Tennessee Tech-Oregon Preview
Oregon never struggles to score points, but it's getting a lesson in how to close out games before Pac-12 play begins.
The fourth-ranked Ducks look to dominate for an entire 60 minutes when they finish their non-conference slate at home against FCS opponent Tennessee Tech on Saturday.
Oregon's offensive juggernaut shows no signs of slowing down, having racked up 99 points in two games. However, while the outcomes were likely never in doubt, the Ducks (2-0) have been outscored 43-14 after halftime.
Oregon was forced to regroup a bit in a 42-25 win over Fresno State last Saturday after leading 35-6 at the half.
"We took our foot off the accelerator there for a bit and let them climb back into the game. We got too comfortable with the lead," said quarterback Marcus Mariota, who fumbled twice and was sacked twice. "The adversity we faced today is good for us, it will help us better prepare for upcoming games, especially for conference play."
While Tennessee Tech (2-0) is likely just a tune-up for the Ducks, who start Pac-12 play next week against No. 24 Arizona, the team needs to stay focused as it charges for its fourth straight conference title.
"I think when you kind of turn it on and turn it off, that's what we need to work on as a group," coach Chip Kelly said. "And that's what this group needs to learn is that we keep moving, it's not 'Hey, we got a lead so we can kind of kick our feet up.' You've got to bear down in certain spots."
The Ducks still have plenty of firepower and the ability to score at will. Oregon has scored at least 30 points in 15 straight games the second-longest streak in the nation behind Oklahoma State's 17 and the Ducks are 34-2 under Kelly when scoring 30 or more.
Running back Kenjon Barner had a career-high 201 yards rushing and scored three touchdowns against Fresno State, while fellow back De'Anthony Thomas rushed for 102 yards and two scores on only seven carries.
One area of concern for Oregon is the season-ending injuries to free safety John Boyett and guard Carson York, both fifth-year seniors. Boyett needs patellar tendon surgery in both knees while York injured his right kneecap last weekend and needs surgery as well.
Boyett made 36 starts while York appeared in 41 games for the Ducks. Receiver Josh Huff also was injured last Saturday, though he says trainers will decide whether he plays this week. Kelly rarely discusses injuries and closes practices to the media.
"We're not going to hang our heads and say, 'Boy, we lost John Boyett, we can't play anymore,'" Kelly said Tuesday during the Pac-12 coaches teleconference. "Everyone in college football has gone through the same thing. ... We feel very, very bad for the individuals, but we've got to move on."
Oregon should be fine this weekend despite the key absences. Tennessee Tech has never beaten an FBS team, going 0-27, and the Golden Eagles lost 62-7 to then-No. 4 TCU in their last matchup against a ranked opponent in 2010.
Tennessee Tech does play fast, similar to the Ducks. The Golden Eagles are first in the Ohio Valley Conference in total offense and total defense, and they rank seventh in the FCS in total offense.
Tennessee Tech, which won a share of the OVC in 2011, is 2-0 for the first time since 1989.
This is the first meeting between the schools and Oregon's first matchup against the OVC.