South Dakota vs. Oregon: Game Grades, Analysis for the Ducks

David Luther@@davidrlutherFeatured ColumnistAugust 31, 2014

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) throws the football resulting in a touchdown during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game against South Dakota in Eugene, Ore., Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)
Ryan Kang/Associated Press

Oregon has developed a reputation as an offensive juggernaut.  After the Ducks' performance against the South Dakota Coyotes, it's clear that the reputation is set to continue for at least another season.

Marcus Mariota was everything we expected him to be in Oregon's opener, especially against an FCS opponent.  The Oregon ground game also added nearly 300 yards and four touchdowns, helping to propel the Ducks to a 62-13 victory with 672 yards of offense.

Box score via

Oregon Game Grades
Positional UnitFirst-Half GradeFinal Grade
Pass OffenseAA
Run OffenseA-A-
Pass DefenseCC+
Run DefenseC+C+
Special TeamsB+A

Pass Offense

We could pick apart every little thing about Oregon's passing performance against South Dakota, but it's more than adequate to boil it down to a couple of stat lines.

First, Mariota was his usual spectacular self, completing 14 of his 20 pass attempts for 267 yards and three touchdowns in two quarters of work.  Jeff Lockie played the second half, and completed 11-of-12 for 113 yards and one touchdown.

Neither quarterback threw an interception.

We also saw 11 Ducks combine for 380 receiving yards and four scores.  Without question, the passing offense deserves a straight "A."

Run Offense

When five guys combine for 292 rushing yards and four touchdowns, you might think it's an automatic "A," right?

Ryan Kang/Associated Press

Ordinarily you'd be correct.  But we can't help but deduct a little for one of the more bone-headed plays we've seen in quite some time.  Junior Byron Marshall looked to be waltzing into the end zone for a touchdown when he decided he didn't need to take the ball all the way with him.  He dropped the ball nonchalantly, as many players do.  The problem was that Marshall hadn't quite crossed the goal line.

South Dakota was awarded the ball after a touchback.

Sure, Oregon recovered a fumble on the very next play, but it's still worth mentioning.  This kind of mental error can't be ignored, and deserved the half-grade deduction we've given it.

Pass Defense

Somehow, we expected the Ducks to completely overpower the Coyotes—even on defense.  That didn't happen, as two South Dakota quarterbacks combined for 198 passing yards.

That's not too bad, so why the low "C+" grade?

The Ducks had a difficult time defending the short and medium passes, and there were plenty of opportunities for big stops or interceptions that simply weren't exploited.  Against South Dakota, that's not such a big deal.  Against a quarterback like Connor Cook, who was named both the Big Ten Championship Game and Rose Bowl Game MVP last season, it could be a very big deal.

We did upgrade the Ducks a bit from a "C" to a "C+" in the second half, mainly because the secondary made a few adjustments that kept South Dakota out of the end zone (from a pass game standpoint), and that deserves some recognition.

Run Defense

The Ducks run defense hasn't been the center for attention in Eugene, and after giving up 172 yards to FCS South Dakota, we all can understand why.

Despite being overmatched, South Dakota's offensive line did a great job of opening up holes for the Coyotes running backs to exploit.  With a much more physical Michigan State team coming to Eugene next week, we're understandably concerned.  MSU is much more physical and much more talented than South Dakota.

Clearly, there's a lot of work to be done, and that's why we're giving the Ducks' run defense a "C+."

Special Teams

The Ducks can score at any time, and almost at will.  We saw that with special teams against South Dakota.

Oregon averaged a perfectly mediocre 11.5 yards per punt return, but the 50 touchdown return by Charles Nelson easily gives the Ducks enough extra credit to earn an "A."


Eric Gay/Associated Press

We gave the coaching staff a "B+" in the first half, mainly because South Dakota was able to take advantage of some systemic holes in Oregon's defense.

We downgraded the coaches to a straight "B" as a final grade because we're extremely concerned that many of the issues Oregon had in the first half were not fixed for the second half.  South Dakota was able to run between the tackles, and the intermediate passing game was only derailed when South Dakota shot itself in the foot.

Mark Helfrich is a good enough coach to straighten a lot of things out over the course of a week, but since we're talking about this game, and this game alone, we have to stick with our "B" grade for the coaching staff. 

Unless otherwise noted, quotes or references to quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer.

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