SEATTLE — Where to even begin with this one.
For the second week in a row Chip Kelly’s Ducks looked downright sluggish for most of the first half, had a dynamite third quarter and walked away with a blowout win that some would say wasn’t as impressive as the final score indicated.
And that’s what makes it so impressive.
De’Anthony Thomas wasn’t De’Anthony Thomas. On more than one occasion he was stopped in the backfield. He had over 100 all-purpose yards, but only because Washington State actually had the cojones to kick to him. His longest play from scrimmage was 15 yards.
But football, as coach Kelly will tell you more times than you care to listen, is a team game, and that’s where the Ducks shined on Saturday night.
Kenjon Barner continued to develop into a workhorse back, finishing with 195 yards on 20 carries. Eight different receivers caught passes for the Ducks, just one fewer than Washington State despite the fact that the Cougars threw the ball twice as often as the Ducks. And when the 11 guys wasn’t enough, the other 11 stepped it up.
The same Oregon defense that has spent the last few years living in the admittedly undersized shadow of LaMichael James made a big impact on the game too, bringing Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday to the turf seven times, including three straight sacks near the close of the first half. Oh, and the pick-six (the Ducks’ third in two weeks) was pretty nice too.
Statistically it was a pretty weird game for the Ducks defense. They gave up 410 yards through the air but only gave up 402 total yards— no typo, that’s just what happens when a defense picks up seven sacks and averages seven yards per sack. Nick Aliotti’s crew stepped it up once again on third down, holding Washington State to 7-19 on third down conversions and holding firm both times the Cougars went for it on fourth.
In the red zone Oregon stepped it up again. They weren’t quite as good as they were against Arizona, but they held the Cougars to just 3-5 in red zone scoring with two of those three successful trips resulting in just three points each.
Marcus Mariota didn’t play well, but he managed the offense effectively in his first collegiate start away from Autzen Stadium throwing for 169 yards and a touchdown and yes, two interceptions. While those aren’t exactly the kind of numbers that leap out at you, they’re really not “bad” for a freshman quarterback.
And while 56 yards on nine attempts on the ground isn’t Heisman-esque it’s nothing to look down at. Mariota’s 13-yard scamper in the first quarter certainly falls under the “nifty” category, too. You know, the one where it looked for all the world as if he was about to be sacked for a loss then he used some fancy footwork to escape the hit, roll to the near sideline and book it downfield? Yeah, that one.
At the end of the day the Ducks are 5-0 no matter how you slice it. There are things to smooth out for sure, but in the end it’s pretty simple: the Ducks’ goal every time they step onto the field is to win — as Kelly says, “To be 1-0 on Saturday night” — and the Ducks have done just that five out of five times so far.
Not a bad start.