Oregon football smashes Arizona State 43-21

By Matt Walks

Oregon football smashes Arizona State 43-21

If Thursday’s matchup between Oregon and Arizona State was supposed to be a test for the two Pac-12 division leaders, the country is going to think the Ducks cheated.

Running back Kenjon Barner and quarterback Marcus Mariota combined for 278 yards and four touchdowns on the ground, as No. 2 Oregon (7-0, 4-0 Pac-12) thrashed the unranked Sun Devils (5-2, 3-1) 43-21 on the road, again proving themselves the conference’s darlings — at least until USC comes calling Nov. 3.

But at first the game looked like it was shaping up to be a barn-burner. Mariota stumbled out of the gate in just his second start on the road, botching a handoff on the Ducks’ second play from scrimmage. Junior Davon Coleman scooped it up for the Sun Devils, and one play later Arizona State quarterback Taylor Kelly hit wideout Kevin Ozier for a 28-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.

It was all Oregon from there.

“One thing I love about this team is they don’t flinch,” head coach Chip Kelly said after the game. “We feed off each other.”

The Ducks offense was its usual self, averaging two points per minute halfway through the second half before Jackson Rice got a chance to punt. Perhaps the highlight of the night was sophomore quarterback Bryan Bennett’s improvised option pitch to Mariota for the quarterback-to-quarterback touchdown.

But as has been the case this year, it was Oregon’s defense that again provided the team’s backbone. Coming into the game, Oregon allowed redzone scores just 57 percent of the time, fifth in the nation. Arizona State went 0-for-3 on redzone scoring Thursday night. Kelly and his backup Michael Eubanks were also picked off four times, including one by cornerback Avery Patterson — his fourth in three games.

Up front, Chandler, Ariz., native Dion Jordan had two of the Ducks’ five sacks, and Kelly was running for his life throughout much of the decisive first half.

Turning point. On just the fifth play of the game, Barner hit the hole, made his move and was gone, 71 yards down the sideline for the Ducks’ first touchdown of the night. As he is wont to do, Kelly called for a two-point conversion — and kicker Rob Beard converted, catching punter Jackson Rice’s pass and finding the end zone. The score made it 8-7 Oregon, and the Ducks never looked back, rattling off 35 unanswered points and sending a statement to the Pac-12 and the country.

DAT’s quiet night. Despite the big night, Oregon got little from its sophomore sensation De’Anthony Thomas. The Sun Devils held the Heisman hopeful to four yards on three receptions and a 2.1 yards per carry average on the ground.

“They were very concerned about him,” offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said. “We had a couple times I thought he was going to cut it loose. I thought we could have finished a little better up front.”

Injury update. Arizona State lost more than the game. Sun Devils defensive end Will Sutton, who came into the game second in the nation in sacks, was injured on Mariota’s early fumble and didn’t return to the game. Sutton, who has found himself routinely nominated for the Pac-12′s Defensive Player of the Week, spent the second half out of his uniform on the sidelines.

“He’s not a guy you can just replace,” Sun Devils head coach Todd Graham said of Sutton after the game.

By the numbers.

  • 75% – Mariota’s completion percentage, on an efficient 9-for-12. After the early fumble and a head-scratching, disastrous option play, Mariota settled into a rhythm and took control of the offense.
  • 6 – Tackles for Michael Clay, the team’s leader in that category before he went down with a leg injury in Oregon’s win over Washington State.
  • 48 – Total passing yards for Oregon in the win.
  • 3 – Different ways Mariota found the endzone. In addition to his 86-yard touchdown run and 6-yard touchdown pass to Bralon Addison, Mariota took a two-yard “hook shot” pass from Bryan Bennett in for another touchdown.

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