Oregon can handle a punch to the mouth: The one thing that most pundits will tell you about tough road tests is to not turn the ball over and play good defense. Within the first minute of the ball game, Oregon failed on both accounts. A botched handoff led to an early fumble and the Ducks defense surrendered a touchdown on Arizona State’s first play from scrimmage, putting them in a 7-0 hole. A recipe for disaster, right?
Well, two plays later, Oregon running back Kenjon Barner streaked 71-yards untouched to the end zone, which started a streak of 43 unanswered points by the Ducks in 14 minutes that left the Sun Devils wondering what happened. It’s not often that a game is over early in the second quarter — especially in conference play — but Oregon found a way to make Arizona State look like Arkansas State on Thursday night.
Marcus Mariota still looks like a freshman, but he shows flashes of veteran play: Mariota’s early fumble looked costly at first. Oregon didn’t want to be down early during their first stiff test on the road, but they found themselves in that position less than a minute into the game. But, Mariota responded with a touchdown pass, rushing touchdown, and — oddly — a receiving touchdown.
Bryan Bennett was able to connect with Mariota on a two-yard…hook pass if you will, late in the first quarter to put the Ducks up 22-7. After that, Mariota unleashed a beautiful fake handoff that led to an 86-yard touchdown keeper to essentially ice the game in the first half. While he continued to show issues with reads, Mariota also proved he could handle a road challenge and that he can recover from mistakes quicker than in previous weeks. In short…it’s progress.
The Defense Is Getting Better By The Week: After the early score, Oregon’s defense clamped down and was airtight. The Sun Devils went scoreless until Anthony Jones returned an interception 36-yards for a touchdown with 9:33 left in the fourth quarter. In between that time, the Ducks forced three of their four interceptions on the night, all of which the offense turned into touchdowns.
Avery Patterson came about a yard short of his third pick-six of the in as many games and the Ducks defense was able to force four sacks on the night, two of which came from Dion Jordan. Yes, Oregon is known as the team with a flashy offense, but the Ducks defense has outplayed the offense all season and tonight was another example. You cannot put a national championship contender together without a defense (see: West Virginia), and Oregon is certainly taking care of business on that front through seven games.