The Sunday Morning Quarterback: What did we learn about Ducks, Beavers and Vikings?

3 and Out: Oregon beats South Dakota, 62-13

The Sunday Morning Quarterback: What did we learn about Ducks, Beavers and Vikings?
August 31, 2014, 8:45 am
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Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) celebrates with teammates after a touchdown in the second quarter against the South Dakota Coyotes at Autzen Stadium.

(Susan Ragan-USA TODAY Sports)

If there's one thing I've learned over the years watching college football it's that you can't get too carried away -- good or bad -- about the first game of the season. Stuff happens that you may not see the rest of the year and there's no point in being in an uproar about it. Besides, the caliber of competition is going to change in a hurry for these teams.

It's fair, too, to point out that no team worth its salt is going to open its playbook very wide in tuneup games where it is heavily favored. The idea is to stay as vanilla as possible, giving nothing away to future, tougher, opponents.

But if you're looking for a place where someone is going to tell you nothing but how good your team is, move on -- this is not the place for you. You can find that on your favorite fan site. Here's a critical look at what I saw yesterday... take it and like it:

  • Portland State should be a very good team at its own level this season so I'm not going to bash the Beavers for not being able to run up a big score on the Vikings. But I am going to jump them for all the mistakes. You're playing an FCS team and they have three penalties for 30 yards and you have 13 for 119? Ridiculous! And it reflects a definite lack of proper game preparation. At some point, Mike Riley is going to need to bring in some advisers to preseason camp because what he's doing isn't working very well.
  • That aside, the Beavers always improve as the season goes along. I expect better things from them and certainly expect Sean Mannion to get better, too. I think he's terrific but yesterday he seemed uncertain at times and made some overthrows I didn't expect from someone of his experience level.
  • It better get better in Corvallis because that simply wasn't good enough. I will say, though, the defense did a bang-up job in the second half.
  • Portland State? For a team that averaged 81 penalty yards per game last season, there was a remarkable improvement in discipline. But the passing game was atrocious. Perhaps it was the talent gap that forced Viking quarterbacks into a lot of poor throws but this team needs to pass it much better and get more from its running backs than what we saw Saturday. I do think OSU's defense is the best part of its game and it was simply too much for the Viks.
  • The Ducks did a good job of taking care of business against a team that probably would have been crushed by Portland State. But my goodness, why all the fuss about career records by Marcus Mariota? Folks, stats from this era of Oregon football have no correlation to previous eras and their players. The Ducks are running so many more plays than previous teams and the game itself has changed so much that career stats, no matter how gaudy, just aren't all that valid when it comes to career comparisons. It was just a couple of years ago I was trying to make that case to people who were telling me Darron Thomas was the greatest quarterback in Duck history -- just because of those flashy numbers he accumulated in Chip Kelly's system. I'm not saying Mariota isn't terrific, just lay off the numbers -- they are video-game fodder.
  • Oregon's runners should be terrific and the Ducks are going to be extremely difficult to stop when you consider all the ways they can come at you on offense. There is more opportunity for offensive creativity than ever before and I hope the coaches take advantage of that by expanding the system to fit the versatility of the running backs and perhaps the most athletic quarterback Oregon has ever had.
  • The Duck defense, on the other hand, was not all that impressive. I expected more pass rush, more physicality and fewer yards allowed against a team enormously overmatched in terms of talent. I thought Oregon would manhandle the South Dakota offensive line but that didn't happen. That doesn't bode well for next week's contest against Michigan State.
  • And it's about this time, Duck red-hots, that I remind you that beating a team like South Dakota 62-13 doesn't mean anything. If you want to chase a berth in the national championship playoff you play each game seeking perfection. You need to start the season being a champion and get nothing but better in the following games.
  • Honestly, I'm not even sure games against woeful competition don't do more harm than good. As much as a big win helps a team's confidence level, I'm not sure it doesn't mess with that same team's competitive edge. You don't want to get too accustomed to things coming that easy. It's a shame Oregon can't find patsies of a little better quality -- teams it can beat by three or four touchdowns that present just a bit more of a challenge. That thing last night was like one too-long, spring-practice scrimmage.