Fans of the band Muse are likely familiar with their hit single, "Supermassive Black Hole", an appropro title that would accurately describe the Oregon football team's style of play Saturday night. Before a capacity Autzen Stadium crowd, the Ducks donned all black jerseys (including black name plates) and effectively swallowed up their opposition, limiting the Arizona State Sun Devils to 212 yards of total offense while Oregon racked up nearly 400 yards of their own. Spearheaded by quarteback Jeremiah Masoli and another sterling effort from redshirt freshman running back LaMichael James on the ground, the Ducks jumped all over the Sun Devils from the opening whistle.
"I think LaMichael had a great game," said Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, "He keeps continuing to show why he's one of the top backs in this league and we're going to ride him as long as we can…It's tough when we have both Jeremiah – who's such a threat – and LaMichael – who's such a threat – it really forces the defense to defend the whole field."
James stretched his streak of 100 yard games to five this week, rushing for 150 yards on 22 carries to go along with three touchdowns. Masoli was similarly potent, racking up 67 yards yards on the ground to go along with 120 yards through the air and two touchdowns. Once again without the recently reinstated LeGarrette Blount, Oregon's pace was virtually impossible to handle, even for the Sun Devils, who statistically possessed the conference's best rush defense heading in to this week's game.
"We're always going to try and mix things up a little bit," said Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, "We kind of had our quicker pace in there for a couple of spurts in the first half and then in the second half, we were trying to milk it a little bit and burn some clock…we should have had a couple more probably, but again, that's a nice thing to build on."
Defensively, the Oregon defense returned to their typical swarming form, despite surrendering 14 points to begin the second half due penalties and turnovers that placed them in unfavorable field position. Bouncing back from a dreadful performance last week at Stanford was a point of emphasis in practice this week according to linebacker Casey Matthews and it showed this evening.
"We had a great of week of practice and we were ready this game," stated Matthews, "Our focus and less mental errors (were the difference this week), because last week we were out of gas and they ran all over us. But we knew that was our biggest problem (to fix)."
The Oregon defense appeared to be in a tremendous rhythm early on, feasting on the inexperience and lack of mobility of freshman Brock Osweiler who made his first collegiate start this week for Arizona State. However, after Osweiler was knocked from the game late in the first half, adjusting to backup quarterback Samson Szakacsy proved to be more difficult than anticipated. Szakacsy's mobility and deceptively accurate arm enabled the Sun Devils to score two quick touchdowns to cut the score to 31-21 in the second half.
"We knew what he (Szakacsy) was like coming out of high school," said Kelly, "A real athletic kid and we knew when he went in the game he was obviously going to run a little bit more than their other two guys (Osweiler and Sullivan) and we were prepared for it, but he is a pretty good athlete and he ran around and made some plays.
That was as close as the Sun Devils would get though, as Szakacsy would finish 13-of-22 passing for 113 yards and a touchdown. Next week comes the showdown in Tuscon with a potential bid for the Rose Bowl hanging in the balance for both the Ducks and Arizona. Despite Arizona's loss to Cal this week, Coach Kelly and Ducks are aware they are in for a dogfight come next Saturday.
"We control everything we do," said Kelly, "We got to go back out and get ready to work on Monday. Arizona is a tough place to play and I know our guys are excited. We talked about how we're 8-2 right now and the great thing about being 8-2 is you get a chance to go 9-2."
Ducks Slam Sun Devils In 23-Point Victory
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