Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Ducks Right Ship After Half, Win 46-27

The first nonconference matchup of top-10 teams in Autzen Stadium history lived up to every bit of the hype, as No. 3 Oregon jumped out to a lead, withstood a furious comeback by No. 7 Michigan State and recovered to win 46-27.

How it Happened: The Spartans all but shut down Oregon's vaunted run game, survived a couple big plays by the Ducks early on and then got the momentum going squarely in their favor. The Ducks used an Erick Dargan interception to set up the game's first touchdown, and a 70-yard touchdown pass to Devon Allen made it 18-7. But the Spartans then scored the game's next 20 points to build a 27-18 lead. The Ducks then flipped the switch on both sides of the ball, shutting down MSU's offense and getting third-quarter touchdown passes from Marcus Mariota to Allen again and then Keanon Lowe for a 32-27 lead. A Royce Freeman touchdown run made it 39-27 early in the fourth quarter. The big freshman capped the Oregon effort with a 14-yard score on a fourth-and-two carry, completing a crushing 11-play, 96-yard drive that ticked off 6:31 of the final 7:56.

Who Stood Out: Mariota finished the day 17-of-28 for 318 yards and three touchdowns through the air. He also had two huge third-down conversions in the third quarter, one on each UO scoring drive. He flipped a shovel pass on the run to Freeman to convert a third-and-11, and ran it himself on third-and-nine. Defensively, linebacker Joe Walker entered the starting lineup and finished the game with nine tackles. Defensive lineman DeForest Buckner followed up his six-tackle performance against South Dakota in the opener with seven on Saturday. MSU quarterback Connor Cook was outstanding as well, passing for 343 yards and two scores.

What it Means: The Ducks now figure to be a favorite to make the inaugural College Football Playoff, though the entire Pac-12 schedule looms. One of the Ducks' chief rivals for the Pac-12 North title, Stanford, dropped its conference opener to USC on Saturday.

Odds and ends: Mariota passed Bill Musgrave to become Oregon's career leader in total offense in the first quarter, and threw his school-record 67th career touchdown pass in the second quarter. ... Cameron Hunt returned to the starting lineup at right guard. ... True freshman Tyrell Crosby played nearly the entire second half at right tackle after Andre Yruretagoyena was carted off.

Next Up: The No. 3 Ducks finish off their three-game, season-opening run of nonconference home games when Wyoming comes to Autzen Stadium next Saturday (11 a.m. PT, Pac-12 Networks).

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