Spring Game Three and Out
EUGENE - Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said that some of the thousand of fans in attendance at the Ducks' spring game on Saturday probably left Autzen Stadium with more questions than answers after what he called a "sloppy" and "sluggish" performance by his team.
But amidst the miscues - some born from splitting the team into two squads and playing many young players - were some shining moments that should offer encouragement of good things to come.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 6-of-7 passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns to lead Team Mariasu, drafted by Mariota and center Hroniss Grasu, to a 27-7 win over Team Twifo, drafted by cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and defensive end Tony Washington.
The setup for the game proved entertaining as both teams engaged in some gamesmanship during the week and on gameday.
"There was more talking than ball today, unfortunately," Helfrich joked.
Team Mariasu holds the bragging rights, to be sure.
Running back Thomas Tyner got things going with a 22-yard touchdown pass form Mariota against a blown coverage that allowed the sophomore to run free down the middle of the field.
Tyner also rushed for 58 yards on 10 carries and looked both powerful and fast against his teammates.
Tyner reportedly has matured greatly since last season.
"That kid has learned how to practice," Helfrich said. "He's one of the first guys out there everyday, which was polar opposite last year. He's been outstanding on special teams. He's really starting to get it. Now he needs to get in better shape."
Providing the two best moments of the game was redshirt freshman wide receiver Devon Allen, who had two receptions for 94 yards and two touchdowns. With junior wide receiver Bralon Addison likely out for the season with a knee injury, Allen has a strong chance to contribute next season.
"We've had very high expectations for him and the biggest thing is we're getting his track speed out on the football field and we love tough track guys," Helfrich said.
Allen's first score came on a 45-yard touchdown pass from Mariota on a broken play in which the quarterback scrambled to his right and then threw deep to a wide open Allen.
"We practice scramble drills and stuff like that and he was able to implement what we did in practice into the game," Mariota said. "And that's huge to see out of someone as young as he is."
Later on the last play of the game, Allen scored on a 49-yard pass from Damion Hobbs.
"He's going to make those (other young receivers) learn quickly or get beat out," Helfrich said.
Allen said he felt good about his performance.
"Just got a chance to go out there and have fun, make some plays," he said. "It was exciting."
The play of the backup quarterbacks left some things to be desired.
Jake Rodrigues, leading Team Twifo, completed 7-of-18 passes for 66 yards with one interception. Jeff Lockie was better, completing 7-of-12 passes for 121 yards and one touchdown. But he also had some gross miss-throws.
"I thought a couple of times both of them absolutely forced it," Helfrich said of Rodrigues and Lockie. "And that's human nature of trying to win the job with one throw. But that's the quickest, fastest way to lose it."
Mariota agreed that both of his understudies struggled a bit. He, on the other hand, did not. He said he's worked hard on his footwork during the winter and felt good about his performance on Saturday.
"A lot of the bad throws and a lot of the inconsistent throws that I had last year were because of my feet not being in the right place, or not standing in the right way," Mariota said. "It's going to be one of those things that I have to continue to work on."
On defense, senior cornerback Dior Mathis had an interception. Redshirt freshman safety Tyree Robinson also had an interception.
There were 12 tackles for losses. Defensive end DeForest Buckner led the game with 2 1/2.
Wide receiver Johnathan Loyd, a former basketball player, appeared in the game but did not make a reception. He did appear on kickoff return but did not gain any yards.