. I thought we did some good things."
The Buffaloes were brave and determined, but Oregon was too talented. Jeff Lockie took a knee at the Colorado two at the end of the game.
Last night in the PAC-12 nightcap Stanford defeated Washington 31-28. Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan was just 12-20 passing for 100 yards and an interception. The Washington defense held The Cardinal to 279 (they're allowing about 280 a game) but Tyler Montgomery had two long kickoff returns to spark the win. Washington scored three touchdowns in the second half and rallied furiously with two more late drives. One ended at the Stanford 5 when Keith Price's pass was deflected at the line into the arms of inside linebacker A.J. Tarpley. Their last drive ended at the Stanford 49 needing a field goal to tie with a minute, thirty seconds to play, Price's pass to Kevin Smith on 4th and 10 ruled an incompletion by the replay official after an agonizing deliberation. The ball appeared to squirt out from under Smith's chest pad, but the evidence was fuzzy and fleeting, a jury-rigged, unsatisfying ending to a beautifully brutal game, like two heavyweight fighters trading punches in the 15th round.
The Cardinal didn't look like an offensive juggernaut, but they sacked the Washington quarterback five times and had ten tackles for loss. Even though neither of these teams looked complete enough or fast enough to stay with the Ducks, it's likely that each will be as urgent and aggressive as the Buffaloes were yesterday. Both have enough talent to make it close and pressure-packed, something the Ducks haven't experienced since they lost to Stanford last November.
Um, What about K-State? They were talented, but Oregon destroyed them too...
Look, I don't think any of these teams were easy, save for Nicholls. Each team Oregon played has presented a different facet of the game without possessing the entire package. Virginia had beaten a fast spread O. Tennessee had a big, SEC style O-line. Cal had a great passing attack but apparently never played in the rain, and Colorado had a genuine deep threat, DAT-like player in Richardson that tested the secondary and showed them some speed. They all tested a first year head coach, the play-calling ability of Frost, and helped shatter the stigma of the loss of The Brain, CK, and how that meant the end of greatness and the beginning of woe in the land of green and gold and white and neon yellow and black and silver and... Well, you get the idea.
So what has Oregon accomplished so far? Not much I guess.
Oregon is the first team in Oregon history to score 50 or more in their first 5 games. They're first in ESPN's Team Performance Index at 144.19, ahead of Stanford, Alabama, and Baylor. They are 2nd in points against and 2nd in points for. Third in rushing yards, 24th in passing, and that's without their starting running back or their All-American tight end for two full games and a quarterback who "hasn't had a 'good' game yet" but leads the Heisman race and just put up nearly 400 yards and 7 scores on a surprisingly inspired Colorado team. With his own feet. And was polite enough to hand the ball to the referee like a gentleman after faking out the entire defense, the cameraman, and both announcers, and somehow managed to refrain from rubbing his fingers together in mock money gestures at the defensive players who didn't know where the ball was until he handed it to the ref. Yeah. Not much.
Each time the Ducks face an opponent (besides Nicholls), that opponent is portrayed as the antidote for the quirky, enigmatic team that just shouldn't be as good as it is, and each time, the Ducks break them down to their base components and discard them by halftime. A Tennessee team that took #7 Georgia into overtime? Consumed, digested, and evacuated by the Ducks, and it was over at the half. True, one has to be careful when extrapolating the possible success of one team based upon the outcome of that team playing another team, but the SEC does it all the time, so it is what it is. If Georgia wonders what would have happened to them had they kept their date in Autzen this year, maybe they don't have to wonder so hard anymore. They would have been sitting on the sideline with that "wtf just happened" look on their face, just like everyone else.
Look, this team plays with determination, has fun, and wins with grace. They don't mock. They don't belittle. They don't disrespect. They just win by 30+, and yet there are still those who try to take all that away with, "they haven't played anyone yet." Maybe they have, and maybe they haven't. Only time will tell, but what they've put on the field so far deserves a helluva lot more respect that what they get, even from the media in their home state. Am I a biased homer? Maybe. Do they deserve more respect than they get, even from their own fans who wonder what's wrong if they don't score 100? Hell yeah! I'm nearly at my breaking point with disdain....
I'm sorry Dale, I didn't see any of these games (outside of Nicholls) as being prelims. Ask any player on the team what their biggest challenge is, and they will tell you it is them, not the opponent they face. All of these stats don't matter to the players, but they are a measure of what this team is capable of, and it is capable of tremendous things on any given Saturday, the same way it is with everyone else in this league. W's matter. Nothing else. And they are winning. Are you not entertained?
