OK, I’ll admit it. I started writing this Oregon at Colorado game story way before the contest ended.
Like at the end of the first quarter.
No need to tarry.
Sort of a writer’s version of the no-huddle, hurry-up spread.
Yes, the game wasn’t over at that point. Yes, college football is so unpredictable that teams sometimes do — inexplicable as it may seem — storm back from, well, 29-0 deficits after 15 minutes of play.
But it wasn’t going to happen on this beautiful sunny day high in the Rockies.
Everyone knew it.
When Colorado secured a first down with 20 seconds to go in the opening quarter, the home crowd let go with an old-fashioned mock cheer.
Such applause doesn’t occur so early unless, well, unless you know your team is in a hurt of trouble and has no hope. And the Buffs knew it. For the record, Oregon had outgained Colorado 293 to 35 in total yards up to that point.
About the same time, The Register-Guard’s Rob Moseley tweeted, “Hmm. Maybe I’ll have my stories written in time for the opening kickoff of UW-Stanford and the first pitch of the World Series. …”
And so it went as the No. 9-ranked Ducks (6-1 overall, 4-0 in Pac-12 play), riding that opening outburst, rolled all over Colorado 45-2 on Saturday to remain undefeated in Pac-12 play and to keep pace with Stanford in the conference’s North Division race.
Heck, if not for Oregon punt returner Cliff Harris giving up a safety late in the third quarter, the out-manned and injury-riddled Buffaloes (1-7, 0-4) likely would have never scored.
Such was the dominance.
And that by a Duck team that had its two top offensive playmakers — senior star running back LaMichael James and junior quarterback Darron Thomas — on the sidelines for the entire contest, still nursing their own injuries.
What was clear Saturday — and what is quickly developing into a bigger storyline as the season goes along — is how many other playmakers this Oregon program has in its fold now, compared to even a few years ago.
In his first collegiate start, freshman quarterback Bryan Bennett threw for 156 yards and two touchdowns, ran for another 69 yards on just six carries, and exhibited the calmness of a veteran. Multipurpose freshman gem De’Anthony Thomas caught a TD pass and averaged 12.5 yards per carry. Another true frosh back, Tra Carson, rambled for 80 yards on 11 carries. Redshirt freshman Ayele Ford added 54 yards on the ground.
And junior running back Kenjon Barner showed once more that the Ducks don’t lose much at all with James shelved, rushing for 115 yards on just 10 carries and two TDs, including an 84-yard burst in the first quarter.
All 537 of Oregon’s throwing and rushing yards (not including receiving yards) came from underclassmen. Of that figure, 405 yards came from true freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
The rest of the college football world is taking note. And what is sinking in is this: Not only does Oregon’s wealth of talent bode well for the Ducks for the rest of this season — it also has allowed James and Thomas to mend on their own terms — but for next season, the season after that, and the one after that.
As Arizona interim coach Tim Kish has noted of the Ducks, “They’re like a six-headed snake instead of a two-headed snake. They’ve got so much talent across the board.”
As is the case with the young and the gifted, there is room to grow and to improve.
After being in James’ shadow for much of his career, Barner is showing he can go inside with the ball as well as outside. His hesitations in the backfield are becoming fewer and fewer.
Bennett needs more reps and to become more accurate throwing the football. But he has a rocket arm and fast legs — with an acceleration in his step that is reminiscent of former star QB Dennis Dixon. On the first drive of the contest, he scrambled for 43 yards, flying by Colorado defenders as if they were in line at Starbucks.
De’Anthony Thomas, for all his speed and shiftiness, hits the middle hard but needs to get stronger. Make no mistake, though, “O-Mamba” is easily the most electrifying newcomer in years. He can run and catch and scoot and score. He picked up his ninth TD of the season on Saturday.
All of that talent — from Thomas to Bennett to Barner — was on display during those decisive first 15 minutes against Colorado.
Both sides knew what was coming.
And one side couldn’t do anything about it.
Time to put an end to this writing.
A look back at Oregon-Colorado
How the game was won: Oregon’s speed was too much for Colorado. The Ducks had big play after big play in the first quarter to grab a huge 29-0 lead.
Turning point: Trailing 8-0, Colorado suffered a quarterback sack and then was penalized two straight times for false starts before punting the ball back to the Ducks. Oregon quickly drove 58 yards and scored on a Bryan Bennett-to-De’Anthony Thomas pass to go up 15-0 midway through the opening quarter.
Stat of the game: Oregon generated a whopping 293 total offensive yards in the first quarter and averaged 15 yards a carry.
Historical perspective: The 43-point margin of victory was the most on the road for the Ducks since a 49-point win at Washington State in 2008. The last time Oregon held a conference foe without an offensive score was Stanford in 2003.
What it means: Oregon (4-0 in Pac-12 play) remains on pace in the loss column with No. 6-ranked Stanford (5-0) in North Division play. The two will meet on Nov. 12 in Palo Alto. Before that, Oregon hosts Washington State and then travels to Washington, while Stanford has games at USC and at Oregon State.
What’s next: Washington State, noon, this coming Saturday, Oct. 29, at Autzen Stadium. The all-time series favors Oregon: 43-38-7.
Last time they played: No. 3-ranked Oregon defeated WSU 43-23 on Oct. 9. 2010, at Pullman.