Take a deep breathe and relax. The craziness surrounding the USC Trojans and Stanford Cardinal on Saturday following USC’s upset is one reason to celebrate and one reason to relax. The more important reason to calm down is Oregon’s 63-14 victory over the Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles, which has clearly been the most complete performance turned in by the Ducks this season after some were freaking out due to games that were “too close” against Arkansas State and Fresno State.
In this game, the Ducks shut down Tennessee Tech’s offense and held them to just two passing touchdowns from two different quarterbacks. Da’Rick Rogers caught a 23-yard touchdown pass to open up the game’s scoring, but Oregon shut down Rogers thereafter and held him to just 38 receiving yards on three catches. Yup, his two non-touchdown catches went for a total of 15 yards.
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To me, that’s one of the things I’m going to remember from this game. The fact that the Ducks were able to shut down one of the best playmaking receivers in the country. Kiko Alonso and Dior Mathis both had picks, and it goes to show that the Ducks can indeed hold down a downfield threat without John Boyett.
True freshman running back Byron Marshall was one of the top 150 recruits in this class, and he showed his dangerous mix of acceleration, size, speed, and vision against the Golden Eagles by rushing for 125 yards on 13 carries. Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas are Pac-12 Player of the Year hopefuls, and Marshall makes for an excellent No. 3 back already. You know what’s going to be a scary thought for other teams? Marshall next year, along with Dontre Wilson and Thomas Tyner. The three backs on the Ducks right now are incredible, and the three backs on the Ducks in the future will also be great. That’s always a comforting thought.
Let’s take a moment to laugh at those who were concerned about Marcus Mariota not being amazing enough against weak competition, even if you were one of those guys who was extremely concerned. Mariota absolutely torched Tennessee Tech by going 21-28 with 308 passing yards, four touchdowns, and just one interception to sour his 11.0 Y/A performance.
Here’s the thing, we need to keep this all in perspective. The Golden Eagles are by far the weakest team the Ducks will be facing all season. By far. In fact, the only reason we played them is because Kansas State chickened out of a home-and-home, and I bet it has to do with them not wanting to travel to Eugene and face the fantastic crowd in the Autzen Zoo. I guess they feel much less confident in their own fans- and for good reason.
In any case, I’m going to remain positive about this game. 63-14 is always a great result, no matter the competition. After all, Da’Rick Rogers isn’t exactly a lightweight out there; he was one of the biggest weapons in the SEC before Tennessee finally booted him out. I say finally, because Rogers burned so many bridges over there. To this day, I will never know how Dooley tolerated him for that long.
The Ducks ability to absolutely shut down Tre Urbano and the Tennessee Tech running game is another plus I’m going to take out of this game. The Golden Eagles only averaged 2.5 yards per attempt, which is absolutely appalling for them and absolutely terrific for us.
So while the competition was weak, the results were not and the improvement was certainly apparent. I’m not worried about Chip Kelly’s 2012 squad and neither should you. The Oregon Ducks and USC Trojans are a coin flip for the strongest team in the Pac-12, especially after Stanford defeated USC 21-14.
Next up, the Pac-12 opener against Rich Rodriguez and the strong Arizona Wildcats.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.