Ducks set records in home finale against CU

The second-ranked Oregon Ducks made it look easy in a 44-10 win over Colorado on Saturday in Eugene. But on Senior Day the Ducks fans also bid a final home farewell to seventeen players and, possibly, one of the most decorated players in program history.

EUGENE — Second-ranked Oregon sent seventeen seniors off with a final home victory after drubbing the Colorado Buffaloes 44-10 inside Autzen Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

But while they bid farewell to a group of men that have won 57 games (and counting) in their careers, they may have done the same for one the most decorated players in program history.

If Saturday was the last time quarterback Marcus Mariota steps foot on Rich Brooks Field in a Ducks uniform, the redshirt junior went out in style. Mariota tossed three touchdowns and ran for another in the win, finishing 24-of-32 with 323 yards passing and an additional 73 yards rushing.

“I might coach for a long time and not be around another player as special as him,” offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. “Those guys heated us up and blitzed on every play and when you blitz someone like Marcus he’s going to make you pay. He’s the best player in college football and I just feel privileged to have worked with him and watch him play.”

In the process Mariota became only the fifth player in FBS history to pass for 9,000 yards and run for 2,000 more in his collegiate career. By running his touchdown total to 42 on the season, he also set a Pac-12 record for most touchdowns in a single year, breaking Matt Barkley’s record from 2011.

He was pulled in the fourth quarter to massive applause and a “Mar-i-o-ta!” chant from the sold out crowd. After the win, he reflected on what he called a “truly special” game.

“I can’t thank the fans enough,” he said. “That was really cool at the end of the game to kind of have that. We’ll see what else entails. I’m not too sure yet but, again, I’m just very thankful.”

Speaking of records, running back Royce Freeman continued his stellar freshman campaign with 105 yards and two touchdowns against Colorado, becoming the first true freshman in program history to top the 1,000 mark in a single season.

Freeman is leading a youth movement that is proving there is more to Oregon besides number eight. Along with his performance, freshman Charles Nelson hauled in two touchdown catches while redshirt freshmen Devon Allen and Darren Carrington hauled in three catches apiece, including one for Carrington on a tip drill while laying flat on his back in what was undoubtedly the catch of the day.

But while many were caught up in the moment with the broken records, seniors and Mariota, head coach Mark Helfrich deemed it time to get back to work. The Ducks racked up 597 yards of total offense on the Buffaloes and jumped out to a 37-3 lead late in the third quarter, but the Ducks leader was unhappy with some costly penalties and other little mistakes.

“I don’t think we played exceptionally well in any phase,” Helfrich said. “Which is a good thing. Our guys realize that. I hope we can improve upon just getting to play a little bit smarter situationally, a few of those things that came up. We had a few inopportune penalties—obviously the punt return, a couple roughing the passers—that we’ll have to iron out. But I’m really proud of our effort.”

Despite the issues, Oregon caught Colorado off guard plenty of times in the first half, exploiting the Buffaloes for big scores. Mariota went untouched on his 46-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, fooling a Buffaloes line who bet on Byron Marshall receiving a third consecutive carry on the read option.

Nelson found himself wide open in the secondary on the first of his two touchdowns, a 31-yard catch in the second quarter that, again, went untouched. Even Freeman made his touchdown runs look simple as the Buffaloes failed to contain the explosive Ducks offense.

“We had some things schemed to take some shots on them,” Frost said. “I thought we did a good job of setting those up so that we could take the shots. But our guys still had to execute though.”

Elsewhere, the Ducks continued to patch up holes due to injury and faired well. Evan Baylis hauled in a couple of catches, one for his first career touchdown, while tasked with replacing breakout tight end Pharaoh Brown, whose season ended with a severe right leg injury at Utah two weeks ago.

On the offensive line, the Ducks welcomed back Andre Yruretagoyena to the fold after missing several weeks due to injury and Hamani Stevens held his own at the center position, replacing senior Hroniss Grasu, who was unable to play due to an injury he suffered at Utah.

“I wanted Hamani’s senior leadership out at the center spot,” offensive line coach Steve Greatwood said after the game. “Not taking anything away from Doug (Brenner) but I knew Colorado was an outfit that has shown a lot of pressure in their previous games and I felt like having a more experienced guy there to see it and make the adjustments we needed to make would be a benefit to us.”

Oregon State will be the final regular season test for the Ducks next weekend in Corvallis. While the Beavers have been largely disappointing in Pac-12 play, they did upset then-sixth-ranked Arizona State at home last week and will have a chance to build on that momentum in Seattle against Washington on Saturday night.

However, the players don’t seem to be overlooking their in-state rivals though and some, like offensive tackle Jake Fisher, are looking forward to the hostile challenge.

“I like going up there,” Fisher said. “It’s always loud, crazy. I mean, from an away standpoint, that’s my atmosphere.”

NOTES —

Byron Marshall led the Ducks with 65 yards receiving on four catches. He also had three carries for 11 yards.

Dwayne Stanford and Keanon Lowe also had four catches for the Ducks, combining for 92 yards receiving. As a senior, it was Lowe’s final game at Autzen.

Sophomore running back Thomas Tyner did not play.


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