No. 24-ranked Oregon defeated Virginia 44-26 in front of a not-quite-sold-out Autzen Stadium crowd on Saturday night.
A win is a win. But tonight’s 44-26 win over Virginia, as well as Oregon’s win against UC Davis, have been different.
In recent seasons, Oregon has been known to trounce its preseason opponents. So far this season, the wins that Oregon has gotten have not achieved the level of domination that the coaches, players or fans are used to. With one offseason game remaining, many are wondering if Oregon will take it to the next level and “slam the door shut” against Nebraska on Saturday.
“Solid and victory are two words we like,” Mark Helfrich said after the game. “Coulda, woulda, shoulda just slammed the door shut on a bunch of different occasions in every phase, offensively and defensively.
“For the most part, not satisfied, but pleased.”
The Oregon offense started out slow, but gradually gained momentum as the game went on. After punting on the first drive, Oregon scored on four consecutive drives to build a 30-6 lead going into half.
Running back Royce Freeman scored the first touchdown for Oregon, giving the Ducks a 6-0 lead. The Ducks went for two, but were unable to convert. Fellow running back Tony Brooks-James scored next for Oregon, followed by Dwayne Stanford, Pharaoh Brown and a field goal by Aidan Schneider.
With a 24-point lead coming out of half — the was the point where the Ducks usually take it to the opposing team and increase their lead. Oregon did continue to score, but the Oregon defense allowed Virginia to score, as well. Despite dominating runs like Devon Allen’s 77-yard touchdown and Freeman’s 85-yard touchdown, the Ducks were still only leading by 24 going into the fourth quarter with a score of 44-20.
As the fourth quarter progressed, Virginia was the only team able to put more points on the board after scoring on a passing touchdown with 7:28 remaining on the clock.
Oregon’s winning margin of just 18 points is the type of score you’d normally see Oregon achieve against a Pac-12 opponent, not a struggling ACC team with a new head coach and a losing record.
Despite the underwhelming victory, the Ducks made a lot of improvements from week one to two and had some big plays.
After two turnovers last week, the Ducks had zero against Virginia.
After Freeman didn’t surpass the 100-yard benchmark that has become an expectation of him, he rushed for 210 yards on 21 attempts for two touchdowns.
The Ducks were great in the red zone, scoring on all five opportunities, and went 9-of-14 in third-down conversions.
On top of scoring a lot of points, the Ducks have been known for their high-speed tempo, something they showed huge progress in since playing UC Davis. Quarterback Dakota Prukop was unsatisfied with the tempo against UC Davis, but said his offensive achieved its “main goals.”
“Play at a fast tempo, play at our tempo, play at Oregon tempo — I definitely think we did that tonight,” Prukop said.
Prukop had 21 completions for 331 yards in his second showing as a Duck.
The Ducks ended the night with 632 yards of offense, while the Cavaliers had 388.
Oregon will look to make major strides in its first away game Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska, against the Cornhuskers.