3 & Out: Ducks throttle Cavaliers 59-10
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – Virginia’s fans were on their feet at Scott Stadium, raucous in their elation that the Cavaliers had forced No. 2 Oregon into a third-down situations with five yards to go for a first at its 29-yard line.
What happened next all but ended the game UO went on to win 59-10 before 58,802 and it also revealed a glimpse into the inner workings of the offensive brain trust post-Chip Kelly.
Oregon came out in a five-receiver set. Quarterback Marcus Mariota stood alone in the backfield.
Surely a pass play was coming next. At least that’s what Virginia thought.
Oregon (2-0) knew that would be the case given the Cavaliers’ tendencies that were revealed on game tape.
“They played a bunch of man-free against BYU,” Oregon first-year offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. “We don’t usually get much man-free because we have a quarterback who can run and there’s nobody to account for him.”
Man-free is man-to-man defense across the field with a free safety deep in the middle. Do the math and it indicates that the area behind the offensive line is uncluttered.
Anticipating this look all week, Frost called up a quarterback draw. A defender blitzed to Mariota’s left. The middle linebacker slid over to cover tight end Colt Lyerla, aligned inside to the right of the offensive line.
Mariota took the snap and then one step back as if he were dropping to set up for a pass. He then took off between right tackle Jake Fisher and right guard Hamani Stevens.
The end result: Mariota sprinted 71-yards untouched down the right hash mark for the touchdown. A two-point conversion made the score 8-0.
“That’s something we had in the game plan,” Frost said.
Boom! Game over!
Well, sort of.
The play was just one play and it happened early but it deflated Virginia (1-1).
“It’s always tough giving up big plays like that, and our defense takes pride in bouncing back and coming back from things,” Virginia tight end Zach Swanson said.
But the Cavaliers’ defense didn’t bounce back. Oregon racked up 557 yards of total offense, rushing for 350 at 8.4 yards per carry.
Running back De’Anthony Thomas gained 123 on 11 carries and scored three times. Mariota finished with 122 on for carries and threw for 199 and two touchdowns. Even freshman running back Thomas Tyner chipped in 51 yards and two touchdowns on four carries, all coming in the fourth quarter.
So what did we learn from another Oregon demolition of a hapless opponent?
For starters that against a good defense on a legitimate team - albeit in a down cycle - from a major conference (ACC) the Ducks offense in the hands of Frost and new head coach Mark Helfrich is in great shape.
Not that there was much doubt but the displayed ability to set up a BCS team like that is proof positive that the Ducks ability to outthink opponents on offense under Kelly should continue under Helfrich-Frost.
Both were groomed in Kelly’s “blur” offense and the rapid pace he established continued Saturday.
“I think our tempo wears down teams in the first half and then when we come out in the second half we have a bigger advantage,” Frost said.
Oregon even displayed an ability to adjust when Virginia gave them looks that were different than what it had showed BYU last week.
“We knew they weren’t going to play us like they played BYU and they didn’t’,” Helfrich said. “They played completely different, and we anticipated some of that and made some changes on the fly and our guys did a great job feeling that out.”
Oregon’s defense did its thing, too.
UO held Virginia to 298 yards in 86 plays.
“The yards per play (3.5) is good,” Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. “I keep harping on: when you play 86 plays, you’re going to give up yards.”
Just not many yards that mattered on this day.
Oregon forced four turnovers. Three were interceptions. One by cornerback Terrance Mitchell covered 16 yards on the return and set up Thomas’ blazing 40-yard scoring run down the right sideline that made the score 21-0 in the first quarter. Another interception by Dior Mathis was returned from Oregon’s endzone in the fourth quarter to the Virginia three-yard line, setting up Tyner’s first career touchdown run on the next play.
Continued Aliotti: “All-in-all, I thought we played hard, I thought we played sound, I thought we controlled the game.”
And then some.
About the only negatives were the 11 penalties for 119 yards and that Oregon converted on just three of 10 third-down situations.
Problems that the team said they would rectify.
Tougher tests await Oregon starting with Tennessee next Saturday at Autzen.
But with a real win under its belt (no, Nicholls did not count) that included numerous displays of offensive firepower many fans have become accustomed to, the Ducks took the first step toward erasing any lingering doubt that they could function at an elite level minus Kelly.