Oregon Football: Grading All 22 Starters from the USC Game
Quite a night in the L.A. Coliseum for the Oregon Ducks and their thousands and thousands of fans who travelled south for the big game with the USC Trojans.
It must be said that the Coliseum is a spectacular setting for college football. The tailgating scene is big time, and the historic 1932 structure is imposing. USC's traditions, while somewhat stodgy to high-flying Duck fans, are a big part of who they are.
Personally, I'd take a Harley over a horse any day. But I did enjoy the helicopter flyover.
In a game of stark contrasts between offensive and defensive performances, let's look at how Oregon's starters on each side of the ball did.
Josh Huff: A-
I've been a little hard on Josh Huff all season, primarily because I don't think his blocking is up to the Ducks' standards.
But who cares about blocking when you have an offensive performance like Huff's? His six receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns was absolutely Huff's best game of the year, and about darn time.
The minus behind his A grade is for the unnecessary late-hit penalty he received.
Daryle Hawkins: A
With Kenjon Barner hogging the ball for most of the game, all you can do when your wide receiver number is called is catch the ball and score a touchdown.
Daryle Hawkins did just that, and for that one brilliant play, he gets an A. He also had two other receptions for a total of 35 yards on the night.
Tyler Johnstone: A
On a night when the Ducks offense was unstoppable, you will see good grades for the big guys up front.
Tyler Johnstone at left tackle did his job superbly. Please go to the head of the class, Tyler.
Ryan Clanton: A
While it seems as if all Ryan Clanton does is hold up Kenjon Barner and De'Anthony Thomas in the end zone, he really does much more when Oregon has the ball.
Right guard Clanton also gets an A for his work in holding off the USC D-line.
Hroniss Grasu: A
No mistakes from center Hroniss Grasu last night. I like that in a center.
Nick Cody: A
Right guard Nick Cody protected his side of the field extremely well against the Trojans. Cody is part of an O-line unit that has really come together in most excellent fashion as the Ducks' season has progressed.
Give this dude an A, too.
Jake Fisher: A
Along with right guard Nick Cody, Jake Fisher was awesome on the right side. Kenjon Barner owes these guys dinner.
Grade A, and well done Fisher.
Colt Lyerla: C+
I'm not sure if this grade of C+ for Colt Lyerla is fair or not, because I don't know if he was injured after the first quarter. Or if because Josh Huff was so hot, Lyerla was put on hold for this game.
But, in any event, Lyerla had only one reception for 13 yards, which is average by his standards.
We'll give him the C+ for the benefit of the doubt.
Will Murphy: C+
Will Murphy gets the same grade as Lyerla for the same reason. Murphy caught only one pass for six yards.
You have to assume, however, that with Kenjon Barner running roughshod over the Trojans the entire game, and with the emergence of Josh Huff at receiver, that Lyerla and Murphy just didn't get the opportunities in this one.
Marcus Mariota: A+++++++++++++
Marcus Mariota's performance was as close to perfect as a college quarterback can get. His passing stats would be amazing for an experienced senior QB in a crucial road game, but for a freshman to put up these kind of numbers is nothing short of stunning.
Mariota was 20-of-23 passing for 304 yards and four touchdowns. Oh, and he had no interceptions (old man Matt Barkley had two.) And when The Flyin' Hawaiian wasn't being nearly perfect throwing the football, he ran it for 96 total yards.
A+ performance and more.
Kenjon Barner: A+++++++++++++
All Kenjon Barner did was set the all-time Los Angeles Coliseum record for rushing by an opponent. How does 321 yards rushing with five touchdowns sound?
Yeah, pretty decent outing by LaMichael James' buddy. Add 26 yards in receptions for a grand total of 347 yards.
Barner was slick, efficient, cool, tough, silky and virtually unstoppable. If there is a better running back in the country, show yourself.
Taylor Hart: B
Taylor Hart is the only member of Oregon's defensive unit whose name I can stand to say today.
In a very shoddy overall performance—right when they had the national stage to finally show how good a unit they've become this season—the Ducks defense dropped a bomb. Only Hart with his one sack of Trojan QB Matt Barkley and otherwise solid play distinguished himself at all.
Without the sack, Hart would have been graded a C, but we were so happy to finally see Barkley on the ground that it's worth a B.
Isaac Remington: D
Defensive tackle Isaac Remington might as well have stayed suspended. The big guy had only one tackle all game, and was a non-factor on the D-line.