OK, now things get serious. Huskies played very good @ Stanford and there's no doubt they know it. Even if they got a little banged up this week, they'll be plenty dangerous (I really mean it - seriously dangerous) for our visit next week. Or game was not televised in this neck of the woods, but my feeling is that our defensive secondary is going to need and get a little extra coaching this week. Offense needs to be stoked up and revving on series 1, play 1 to take the advantage of initiative to our side. I would like to see DAT suited up and ready for play/decoy as needed, and only as needed. This could be as much of a nail biter as any we've played in the past few seasons.
One game at a time. Huskies up next with a 1:00pm kickoff and College Game Day is at the Washington/Oregon game. I think Oregon is too deep for the Huskies at almost all positions. I see some criticism of Marcus Mariota's completion percentage vs last year. It appears to me that we have a different passing game this year with lots more emphasis on the verticle game with potential big plays resulting. Last year we threw short outs, screens and some tight end close in. That will get you a higher completion percentage than the verticle game.
Heisman committee needs to change the trophy figure to a holographic replay of number 8 walking across the goal line and handing the ball to an official.
Furd and Fuskies aren't near the Ducks talent level overall. The Fuskies, including Price, got pretty well banged up and the starters had to play all four quarters. They're going to be sore and tired this week. I doubt if they can give that kind of performance two weeks in a row. The Ducks, on the other hand, are fully rested and focused. Ty Montgomery and Shayne Skov are the ones to contain in the Furd game and Sankey is the only one we need to be worried about in the Fuskies game as Price will throw at least one interception. The Fuskies looked better than I thought they would and Furd looked worse that I thought they would. I believe MM will be watching from the sidelines in the fourth quarter as the second string finishes the Fuskie game.
Just read this well put tweet. I guess Dan's with SBNation?
Agree that the Cardinal and Huskies looked pretty good, but not up to Ducks level yet, especially a full 4 quarters of Ducks at their best (something we'd all love to see, finally). I expect both to drop a notch or two in the polls.
The Vols almost beat #6 Georgia in Knoxville, losing by a FG in OT. Sure, the Ducks dominated Tennessee in Eugene, but the Vols are an SEC doormat no longer.
Got the Duck/Husky game all set to record. Should be a great battle. Hope FoxS1 has improved.
@zduckfan In terms of the level of competition and the sternness of the test, the next five games are a higher degree of difficulty and a step up in intensity. Anyone who mapped the season had the Ducks 5-0 after these five, and they were favored by 24 or more in every one of these games.
I keep hearing the Duck coaches say the team isn't playing up to capabilities. Isn't that the coaches job? Maybe the coaches should be practicing harder. It would be extremely disappointing to lose games because the coaches couldn't get the players to play up to their capabilities.
@MaineDuckFan MDF--Washington will very likely give their best effort of the season against Oregon after absorbing 9 defeats in 9 years. Husky seniors have absorbed three beatdowns. This is the best team they've had, and vastly improved on defense. A good start on the road is a huge benefit, especially with an amped crowd in a loud stadium.
@SonomaDuck Good point about the passing attack. Colorado crowded the line of scrimmage, and Mariota and his receivers made them pay with five tds and chunk plays downfield.
@SonomaDuck MM's decisions are getting better along with his total adjusted QBR.
The vertical game is more susceptible to interceptions as the ball is in the air longer, giving fast defensive backs time to get under them and make interceptions. I would like us to stay with what we've been doing which has resulted in zero interceptions and no losses.
@DrakeMallard Love that about Mariota, as Z points above, a characteristic of this team. Businesslike and classy.
@duckified Good points and this sums up my reaction as well:
"The Fuskies looked better than I thought they would and Furd looked worse that I thought they would."
@duckified From your keyboard to juju's ears.
@duckified I think Logan will be thinking he can scramble against the Ducks like he did so well last year in Eugene. I bet Nick Allioti has the D prepared for this.
@rgyle I was saying just about the same danged thing at halftime... If 29 points in the first quarter (QUARTER!) is a sloppy start, I'll eat my hat.
@rgyle They'll have their number one team of Gus Johnson and Charles Davis doing this game, so FoxSports1 will do a good job.
If Oregon plays to their potential and executes, they have the talent to go 4-0 in these next four.
