Ducks Show Human Side In Win Over WSU
By John Baker
That the Oregon Ducks demonstrated they are far from perfection personified in Saturday's 62-38 win over Washington State may give future opponents a sense of hope, but the truth is far more conventional.
Despite uncharacteristic turnovers from quarterback Marcus Mariota and the Cougars' ability to convert those into quick scores, this one never was in doubt even when WSU clawed within 27-21 just over midway through the second quarter. Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday, as we suggested in our pregame piece, had the opportunity to throw the ball all day long and put up numbers to match (58 of 89 for 557 yards, four scores an a quartet of interceptions). It was a wonderful piece of offensive fun stuffed into an effort doomed from the start.
Oregon put together a workmanlike performance and still dropped 62 points on the Cougars after taking their collective foot off the throttle early in the fourth quarter. Oregon simply did enough needed to win this one. Still, we can take away some things from Oregon's win.
Is This Déjà Vu All Over Again?
Oregon running back Byron Marshall ran for 192 yards and two scores, while freshman Thomas Tyner added 99 yards and three scores, Tyner got to the outside, split a tackle and demonstrated his sprinter's speed on a 66-yard run.
The two youngsters have come a long way since the season started — Marshall was busy struggling to find holes and yardage while Tyner simply was trying to get meaningful carries. Now the pair offer a dynamic tandem reminiscent of the LaMichael James-Kenjon Barner heyday. And that's without the input of De'Anthony Thomas, who sat out another game as he recovers from his ankle injury.
Marshall has become a different back the last three weeks, demonstrating an ability to not only run between the tackles, but to hit the hole quickly and change directions in an instant. In essence, he's pushed himself into the conversation of the best running backs in the Pac-12. Tyner may be one of the best to ever play at Oregon by the time he decides to leave.
Having the running game developing so well has given quarterback Marcus Mariota the weapon of play-action passing and you saw a lot of open guys catch passes off play action Saturday.
Lack Of Concentration
Give credit to the Washington State defensive line, led by Xavier Cooper, for putting together a tremendous effort in the second quarter. As the game seemed to slip toward oblivion, Cooper and company started beating Oregon's offensive line and putting pressure on Mariota. The result was a three-and-out and a pair of fumbles from Oregon's quarterback, one of which led to a score and one that was returned for a touchdown.
Suddenly, the Cougars were back in the game — sort of. No one really believes WSU was capable of hanging with Oregon the rest of the way, but it was an interesting run that demonstrated Oregon's offensive line, if and when it has a mental letdown, can be beaten by active defensive linemen. If nothing else, Washington State's pressure offers Oregon's offensive line coaches a chance to get the attention of their pupils.
Oregon is going to see some pretty good defensive linemen heading down the stretch in games where a letdown by its offensive linemen could lead to disastrous consequences.
There's Tony Washington ... At Last
Without a Dion Jordan, one of the subplots to the Oregon defense before the season involved the linebackers. Could whomever played the position pressure quarterbacks?
Tony Washington has had some moments, but the Oregon pass rush isn't nearly as fearsome as a year ago. For every big play Washington has delivered, he hasn't been a factor for chunks of time.
That wasn't the case Saturday as Washington recorded two sacks and was in the backfield a lot harassing Halliday. Perhaps it just took time for him to feel comfortable with the expectations that come with the position, but it's not surprise that an active Washington coincided with four interceptions from the secondary — a secondary that struggled to get picks early this season.
Woe To The Punting Game
The Ducks don't punt a ton, so it's hard to get worked up too much, but the work of Alejandro Maldonado on Saturday was disappointing. He punted four times for a 34.8-yard average and a long of 39 yards.
Folks, the Ducks are going to have at least one game this year where field position is a factor, so watching Maldonado chunk four dud punts into the cool Oregon air was disappointing. It's a situation that needs monitoring.