Ducks run past Bulldogs in first half, face second half growing pains
A 17-point victory is nothing to hang one’s head about. It also wasn’t the result most Duck fans had in mind when Oregon faced Fresno State Saturday afternoon.
For the second week in a row the Ducks jetted out to a big lead, leading 35-3 in the second quarter. Also, for the second week in a row, the Ducks left the door open for the opposition to fill up their stat books and put some points on the board, with the final score at 42-25.
“There were positives that you can take out of the second half, but we still need to continue to build,” said Ducks head coach Chip Kelly. “We are still a young team, and we are learning by every new experience we have.”
Oregon had plenty of “new experiences” against Fresno State. First, the Bulldogs proved to be a higher caliber squad than the one the Ducks faced last week in Arkansas State. The Bulldogs made their hits count, flocked to the ball and whiffed on few tackles. They passed for 234 yards and rushed for 131.
In addition to a fiercer challenge, this was the first game Oregon’s fall starters — for the most part — played the entire game.
This is the greater cause for concern, as Oregon allowed points with their top lineup in.
In the second half, Oregon fumbled three times, allowed three sacks and punted three more times.
The second act, as Duck players and coaches said after the game, was a reminder that Oregon is human. The offensive line was battered and the front five was modified as the game progressed to accommodate. The Ducks went scoreless in the third quarter and touchdowns didn’t take their usual seconds.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota took his first big hits, including one blindsided monster that caused him to fumble. But the first-year starter kept getting up.
“It felt good to take those hits,” Mariota said. “It is nice to know you can take those and get back up.”
Duck fans saw a lot more of punter Jackson Rice than they had hoped to, but Kelly was quick to remind people that the Ducks offense isn’t invincible.
“We sputter at times and we’re not going to score on every possession for the entire season,” Kelly said. “We make mistakes some times and that is what we have to get
Mistakes from the first team are to be expected but for a team that scores with ease at times, growing pains are unfamiliar. Yet despite losing veteran starters Josh Huff and Carson York to injury, despite having to punt, and despite turning the ball over, Oregon finished strong.
Capping a career day, tailback Kenjon Barner scored one more TD for the Ducks, ending a 77-yard, 11 play, and nearly six-minute drive.
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