"I've never made a dumber mistake in my life"
EUGENE - Oregon running back Byron Marshall had one of the more impressive games ever delivered by a Ducks running back during Saturday's 62-13 win over South Dakota at Autzen Stadium.
He ran. He caught. He scored. He blocked.
Oh, and he fumbled. At the goal line. After slowing down too early. Resulted in a touchback.
There was that.
"Huge mental mistake," the junior said. "I've never really made a dumber play before in my life. Out of all the good that may have happened tonight that's the only thing that's really playing through my mind...stuff like that shouldn't happen."
The fumble erased what would have been a 53-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. On the play, Marshall displayed his quick feet and cutting ability by getting through the first and second levels before bursting to the right for what appeared to be a sure touchdown for No. 3 Oregon (1-0)
But inexplicable, Marshall began to drop the ball a yard before crossing the goal line. The ball bounced into the end zone and out of bounds, resulting in a touchback. South Dakota took over at its own 20.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota was asked if he said anything to Marshall about the fumble.
"A little bit. Coach (Mark) Helfrich was in his ear quick, though," Mariota said.
Said Helfrich: "We had a good discussion. We give the ball to the official, that's all we do, which we did very well on the next touchdown."
Plays like that happen from time to time around the world of football. It was more shocking to see it happen at Oregon considering how much the Ducks preach to play fast, hard and finish.
Marshall bounced back in a hurry. On Oregon's next drive he caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Mariota to make the score 35-6 in the second quarter. His first touchdown of the day came on a pass from 41 yards out.
The two receiving touchdowns were a byproduct of Marshall being used all over the field. He led the team with 89 yards rushing on eight carries. He also led in receiving with eight receptions for 138 yards and the two scores. The 41-yarder came on a wheel route out of the backfield. His other receptions came with him lined up in the slot.
"Byron had a little bit of a different role tonight, in terms of being a little bit more of a hybrid guy, a downfield receiver threat," Helfrich said. "That was kind of by virtue of how they defended those formations."
It's an interesting wrinkle for the Ducks to have. It's one Helfrich said could also involve Tyner lining up in the slot instead of Marshall.
Unfortunately for Marshall, he couldn't completely enjoy his fantastic evening because of one major mistake. However, it's better than it happened in a game like Saturday's.
"A mistake like that can be costly in a different game," Marshall said. "I've got to be better than that."