Despite already being two games into conference play, it could be said that the Ducks were concluding their preseason with Saturday’s matchup against Colorado. Oregon faced two rebuilding programs in consecutive weeks to start the Pac-12 schedule following non-conference play, leaving many to assume that Oregon would complete nearly the first half of its schedule without ever facing any semblance of a true test. Or as SBNation’s Spencer Hall described it:
Have you looked at the Ducks’ first five games, a rolling buffet of lambs waiting to be conveyor-belted into the mouth of this beast? Nicholls State, Virginia, Tennessee, California, and Colorado?
The outcomes of every game thus far, including Saturday’s, largely matched people’s expectations: Oregon scored at least 55 in all five contests; the first time in school history they had eclipsed 50 in five consecutive games. Yesterday’s contest against Colorado, a 57-16 win over the Buffs, was the latest in a string of big early season wins for the Ducks.
After steamrolling its first four opponents, Oregon figured to do the same against a team that was arguably the least-competitive FBS opponent they would face all season, one that gave up 70 points to the Ducks in 2012. Instead, Oregon found a stiffer challenge than it had received all year. Colorado came out swinging, and while Oregon appeared to have control for much of the game, the Buffs played well enough early on to give some Oregon fans pause.
Colorado came out swinging on a failed onside kick and they managed to avoid having that decision haunt them, as Oregon began the game with a three-and-out. They added a field goal on their first possession following a gutsy 4th-down conversion. And when Colorado responded to an Oregon touchdown by adding one of their own on a trick play, the Buffs had a 10-8 lead – the first time a team had taken a lead back from the Ducks after losing it, since Wisconsin in the 2012 Rose Bowl.
Yet any concerns Duck fans may have had were quickly put to rest. Oregon scored three more times in the first quarter, matching their first quarter output (29) from their last visit to Boulder in 2011. The Ducks scored touchdowns on seven of their next eight possessions – sealing the win — and kept the Buffs from scoring for the game’s final 40 minutes.
Marcus Mariota had 355 yards passing and five touchdowns, adding two more TDs on the ground. Byron Marshall gave the Ducks his third 100-yard game of the season, carrying 23 times for 122 yards in place of injured starter De’Anthony Thomas. Terrance Mitchell, who had been so dominant in recent years that teams stopped throwing his direction, managed to pick off two passes thrown his way.
It was the perfect way for Oregon to conclude its “preseason” schedule. It was a blowout win that provided many players with a chance to play, while providing coachable moments for the team to improve going forward. The “preseason” is over; three of Oregon’s next four opponents on the schedule are ranked in the Top-15 as of Saturday, concluding with what could be a Top-5 matchup against Stanford. The next 32 days will make the season.
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