Suffice to say Oregon turned in it’s worst offensive performance in years on Saturday night against the Utah Utes.
While Travis Wilson, Devontae Booker and company were busy slicing and dicing the Oregon defense, the Ducks couldn’t get anything going against a dominant Utes defense that held the usually potent offense to 400 yards, a good chunk of that coming in the fourth quarter when the game was well out of reach.
“We got our tails kicked,” head coach Mark Helfrich said. “We have to own it and move on.”
The Ducks opened the game with three straight drives ending with punts. It wasn’t until Byron Marshall broke loose on a kickoff return for 77 yards late in the first quarter that the Ducks finally found a spark. A face mask penalty moved the ball inside the 15 yard line and three plays later the Ducks had tied the game on Royce Freeman’s 13-yard touchdown reception from a returning Vernon Adams.
However, Utah didn’t waver and eventually forced a shaky and inefficient Adams from the game in the second quarter after only seven pass attempts. After the game, offensive coordinator Scott Frost indicated that clearly Adams wasn’t 100 percent and still suffering the effects from a broken finger, but the coaches thought he gave the team the best chance to win if he started.
“If we didn’t feel that way we wouldn’t have played him,” he said.
With the Ducks down two touchdowns, backup quarterback Jeff Lockie led a quick 68 yard scoring drive capped by a six-yard touchdown to Bralon Addison, but that was the last time the Ducks would score until late in the fourth quarter, as Utah forced Lockie to either try and make plays with his legs or throw the ball away.
Locke proved to be inefficient, finishing 10-of-20 for 139 yards. He was sacked four times by aggressive Utes front seven and threw two interceptions into the waiting arms of Utah defenders that turned into scoring drives. The Utes scored touchdowns on seven straight drives and scored on nine straight total, silencing and eventually clearing out a good portion of Autzen Stadium while the Ducks looked flabbergasted.
Saturday was the worst home loss for the Ducks in over 20 years and a sobering one at that. A team that has come to embrace a winning culture over the last eight years found themselves embarrassed at home as the Utes essentially did whatever they wanted in every facet of the game. The only player who seemed effective was Freeman, who finished with yards of 123 yards of total offense and led the Ducks in rushing (77) and receiving yards (46).
“There’s a lot of teams in this league that have been waiting for a chance to step on us like that,” Frost said. “And through their good playing and our mistakes we let them do that tonight.”
Now it’s back to the drawing board. Offensively, the Ducks face a problem at quarterback and have to address questions with an offensive line that has struggled against more physical programs in Utah and Michigan State. They won’t face a team like Utah every week during conference play, but there are more physical teams on the schedule that could pose similar matchup problems to what the Ducks faced on Saturday.
“I think we’re going to keep getting better as the year goes along and some of our new players and young players continue to develop,” Frost said. “But tonight’s not it. We need to do better than that to win games.”