Oregon vs. Virginia: 10 Things We Learned from Ducks' Win
One week after posting a school-record 772 yards of total offense, No. 2 Oregon continued its offensive onslaught by throttling Virginia in a 59-10 win.
Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back De'Anthony Thomas accounted for three touchdowns apiece, and the defense forced Virginia into four turnovers in a game that got out of hand fairly early.
Meanwhile, Mike London and the Cavaliers have a few more steps to go through in the program’s rebuilding phase.
What are the biggest takeaways for fans of the Ducks and the Cavaliers from Saturday’s game?
10. Thomas Tyner Looks Special
Coaches often use the late minutes of a blowout to evaluate the younger players on their roster. In Mark Helfrich’s case, it was another chance to get a look at touted freshman running back Thomas Tyner.
Considering Tyner finished with four carries for 51 yards and a pair of scores, his college career is off to a flying start.
Tyner appears poised to follow in the footsteps of LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner and Thomas as the next great Ducks rusher.
9. Cavaliers Defense Can't Stop the Big Play
While the score may not indicate it, Virginia’s defense had moments when it controlled the action. That was especially true when Oregon tried to run up the middle.
While the defensive line deserves credit for forcing a number of three-and-outs, Oregon still racked up 557 yards of total offense.
The Cavaliers simply could not match the speed of Ducks stars such as Thomas, Bralon Addison and Keanon Lowe.
8. Ducks Special Teams Could Win a Big Game
Oregon’s second touchdown of the day was set up by Josh Huff’s blocked punt in the first quarter.
While the offense is potent, and the defense is improving, the special teams unit appears to be among the nation’s best.
Considering the wealth of speedy return men at Helfrich’s disposal, the Ducks special teams unit is talented enough to be the difference in a game where they will be challenged.
7. Khalek Shepherd Needs More Touches
One of Virginia’s lone highlights in this game came when junior running back Khalek Shepherd weaved his way through the Ducks defense on a 45-yard touchdown scamper in the second quarter.
However, Shepherd only touched the ball seven times on the afternoon, with four carries as a running back and three receptions out of the backfield.
Considering that he was the most effective skill player for Virginia, offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild may want to get him more involved in the game plan moving forward.
6. Ducks WR Group Is Dynamic
Mariota and Thomas get the majority of the attention for the Ducks offense, but the emergence of receivers such as Addison, Huff, Daryle Hawkins and Lowe has been a huge part of helping Oregon’s attack become more potent.
That unit, with Addison being on the verge of becoming a breakout star, gives the Ducks a plethora of versatile weapons who can line up on the outside or in the slot.
Addison took his first touch against the Cavaliers, a receiver screen pass, and raced into the end zone from 30 yards out in the second quarter.
If Addison continues to improve, he gives the Ducks offense another game-breaking presence that makes it impossible for defenses to pay more attention to players such as Thomas and Mariota.
5. David Watford Needs Help
David Watford’s numbers against Oregon aren’t pretty, but his statistics don’t tell the whole story.
Virginia’s receivers struggled to find any room against a talented Ducks secondary. Case in point, receiver Tim Smith was the team’s fourth-leading receiver posting just three catches for 21 yards.
While the tight ends and the running backs picked up some slack in the passing game, Virginia’s offense will continue to struggle until a reliable target emerges on the outside.
4. DAT Is a Scoring Machine
Thomas had a game typical of his role as one of the nation’s most electric playmakers. His three scores against Virginia are evidence of that fact.
Thomas averaged nearly 13 yards on his 12 touches against the Cavaliers, and that figure is somewhat pedestrian by his lofty standards.
However, when he lines up at running back, his effort against the Cavaliers showed that his effectiveness is somewhat limited when he runs between the tackles.
While it’s never a bad thing to get him touches, backup running backs Byron Marshall and Tyner may be better suited to handle the running plays designed to go up the middle.
3. Marcus Mariota Has Improved
Mariota added 13 pounds of muscle to his 6’4” frame in the offseason, but the increased size hasn’t affected his wheels.
Any doubts of his speed were erased when he sprinted for a 71-yard touchdown run on the first drive of the game.
He’s also improved as a passer, although he still needs to work on becoming more accurate.
It will be interesting to see how Helfrich manages Mariota over the course of the season. He looks capable of becoming a top-flight passer if he’s given the opportunity to get more attempts.
2. Ducks D Getting Stronger
Although Virginia approached 300 yards of total offense, Nick Aliotti’s defense forced four turnovers and never let the Cavaliers offense get in a rhythm.
The secondary was consistently getting tight coverage on Cavalier receivers, but the linebackers did struggle to contain Virginia tight ends Jake McGee and Zachary Swanson.
If the Ducks hope to make noise in the national title race, their defense will have to continue to get stronger as the year goes on.
1. Ducks Offense More Potent Than Ever
One of the main concerns about the Ducks after Chip Kelly left for the NFL was whether or not the offense would still rank as one of the country’s most explosive units.
While two games is a limited sample size, that question looks to have vanished quicker than a Thomas touchdown run.
According to ESPN’s College Football Twitter account, Oregon already has four touchdowns of more than 40 yards through two games this season. By comparison, the team only had eight such scores in 2012.
Despite the changes in the program, Oregon’s offense is still a nightmare for defensive coordinators and scoreboard operators everywhere.