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What We Learned: Ducks Defeat Spartans

Monday, September 08, 2014

 

The Ducks can handle a physical team.

At home, anyway, and don’t discount that fact at the end of the season, when College Football Playoff talk really heats up.

Michigan State acquitted itself well against the Ducks on the road, in an extremely difficult place to play, and such a non-conference loss shouldn’t cast a pall over the Spartans’ postseason hopes.

However, this was a statement game for UO, regardless of anything anyone affiliated with the program says otherwise.

How can it not be when the head coach, Mark Helfrich, is cracking wise in the days leading up until kickoff about how Ducks’ losses are the end of the world, while for everyone else setbacks are just a bad day at the office?

And the primary reason why was the perception that fast and flashy (read: finesse) Oregon couldn’t withstand the punishment from powerful and plodding (read: old school) teams like Stanford and, well, Michigan State.

So false. Destroy that narrative. Anything is possible when, as a program, you’re fed up with the noise and, let’s be honest here, when you have the best player in the country on your side, which leads to...

Marcus Mariota has a Heisman Trophy signature moment.

He’s the clear frontrunner, and now he has an indelible moment that voters and viewers alike will replay in their minds through the end of the season - his underhand flip toss to running back Royce Freeman on third-and-10 in the third quarter with the Ducks trailing by 9 went for a first down and led to a touchdown, the beginning of Oregon’s seismic comeback.

“Mariota leads,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “He’s tough, he leads and he creates. That’s the difference in the football game.

"He created and we let him get out of it numerous times.”

He wasn’t perfect, but he’s the perfect fit for this blur offense. As long as he’s at the controls, and given some eyebrow-raising results elsewhere over the weekend, it’s hard to see where someone (Oct. 11 at UCLA? Nov. 1 vs. Stanford? Nov. 29 at Oregon State?) might trip up the Ducks before the College Football Playoff.

Mariota is a virtuoso. If he’s healthy, Oregon will score plenty of points, which means you can...

Stop worrying about the defense.

Don Pellum’s adjustments in the second half - MSU quarterback Connor Cook said the Ducks went heavy on Cover 2 - were impressive, and isn’t that the sign of quality coaching? Making adjustments when necessary?

Even better to do so on the fly, but let’s give him time - it’s just his second game as defensive coordinator.

His boss was pleased.

“Credit to Don Pellum and our defensive staff for rallying those guys in the second half,” Helfrich said. “… The defense played tremendously in the second half and just slowed them down.”

Know this - the Ducks will not face a better team than the Spartans, who will likely capture the Big Ten, during Pac-12 play. A lot of teams might not know, for certain, who they are at this point of the season, but there is no doubt whatsoever in Eugene.

And, believe it or not, Pellum’s defense is a key reason why.

“We were able to cause a lot of chaos in the second half for the quarterback and he had to run and scramble and that is not what he wanted to do,” cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu said.

Homepage Photo Credit: John Martinez Pavliga,  cc

 

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