Very disappointing—solid D grade. Remington is only one of the D-linemen who had better figure things out before the Stanford game.
Wade Keliikipi: C
The other Oregon DT, Wade Keliikipi, didn't do much better than Remington. Keliikipi had four tackles, two of them solo, in what was a very average performance by him.
It just seemed as if Oregon's tackles weren't very interested in tackling. I hope that's not a trend.
Dion Jordan: C-
Even with his recent shoulder injury, I expected Dion Jordan to have a huge game against the Trojans. He had to have been extremely frustrated to miss last year's game with USC in Autzen, and his absence was often mentioned as one of the reasons Matt Barkley was able to throw uncontested.
So, I figured Jordan would come blasting around the end and level the Trojan QB time and again. Didn't happen.
Perhaps he is nursing that shoulder injury, and it affected his play. However, I can only grade on what I saw, and Jordan was the epitome of average Saturday night.
Kiko Alonso: B
The top tackler (10) on a defense that didn't appear to want to tackle anyone, Kiko Alonso is one Duck defender who didn't completely stink Saturday.
Alonso's one interception was a nice grab, especially considering his injury. Still, this is the first game all year where I wouldn't have given Alonso an A. But make no mistake, at least he came to play and was somewhat disruptive to the Trojan offensive machine.
Michael Clay: C
Linebacker Michael Clay was steady, but certainly not as much of a presence as he is capable of being. Clay had seven tackles but let too many Trojan players get by him.
In a game where the entire defensive unit played below their capabilities, I would hope that a senior leader like Clay would really step up and show how it's done.
Instead, we got average from Clay.
Boseko Lokombo: D
This is a photo of Boseko Lokombo in happier times.
Was it just me, or was Lokombo practically invisible Saturday? I don't understand why Oregon's linebackers weren't more noticeable in this game.
Normally I would put Alonso, Clay and Lokombo up against any team's linebackers. But they all looked a step slower than usual and somewhat confused.
Here's hoping they figure out what happened and why before next weekend.
Terrance Mitchell: F
Man-oh-man. Two years in a row Terrance Mitchell gets totally smoked by the likes of Marqise Lee and Robert Woods.
I really like Mitchell. I admire his talent and his quiet confidence in his ability. But I was literally hiding my eyes every time the Trojans came at him.
This was a total breakdown by a really good cornerback, and I can't explain it. Yes, the competition was terrific, and Mitchell did have eight tackles overall. However, his tackles were usually too little and too late, and I can't count the times he missed completely.
Just a really grim night for Mitchell, and there is no other way to spin it. When do Lee and Woods head to the NFL?
Ifo Ekpre-Olomu: C
And this photo pretty much represents Ifo Ekpre-Olomu's night.
Although IEO did better on his side than Terrance Mitchell did on his, it was far from his best performance. Ekpre-Olomu had nine tackles, three breakups and one nice interception.
All that sounds good, but it was far less prettier to watch than the stats say. IEO has been so outstanding this year, that an average game from him does not meet Duck fans' lofty expectations of him. It could have been worse, but it should have been so much better.
Avery Patterson: D
Where in the heck were the Oregon safeties last night? How on earth did USC keep getting all those explosion plays? Do they need to look up the definition of "safety" in the dictionary?
Avery Patterson had six tackles and one breakup. Most of the time he just stood there while the player blew past him. Ugh.
I can only imagine how John Boyett felt watching this game.
Brian Jackson: D+
This is Brian Jackson laying on the ground failing to stop running back Curtis McNeal.
I rest my case. Jackson did have eight tackles, but they weren't at the right time or in the right situation.
Nick Aliotti is going to have a field day watching film with his guys this week, and there are going to be many, many embarrassing moments for his audience. Since the Ducks got the big win, the defense might get some laughs at each other's expense.
But this defensive performance was no laughing matter.
Special Teams: F
Bad kickoff and punt return coverages.
Missed PAT (for the first time all year.)
Missed field goal. Rob Beard doesn't get many opportunities to strut his stuff in Chip Kelly's offense. He finally gets to kick one, and c'mon man, you hook it?
If you are an Oregon fan you are very, very happy that this game did not come down to special teams.
While the grades for the defensive starters and special teams are low, it has to be said that the Ducks did win the game. That means they are so good and so fast as a team that they can overcome bad individual performances.
That's the sign of a great team.
Kay Jennings is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.