Oregon Football: Quarterly Report on the Ducks Part III
Nine games into the season, most programs would be thrilled with an 8-1 record and a No. 6 ranking. For others, it isn't good enough. The Oregon Ducks find themselves in that position three-quarters of the way through the 2013 season.
The loss to No. 4 Stanford has the college football world questioning whether Oregon has what it takes to be a truly elite program. They can question it all they want, but the Ducks are more than a flash in the pan.
With three regular-season games remaining, the Ducks still have a shot at making this a season to remember.
Here's a look back at the first nine games and a look at what's ahead.
Nicholls State at No. 3 Oregon
The Ducks kicked off the season with a blowout win over FCS Nicholls State. The head coaching debut of Mark Helfrich went as expected, as the Ducks rolled to an easy win.
De'Anthony Thomas, Byron Marshall and Marcus Mariota each rushed for more than 100 yards on the day.
Final score: Oregon 66, Nicholls State 3
Here is the recap from Bleacher Report's Leo Howell.
No. 2 Oregon at Virginia
The Ducks traveled to Charlottesville (Va.) for their second game of the season. It was the first game for the Ducks in the Eastern time zone since traveling to take on Tennessee in 2010.
There was no jet lag and no issues with the early kickoff as the Ducks rolled to a 59-10 win. Marcus Mariota and De'Anthony Thomas had long touchdown runs. WR Josh Huff pitched in by blocking a Virginia punt inside the red zone.
Final score: Oregon 59, Virginia 10
Here is the recap from Bleacher Report's Sanjay Kirpalani.
Tennessee at No. 2 Oregon
The Ducks hosted the Tennessee Volunteers of the SEC, hoping to send to prove to the country that they could handle a bigger, stronger team.
The Volunteers have had an up-and-down season, with close losses to elite teams, but did earn a big win against South Carolina. But no one handled the Vols the way the Ducks did after shaking off some early rust.
After a rash of penalties and a couple of mistakes early in the game, the Ducks took flight. From the 5:45 mark of the first quarter through the 2:19 mark of the third quarter, Oregon blitzed the Vols, outscoring them 59-0.
Final score: Oregon 59, Tennessee 14
Here is a recap from Bleacher Report's Alex Callos.
California at No. 2 Oregon
The Ducks kicked off Pac-12 play in monsoon-like conditions against Cal's "Bear Raid" offense. The weather wasn't conducive to a huge offensive output, but the Ducks still hung 55 points on the Golden Bears.
The weather wasn't the only thing to put a damper on the conference opener. Through three games, Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas had proven that he could handle the load as the ball-carrier, but he was knocked out of the game on the opening kickoff with an ankle injury.
The Ducks struggled to hang on to the wet ball early in the game, but not as much as the Golden Bears. Oregon recovered fumbles on Cal's first four possessions and jumped out to a 27-0 lead.
Wide receiver Bralon Addison took over from there, returning two punts for touchdowns.
In the end, the Ducks lost Thomas for the next three games, but kept rolling along at record pace.
Final score: Oregon 55, Cal 16
No. 2 Oregon at Colorado
Oregon traveled to Boulder (Colo.), to face an improved Colorado team in its first Pac-12 road game of the season.
The Buffaloes are much improved over previous seasons, but the Ducks didn't seem to notice. Colorado struck for a couple of long scoring plays early in the game before Oregon settled in and blew the game wide open.
Final score: Oregon 59, Colorado 16
No. 2 Oregon at No. 16 Washington
Oregon traveled to Seattle (Wash.) to face off against Washington, its most bitter rival. Despite a close loss to Stanford the week prior, the Huskies had seemingly taken the next step back to Pac-12 relevance with a 4-1 start.
The Huskies came out fired up in newly renovated Husky Stadium and made the Ducks sweat for the first time all season. It didn't last long as Mariota, Huff and Addison stayed hot and the Ducks walked away with a big win.
Final score: Oregon 45, Washington 24
Washington State at No. 2 Oregon
Like Colorado, Mike Leach's Washington State team was playing much better than it had in previous years. The Cougars had already nearly beaten Auburn on the road and did beat USC in Los Angeles.
Despite a 4-3 record, the Cougars didn't have enough to compete with the Ducks. The Cougars played hard and caused Mariota's first turnovers of the season, as he fumbled twice, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
Despite a couple of mistakes, the Ducks stuck to the plan and rolled to a 62-38 win. It was the most points the defense had given up since the 2012 Rose Bowl, but there was a reason for it. Washington State kept its starters in until the very end, with quarterback Connor Halliday throwing a Pac-12 record 89 passes.
Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti didn't take kindly to Leach's persistence and let his feelings be known after the game.
Here is a breakdown from Bleacher Report's Randy Chambers.
No. 12 UCLA at No. 3 Oregon
The Ducks faced their second ranked opponent of the season in UCLA, which was coming off a tough loss at Stanford the week before.
UCLA walked into Autzen Stadium and flexed its muscle early in the game, playing Oregon to a 14-14 tie at halftime. The second half was a different story as the Ducks played what might have been their best half of football all season.
The Ducks sent the Bruins into hibernation by outscoring them 28-0 in the second half. After De'Anthony Thomas was bullied by UCLA' s defense in the first half, Byron Marshall took over and put the game away.
Final score: Oregon 42, UCLA 14
Here is a recap from Bleacher Report's Jason Fraychineaud.
No. 3 Oregon at No. 5 Stanford
Oregon was 8-0 and ranked No. 3 in the BCS when it traveled to Palo Alto, looking for revenge against the Stanford Cardinal. The defending Pac-12 champion Cardinal handed the Ducks their lone defeat in 2012, which knocked Oregon out of a spot in the national championship game.
The Cardinal hadn't been overly impressive in their first eight games, but had wins over Arizona State, Washington and UCLA to their credit. A hobbled Marcus Mariota was easy prey for a Cardinal defense that made Oregon pay for its lack of physicality.
Against Oregon, Stanford was as impressive as any team has been all season in taking a 26-0 lead. The Ducks looked defeated early in the game and had no response to the dominant Cardinal performance until it was too late.
After finding a spark late in the game, the Ducks launched a furious rally that cut the Cardinal lead to six, with just more than two minutes remaining. But Stanford recovered an onside kick that clinched the game for the Cardinal.
Here is a recap from Bleacher Report's David Fitzgerald.
What Lies Ahead for the Ducks?
The Stanford loss is still hanging over Oregon's head, but all is not lost for the Ducks, who are still on track for a fifth consecutive BCS bowl appearance.
The Ducks are 8-1 for the seventh time since the year 2000 and have three winnable games remaining. In all likelihood, the Pac-12 and national championship hopes are gone, but the Ducks still have an outside chance at both.
For now, any championship hopes are out of Oregon's hands. The Ducks can only handle what's in front of them and hope they get some lucky breaks. Oregon could get all the breaks, but none of it matters if the team lets the Stanford loss linger.
The first test will come on Saturday, when the 4-5 Utah Utes visit Autzen Stadium. The Utes are fighting to keep their bowl hopes alive and have proven themselves capable of beating elite teams. Utah dealt Stanford its lone loss in early October, 27-21.
The Arizona Wildcats are 6-3, but don't have any marquee wins to their credit. That doesn't mean the Wildcats aren't capable of pulling off an upset, especially in Tucson (Ariz.) If the Ducks leave the desert with a win, the annual "Civil War" against in-state rival Oregon State is all that stands between Oregon's fourth consecutive season with at least 11 wins.