Mistakes, Penalties Undue the Ducks

EUGENE – It was a wonderful dream while it lasted, but Oregon may have knocked itself out of any hope for a National Championship run and perhaps exposing a team that will have trouble surviving the rest of the season. Oregon’s Marcus Mariota fumbled the ball while trying to avoid being sacked for the sixth time in the game and turned the ball over giving Arizona a 31-24 win.

(PHOTO) Oregon's Tony Washington gets a sack but moments later was called for an inopportune Unsportsmanlike penalty during the Oregon-Arizona game on Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014. (Photo by Rich Kolbell)

“It was a good play by him,” observed Marcus Mariota of the Arizona player that knocked the ball out of Mariota's hands during the final Oregon fumble.” They ran some coverage that we weren’t really expecting, and I was just trying to make the play. My instincts always lead the ball to go low, and he kind of just ripped it away.”

Oregon struggled all night to mount a consistent offense due to a porous offensive line that could not help the running game. Oregon, once known as a powerhouse running team, managed to gain 144 yards and for the fifth game in a row, had no rusher gain more than 100 yards.

“Just their physicality and the way they answered when we started gaining tempo” said Royce Freeman of the Arizona defense. “When we gain tempo we continue to put teams down and grind it out, but they held their ground when we started to get tempo. I give them a lot of credit because they are a very physical team as well.”

Freeman was the leading Oregon rusher with 85 net yards on 19 carries. Thomas Tyner picked up 46 tough yards as many of his handoffs were into the teeth of the Wildcat defense. Byron Marshall had 12 yards rushing while Marcus Mariota picked up a grand total of one yard net rushing.

Mariota’s Heisman’s Trophy candidacy no doubt was hurt by this game. Mariota threw for 276 yards on 20-of-32 passing and while Mariota was not intercepted, he was under constant pressure because the inadequate line protection and was pulled down behind the line of scrimmage five times that added up to minus 13 yards lost. Mariota did throw two touchdown passes, one to Devon Allen in the third quarter and the second to Keanon Lowe in the fourth quarter.

Byron Marshall was the leading receiver with six catches for 64 yards. Allen had five receptions for 78 yards and the TD. Dwayne Stanford had four catches for 74 yards.

Defensively, the Ducks played well enough in the first half to help hold a 7-3 lead at halftime. However from the moment the second half started, the Ducks were on their heels. Time and time again, Arizona running back Terris Jones-Grigsby simply ran around the end of his offensive line and all he saw open space. Jones-Grigsby finished with 115 yards of rushing and a touchdown on 27 carries.

“They played really well,” said Mark Helfrich of Oregon’s defense in the first half. “They did a decent job assignment-wise creating a couple of turnovers. If the offense complemented the defense in the first half, we’d probably be talking about a different situation right now.”

Penalties also played a factor in the Oregon defense’s demise. Perhaps the most critical mistake was made by defensive end Tony Washington, who made a big play that created a big loss in Arizona’s final scoring drive that would have created a fourth and 17 and caused Arizona to possibly kick a field goal. Instead, as Washington was running off the field he made a bowing gesture to the bench that drew an unsportsmanlike conduct flag and placed the ball on the Oregon 2, first and goal with about three minutes to play. The penalty put Arizona in excellent scoring position, which they did and with a successful PAT built a 31-24 lead.

We’ve got a bunch of hurt guys, so it’s kind of coulda-woulda-shoulda,’ said Helfrich of the team’s performance..” We had them stopped there at the end and we had a silly play. I’ll take the blame for that, but it was not the right time to have that happen.”

Washington’s mistake was by no means the only mistake made by the Ducks. Oregon was flagged 10 times for a loss of 79 yards. Arizona made their share of mistakes also as the Wildcats were called nine times losing 78 yards, one less than Oregon’s losses due to penalties.

Derrick Malone was co-leading tackler for Oregon with 11 tackles (three solos) including one tackle for loss. DeForest Buckner also had 11 tackles (three solos) including a sack. Rodney Hardrick had 10 tackles (five solos) including a sack. Washington had one sack among his two TFLs, though the sack led directly to the dead ball penalty for the unsportsmanlike action of bowing. T.J. Daniel also was credited with a sack.

The Ducks were given credit for four sacks and the Wildcats had five sacks one each by Scooby Wright, Dan Pettinato, Cody Ippolito, Reggie Gilbert and Derrick Turituri.

A lot of the failure Oregon experienced is due to injuries and the latest one was to big Arik Armstead, who left the game in the first half with an ankle injury. But the injury bug can’t be the only reason for Oregon’s loss.

“First and foremost, we have to give them credit,” said Helfrich of Arizona. “They played really well, their qb got hot in the second half and we didn’t make enough plays, and that starts with me. We weren’t smart enough. We had a lot of uncharacteristic errors tonight from the communication and penalty standpoint. There’s a lot that we have to rectify.” “

Questions about Oregon’s defense need to be answered by the Oregon coaching staff as the Ducks made big plays but while celebrating, Arizona quickly came back and ran off a big play of their own.

Next week Oregon will face UCLA, a team that would like prove once and for all that they belong in the National Championship discussion. Tonight, Oregon has made that possible and next week a loss in Pasadena means UCLA is firmly set in the NC hunt.

If Oregon has any chance of getting a chance at the NCAA playoffs, they must beat UCLA.

•Marcus Mariota extended his streak of games with at least one passing touchdown to 31 - every game of his career - which is the second-longest current streak in the FBS. He finished with two passing TDs.
•Mariota moved into third on Oregon’s career passing chart and now has 7,753 yards through the air.
•Mariota caught his second career touchdown as Royce Freeman completed a 26-yard pass for the Ducks’ first score.
Reggie Daniels made the first interception of his career.
•The Ducks have a passing touchdown in 58 straight games, the longest streak in Pac-12 history.
•Mark Helfrich suffered his first home defeat as Oregon’s head coach. UO’s last loss at Autzen came in overtime vs. Stanford on Nov. 17, 2012.
•Mariota’s two passing touchdowns moved him past Stanford’s John Elway (1979-82) for seventh on the Pac-12 career list with 78.
•UO’s 10 penalties matched a season high. Half of them resulted in Arizona first downs.
•With the defeat, all six teams in the Pac-12 North now have at least one conference loss.
•Arizona defeated the Ducks for the second straight year, but only the fifth time in the last 21 meetings.
•The crowd of 56,032 marked the 100th consecutive sellout at Autzen Stadium.
•Oregon wore uniforms with pink accents to help raise awareness for the fight against women’s cancers
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