I think zducks point is that no matter what the ducks do, it's never good enough for some people. I agree with him on that. Everybody knows that the 2nd half schedule is by far the meat, but that doesn't mean that they haven't been spectacular this year! They've won the day against faceless opponents so far this year and will do so again this week, even though the face is an ugly looking mutt!
@Dale Newton @zduckfan Dale, I don't think it's about mapping. Track the Ducks over the past 4 seasons and you'll see some variance. These Ducks do not waiver. It's end zone or bust, and they don't bust very often.
The very stat, "they were favored by 24 or more" is a misnomer. They have covered every spread, outperformed at every opportunity, through adversity and obstacle, until there was nothing left but a gaping deficit at the end of the half.
Why do we not believe? Why do we persist in doubting? Because we believe we are they? They who have given all that is within to achieve what nobody, to this date, has believed possible? What more have they yet to accomplish to silence the keyboards and cultivate what has been sewn?
Beat Washington? Beat Standford? Sure, I'll give you that, but what makes you believe they won't? Inconsistent play against teams who were projected to lose by those who get paid to make such predictions, yet never know who will play to their potential? Those guys got it right, but they never predicted THIS much accomplishment. Never THIS much dominance.
I'm not saying the Ducks are preordained, but I've come to the realization that they may be underestimated. That even in their perceived sloppiness and inefficiencies they really may be that much better than their foes. Washington will soon find out, and maybe then the rest of the world will know that finally, the Ducks have the full package and can go all the way.
Maybe I'm just a fan and want something which will never be, but I see a tenacity, a resilience in these Ducks that transcends prognostication. We will know for sure after Washington and Stanford whether or not I am right, but I think pressure makes diamonds, and this team is coal, just waiting for the opportunity to show what they can do. I'm tired of the doubt, the fear, and the inevitability of failure shown by so many, for so little failure and so much success. They have earned our respect and our trust on the field of dreams. Come what may, cry havok! And let loose the dogs of war.
@Dale Newton @MaineDuckFan Agree that this game is a big step up against a much improved Husky team in their freshly renovated (and to me already very cool-looking and imposing) stadium. They want revenge. Are the Ducks up to this challenge right now? I think we'll see an incredible game for 2-3 quarters with Oregon rising to a big win, exceeding (again) the 10-14 point Vegas odds. The first 5 games were preparation for this game, and more to come.
But in defense of the first 5 opponents, Nicholls is now 3-2 after 2 straight 1-win seasons. Virginia is 2-3, all vs. non-conf. teams (the main Ducks challenge here was flying 3000 miles to play in a foreign country). Tennessee is improving quickly, losing by only a FG in OT against #6 Georgia, and playing well in a 31-17 loss at then #19 Florida. Cal and Col are rebuilding and improving under new coaches, and good ones. Give them each a year or two.
@Duckbill @zduckfan @Dale Newton I'm commenting more about the "woe is us" crowd than anything. No Buster Douglas involved, just wanting the Ducks to get their due. I'm sure a little alcohol was involved as well. I blame Hemingway.
Most of the things you mention equal out against opponents during the year. They get injured too. They may start slow against inferior opponents and rise to the challenge in big games as well.
Lastly, I don't see the SEC as any more of a gladiator pit than the PAC... I doubt Alabama could beat Stanford this year. Last year it would have been a better game. Their puffball schedules have been hacked to death, so I'll leave it at that.
Bottom line? Expect the best and keep an open mind, but don't let your brain fall out. The Ducks will do what they have to do to compete. They always do.
@Duckbill @zduckfan @Dale Newton You keep saying 50%. Mariota's completion rate is 56.7 with an average per completion of 10.13 yards, and a quarterback rating of 176. He's the front runner for the Heisman Trophy with 14 tds and no interceptions, 202 attempts without an interception over the last two seasons. He's also run for 338 yards, 12.1 yards a carry and 7 touchdowns.
@zduckfan @Dale Newton The first five games featured an FCS school and four teams with losing records last season. The next four include three teams that are a combined 14-1, ranked 5th, 11th and 16th in the AP poll. It's a decided increase in the level of competition. The Ducks should handle it, but the challenge is markedly greater. Saturday at Husky Stadium figures to be a much more intense, charged atmosphere against an opponent with the ability to punch back.
I would use the term desperate instead of motivated. They know this is their last chance at respectability and they're going to be playing over their heads which leads to fumbles and interceptions. We won't have to win the game, they'll lose it, with penalties and turnovers from trying to overachieve.