Statement in the Smoke

EUGENE – On a hot day that turned hazy due to smoke from some fire somewhere in the Willamette Valley, the No. 3 Oregon Ducks caught fire in the second half scoring 28 unanswered points on the way to a 46-27 over the No. 8 Michigan State Spartans.

(PHOTO) Oregon's Devon Allen points to the crowd following scoring one of his two touchdowns on Saturday. Oregon defeated Michigan State, 46-27 in a nationally televised contest on Sept. 6, 2014. (Photo by Rich Kolbell)

“Huge win," said Mark Helfrich of his team's performance against Michigan State. "That is an outstanding team in every phase. I thought we got out to a great start offensively, defensively and on special teams. Then we did the exact opposite in the second quarter, we kind of fell behind. Our guys didn’t blink and made the correction. Now, we’ll go back to work and get ready for next week.”

The Ducks, trailing 24-18 at halftime were a bit listless when they received the opening kickoff of the third quarter and followed up with a defense that looked porous and overworked, giving up a 42-yard field goal by Michael Geiger to increase MSU’s lead to 27-18.

Then the fire started.

The Duck defense suddenly stiffened up and the offense finally found a solution to the Spartan defense that had stymied Oregon in the first half. Marcus Mariota engineered a 24-yard wide open touchdown pass to Devon Allen. It was Allen’s second score of the day as he had pulled in a pass for 70-yard completion and score in the second quarter. Matt Wogan cut MSU’s lead to 27-25 with the success PAT.

“It’s one of those things – he was open and it was in a play," Mariota said of Devon Allen. "That’s not to say the chemistry isn’t good. I think as we continue to progress through the season, the receivers have stepped up, and we can rely on each and every one of them. They did a great job, but tonight Devon did a really good job.”

The Duck defense continued its stellar play and again the Oregon offense rewarded the hard work of the defense by taking the lead when Mariota found Keanen Lowe wide open and going full bore into the east endzone. Wogan booted the PAT and the Ducks led 32-27.

“Credit to Don Pellum and our defensive staff for rallying those guys in the second half," Helfrich said of his Defensive Coordinator. "Those guys were really good and we knew that Connor Cook made them more balanced and versatile as far as their attack. But I’m just proud of the total team effort.”

While the Ducks continued to shut out MSU’s offense, Mariota and crew weren’t finished. Enter, freshman Royce Freeman who scored twice in the fourth quarter on runs of 28 and 14 yards. The smoke surrounded Autzen Stadium but the 59,456 fans in attendance paid no attention because the Ducks were burning up the field. Even as time was ticking off and the Spartan offense was trying desperately to get into the end zone, the Oregon defense would have none of it and stopped the Spartans are the Oregon 13 ending all hopes for the Spartans that they could stay in the game.

“I stay tuned in the game, ready to go at all times," admitted Freeman of his opportunities in the second half. "Whenever coach calls my number I am ready.”

For the game, Mariota threw for 318 yards on 17-of-28 passing, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Devon Allen was the leading receiver with three catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Lowe had three grabs for 58 yards and a score while Darren Carrington caught two balls for 66 yards. Byron Marshall had three catches for 36 yards while Freeman pulled down two balls for 22 yards. Dwayne Stanford also had two receptions for 19 yards and Thomas Tyner also had two catches for seven yards.

Oregon had a total of 491 yards of offense to MSU’s 466. The Ducks had 173 yards of rushing to MSU’s 123.

Freeman was the leading rusher with 89 net yards on 13 carries with the two TDs. Mariota pitched in 65 yards but after being sacked three times he ended up with 42 net yards. Tyner he 33 net yards on 13 carries and Marshall toted the ball five times for nine net yards.

Jeremy Langford was the leading Spartan rusher with 86 net yards on 24 carries and one TD. Connor Cook was 29-of-47 for 343 yards and two touchdowns and two interceptions.

MSU’s Tony Lippett was the leading receiver for the game with 11 catches for 133 yards and a TD.

Oregon had a 28-yard field goal from Matt Wogan while Michigan State’s Michael Geiger booted two FG‘s from 34 and 42 yards out.

Oregon was called for nine penalties amounting a minus 74 yards while MSU was called five time for minus 38 yards.

Defensively, Oregon was led in tackling by Cornerback Troy Hill with nine tackles (seven solos) including a tackle for loss (TFL) and a pass break up. Joe Walker made nine tackles (four solos) from his linebacker spot including two TFLs. DeForest Buckner was credited with seven tackles (three solos) including a TFL and QB hurry.

“I think he played great for us right out of the gates," commented Tony Washington of his teammate Joe Walker. "He started for us for the first time, and he didn’t look nervous. He came out ready to play. He was playing hard, and that’s what we need for the defense. He stepped up when we needed him.”

Arik Armstead had a sack among his two TFLs and also a QB hurry. Christian French was also given credit for a sack and one additional sack was given the team.

Erick Dargan had an interception in the first half that led to the first score of the game. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu grabbed a tipped ball and ended a possible touchdown drive for the MSU that may have sealed the Spartan fate in the fourth quarter.

MSU’s Marcus Rush had 11 tackles for the day (eight solos) including a sack among his two TFLs. Taiwan Jones had a TFL. Joel Heath and Malik McDowell combined for a sack and third sack on Mariota was recorded by Lawrence Thomas.

The Oregon Ducks made a statement on Saturday. All week, pundits pointed out Michigan State’s defense and how they would take a page out of Stanford’s playbook and beat the Ducks. Well, Stanford lost on Saturday, MSU didn’t load up its offensive line with a power formation and for sure, the Michigan State defense maybe the best in college football, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Oregon Ducks on warm and hazy day in September.

Next up for the Ducks is Wyoming, next Saturday at Autzen Stadium with kickoff scheduled for 11 a.m. (Pacific).

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