The Oregon Ducks' march to bigger and better things in the college football world continued Thursday night, as the Ducks smacked Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz., winning 43-21.
Sparky's Sun Devils put up a battle, but it was clear early on that ASU just didn't have the firepower or the depth to keep up with the Ducks for long. ASU shouldn't feel bad; Oregon has destroyed everyone in its path all year.
On a beautiful night in the Southwest desert, we learned much about both teams.
Here's my take.
The Ducks are now 7-0.
They are fast, mean and efficient.
Their offense does whatever it wants, and they have too many weapons to stop.
Their defense is scary good—and getting better every week.
Oregon has now played three teams who were ranked in either the AP or the coaches' Top 25.
What more can the Ducks do, oh great BCS computers?
There should be no further questions.
What a shame we didn't get to watch Will Sutton play Thursday night. The big guy went down early in the game and spent most of it with ice on his leg and on crutches.
Sutton is a terrific defensive tackle, though, and he will be highly successful at the next level.
Will Sutton will succeed.
Coming into this game, Kenjon Barner had rushed for 727 yards and nine touchdowns. Against Arizona State, he added 143 yards on 16 carries and three TDs.
Barner was unstoppable against the nation's eighth-ranked defense. Yes, I understand that Will Sutton might have made a difference, but the truth is that ASU's defensive weakness has been stopping the run.
Barner took advantage of the Sun Devils' weak inside-zone coverage. If he continues this pace and keeps doing what he's doing to help Oregon win, he deserves to be in the Heisman conversation.
During the preseason, I thought Taylor Kelly was third in a three-way race to be the Sun Devils' starting quarterback.
Boy, was I a dope. Kelly has turned out to be a terrific choice for Todd Graham's new offense.
However, it was painfully clear that Kelly is not quite ready for prime time. To be fair, Oregon's defensive front seven mauled ASU's O-line, but Kelly didn't make great decisions either.
Kelly is a tough kid; you have to give him that. But his stats as the Pac-12's leading QB are going down as a result of his play against Oregon. Kelly went only 10-of-18 passing for 93 yards before being pulled for Michael Eubank.
I don't know if Marcus Mariota's numbers (No. 2-rated QB in the Pac-12 coming into this game) will move him past Kelly in the QB efficiency ratings or not.
I do know who the best QB on the field was in this game.
One could make the case that Oregon's first-team defense did not allow any points against Arizona State.
ASU's first touchdown came as a result of an Oregon offensive fumble that gave the Sun Devils great field position.
The second-half ASU touchdowns came against the Ducks' reserve defensive players. It should be pointed out that two of those reserves got interceptions. For the record, Oregon is now tied with TCU (Fear the Frog) for second-most interceptions in the nation at 14. Special shout-out to Avery Patterson: He has interceptions in three consecutive games.
In addition to the damage Oregon's secondary did to Taylor Kelly and his receivers, the Ducks' front seven were unblockable all night. They swarmed to the ball on every play and really made Kelly harmless.
The people out there who say Oregon is "all flash and dash and no D" are either fools or haven't watched this team play.
I thought Todd Graham was the worst hire of the four new Pac-12 head coaches. In fact, I wasn't convinced that Dennis Erickson needed to go.
I was wrong.
Graham has brought energy, discipline and motivation to the desert. He has his team believing they can win the Pac's South Division—and they still might.
Graham's team has already exceeded expectations for the year. Sure, tonight was a setback, but the Sun Devils still have much to play for. Graham will keep them focused on the task ahead, and he's the right man for this job.
Night game. ESPN. Amped-up, blacked-out Arizona State fans. This game had all the trappings of an upset waiting to happen.
Oregon has had the habit of taking excited fans and making them real quiet, real quick for the past several years. Thursday night was no exception.
The Oregon Ducks couldn't care less. You can't stop the Quack Attack with enthusiasm alone. You need talented players on the field.
So far, no team has had enough of those.
When Marcus Mariota is done playing football for the Oregon Ducks, I hope he doesn't go to the NFL.
I want him to take over for Daniel Craig in the James Bond movies. He's just so darn cool.
Mariota does whatever it takes to win. Thursday night, he scored touchdowns passing, running and receiving—yes, that's right, a triple-threat QB. His 86-yard touchdown run was the longest by a quarterback in school history and the fifth-longest by any player.
When you watch this redshirt freshman, you have to keep reminding yourself that he's still a teenager. He has the poise of a much more experienced quarterback.
Not shaken. Not stirred. Just smooth.
If there has been one rap on the Ducks this season, it's that their special teams play has been average.
Apparently, they can read. This was the best overall performance by Oregon's special teams units to date.
Kicker Alejandro Maldonado was spectacular tonight, averaging 62.9 yards on kickoffs. The Ducks' punt-return coverage was very good, holding ASU to just 29 total yards. The Sun Devils got 118 yards on kickoff returns, but the Ducks kept them to a respectable minimum average.
Jackson Rice was superb on punts, and Rob Beard was once again perfect on PATs. And of course, the Rice-to-Beard pass for the two-point conversion on the Ducks' first TD was pure beauty.
There's one thing we still didn't learn in this game: What's up with De'Anthony Thomas?
While DAT is definitely contributing to the Ducks' success, he's just not putting up the numbers fans would like to see. Thursday, he had only 25 yards rushing on 12 carries, by far his lowest production of the season. He also picked up only four yards receiving and, for the first time I can remember, did not score a TD in the game.
Is the SI curse for real?
Is he being used more effectively as a decoy?
Is Chip Kelly saving DAT for a game in which the Ducks really need him?
I was hopeful that Oregon would solve the DAT riddle against ASU. I guess it's to be continued.
But for now, it's on to the next victim—er, opponent—for the Ducks.