Marcus Mariota and No. 2 Oregon wasted no time showing Virginia all that speed the Ducks bring is more than just talk.
Mariota ran 71 yards for a touchdown on the Ducks’ sixth play from scrimmage, turning a third-and-5 that had the crowd jacked up for a defensive stop into a demoralizing introduction into what Oregon football is all about.
”They came out in a man-free look and they all kind of ran with their guy and I just kind of hit it up the middle,” Mariota said of the play, on which he flared five receivers out, then ran a draw. He was virtually untouched on the play.
”The guys did a good job blocking and the receivers did a good job blocking downfield,” he said.
Mariota finished with 122 yards on four carries, and threw two touchdown passes. De’Anthony Thomas added three touchdown runs, and the Ducks piled up 557 yards of offense in their first trip to Charlottesville on the way to a 59-10 victory that looked frighteningly easy.
Still, it left first-year head coach Mark Helfrich with plenty to complain about, namely 11 penalties for 119 yards.
”Obviously we will clean that up,” Helfrich said.
The offense, which built a 21-0 lead in the first 10:32, felt like it left a lot on the field, too.
”I thought we did all right,” Mariota said. ”There were some times that we slowed ourselves down with penalties and bad throws. If everything starts to click for us, like those first three drives, I think things will get rolling and we’ll be pretty good.”
Thomas ran for 124 yards on just 11 carries, and the Ducks (2-0), who gained a school-record 772 yards last week in beating Nicholls State, looked capable of doing it again against a Virginia defense that hoped to keep the Cavaliers in the game. Oregon’s up-tempo offense did all its damage while possessing the ball for just 21:25.
As always, Thomas said, their opponents faces’ told the story.
”That’s the funny part. For the first couple plays, they’re out there talking, and as the game goes by, guys are just slowing down and you can see by their body language and stuff, and that’s when we know we got `em,” the fleet junior said.
Virginia (1-1) came into the game riding a high after a comeback victory last week against BYU, the first since coach Mike London hired new offensive, defensive and special teams coordinators. Defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta’s unit, especially, seemed confident it would be able to slow the Ducks down, but Mariota provided a very early look at what it was up against.
”We knew they are fast and athletic,” London said. ”We tried to practice the pace, but it’s hard to practice for that type of athleticism that they have. It is always a challenge when you face an offense like that.”
The victory was the Ducks’ 16th in a row on their opponent’s field, the longest streak in the country.
Mariota finished 14 of 28 for 199 yards with touchdowns of 30 yards to Bralon Addison and 11 to Keanon Lowe.
The Cavaliers trailed 21-0 after 10:32 and never were able to sustain anything on offense. David Watford was 29 for 41 for 161 yards, but threw three interceptions and fumbled once, and all four turnovers led to Oregon touchdowns.
”I’m just learning every week, and that’s all I can do,” Watford, a first-year starter, said.
Virginia’s lone touchdown came on a 45-yard run by Khalek Shepherd.
After Mariota’s long run, the teams exchanged punts, and when the Cavaliers Alec Vozenilek punted again from his 14, Josh Huff deflected the ball out of bounds at the Cavaliers’ 14. Three plays later, Thomas went through the line from a yard out for the touchdown, and it was 14-0 after 7:45.
The Cavaliers got their first two first downs of the game on the next series before Watford rolled right, threw downfield on the run and the ball glanced off Dominique Terrell’s hands into the arms of Terrance Mitchell, who returned the interception 16 yards to the Virginia 40. On the next play, Thomas went around the right side and down the sideline, tight-roping the line for a touchdown, and it was 21-0.
Shepherd’s touchdown gave the biggest crowd at Scott Stadium in five years reason for hope, pulling the Cavaliers within 21-7, and when the defense held on the next two series, the excitement grew.
But early in the second quarter, Thomas ripped off a 22-yard run, took a swing pass 28 yards down the sideline and Mariota hit Bralon Addison with a short pass that turned into a 30-yard touchdown.
Three plays. Eighty yards. Less than a minute off the clock. And the Ducks were rolling again.
Thomas added an 8-yard TD run in the third quarter, and Mariota hit Keannon Lowe from 11 yards for a touchdown to make it 45-10, prompting both coaches to begin substituting liberally. Freshman tailback Thomas Tyner made the most of his chance, carrying four times for 51 yards and two touchdowns, including a 31-yarder midway through the final quarter.
Kevin Parks led Virginia with 60 yards rushing, and Jake McGee caught eight passes, but for just 53 yards.