10. Royce Freeman trucks Cal linebacker
It’s only right to start this list with a boom, and that’s exactly what freshman running back Royce Freeman put on California linebacker Jake Kearney. At the point of contract Kearney was already in trouble while Freeman threw his arms as if saying “get off me little man.”
9. Mariota’s Heisman-leap
It was hard not to see Mariota’s Heisman-like pose while jumping over Oregon State’s Justin Strong in the first half, shot by the Register-Guard’s Brian Davies. It was one of those plays that Mariota does often but still makes those watching say, “no way.”
8. Charles Nelson’s 58-yard punt return against Cal
Nelson, resembling a former Duck who wore number 6, received the ball from Oregon’s 42-yard line and ran towards the Oregon sideline. It got crowded, really crowded. He jabbed left, right, left and found a hole. Then he jumped to his left around a defender and sprinted into the end zone, touchdown.
7. Erick Dargan’s interception against MSU
It was only in the first quarter, but it was a big play at the time. Dargan’s interception led to Oregon’s first scoring drive against No. 7 Michigan State in their second game of the season. However for Dargan, he got creamed at the end of the play by Jack Conklin, a 6-foot-6, 303-pound offensive lineman.
6. Tony Washington’s hit on UCLA’s Brett Hundley
When Washington got the chance to hit Hundley, he hit him hard. Washington forced a fumble in the sack, which was recovered by Tui Talia. Mariota would score the game’s first touchdown on the very next play. For the first time in a while, the Oregon defense made a statement.
5. Momentum shifts after Mariota’s pitch to Freeman
With just over 20 minutes remaining in the game and third-and-11 facing the Ducks, who had gone scoreless in their last five drives, Michigan State brought the blitz. Somehow Mariota escaped the pocket and shoveled the ball to Freeman for a 17-yard gain and a first down.
4. Joe Walker 100-yard fumble return against Utah
After a 78-yard completion from Travis Wilson, Kaelin Clay dropped the ball, literally, at the goal line. Erick Dargan recovered the ball, fumbled it and Oregon linebacker Joe Walker picked it up and ran 100 yards for a touchdown. The game was never the same.
3. Mariota’s touchdown flip over Wyoming
With the help of a good block from Keanon Lowe Mariota, after scrambling right from Wyoming’s 25-yard line, dove and flipped over the front pylon of the end zone. There was a giant sense of relief when Mariota rose undamaged.
2. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu’s diving interception
There was just over 8 minutes left in regulation when Michigan State was getting back in the game they were trailing by just 12 points At Oregon’s 31-yard line Connor Cook’s pass to a covered AJ Troup was tipped and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu read it perfectly. Olomu continued to run towards Oregon’s end zone and dove with full-extension and reached the ball, which sealed Oregon’s win.
1. Mariota’s goodbye to Autzen Stadium
Early in the fourth quarter Mariota, alone, jogged off the field to be replaced by back-up quarterback Jeff Lockie. He received a standing ovation from the Oregon fans in what was likely his final moments at Autzen Stadium.
Follow Andrew Bantly on Twitter @andrewbantly