There haven’t been many moments in recent years in which the Oregon Ducks got stuck on offense. But just in those cases, when Marcus Mariota is less than brilliant and is only very good, there’s an underrated defense that was able to hold the toughest rivals they faced this season scoreless during the second half.
According to Nick Aliotti, Oregon’s defensive coordinator, two of his players promised him that UCLA won’t score a single point in the second half, and kept their promise. Oregon and UCLA were tied at 14 when the second half began, but the Bruins’ running game was completely stalled and the Ducks ran away with a win over the #12 team in the BCS standings 42-14.
Is this win enough for the computers to join the pollsters and put Oregon at #2? It doesn’t really matter if Oregon don’t beat Stanford in their biggest game of the season. That opponent stopped them from going to the national title game last season to play Notre Dame with a controversial touchdown and win in Eugene. Oregon had to settle for the Fiesta Bowl, but this year, even with the head coach changeup, there doesn’t seem to be any drop in their aspirations or ability.
This was the first time this season Oregon were tied with a team at half time. UCLA were able to run the ball very effectively, gaining 111 yards while rushing between the tackles. That number was reduced to only 55, and their average per carry fell from 5.3 to 3.3. As UCLA could no longer have their way on the ground and Brett Hundley struggled all evening with his passing (13-of-19, one touchdown and two interceptions), they had no way of slowing down Oregon.
Oregon didn’t get too much from the returning De’Anthony Thomas, although he did run for one touchdown on a mediocre day from the most explosive player in the nation on most days. Marcus Mariota mostly kept things short and simple in the second half, completing all 10 passes, all of them travelling less than 10 yards in the air. Oregon vastly improved in yards after the carry then (from 3.4 to 5.8 per catch), scoring one touchdown off of his passes.
The running game was hard to stop as usual, especially as UCLA’s defense got worn down and had no help from its struggling offense and quarterback: Oregon gained 335 yards on the ground, getting a huge game from Byron Marshall, running 133 yards and scoring three touchdowns. At some point, this offense will get its numbers, even if it needs a little help from its defense in slowing down the better crop of opposition.
The defense allowed really one explosive play and we’ll live with that all day. We don’t have former Ducks star defensive end Dion Jordan or the name that everybody knows, but there are about 22 guys playing their tails off, and we love every one of them. So far, I think we’re allowing about 17 points per game. I’d say that’s pretty good. I think anytime you can hold a team under 24 points, especially with our offense, I think you’ll have a chance to win.