The Prelims are over, and they went exactly like they were supposed to. Oregon demolished five weak teams and earned a 5-0 record and a #2 ranking in the polls. Marcus Mariota emerged as a Heisman Trophy candidate with 14 touchdowns passing and 7 rushing. He has not had a fumble or a pick.
Saturday against the Buffaloes, Mariota passed for five scores and ran for two, the seven touchdowns setting a modern Oregon record for productivity in one game. Seven touchdowns. That's Ernie Nevers, Red Grange territory, legendary, back-of-the-Wheaties-box stuff. After the game the 19-year-old from Honolulu (his birthday is October 30th, between the UCLA and Stanford games) was his typical modest self, praising his receivers, coaches and offensive line, patiently answering that he didn't mind sitting out fourth quarters because his backups worked so hard in practice.
Open range: He'd look more Heisman-like if extended his right arm in the famous stiff arm pose, but Marcus Mariota is more concerned with getting the yards, protecting the ball and running the next play than winning awards (MariotaRonChenoyUSA TODAYSports photo.)
In every way Mariota is the anti-Manziel. He does things with the minimum of flair or self-aggrandizement. He's preternaturally calm and unaffected by being one of the biggest stars in college football. Keith Price and Kevin Hogan get just as much credit for being three-quarters as good, and part of the reason is that Mariota does his work with such ease and efficiency that it seems effortless; he's like an Olympic diver that enters the water so smoothly he scarcely upsets the surface.
The Ducks are like that too. Saturday afternoon in Boulder they led 29-10 after the first quarter, 57-16 by the end of the third, and parked the offense in the fourth. Everybody played except De'Anthony Thomas in a boot, and Colt Lyerla left home for unspecified disciplinary reasons. Duck fans got a glimpse of the future, with Sam Kamp, Alex Balducci, Torrodney Prevot, and Reggie Daniels recording tackles.
Colorado competed furiously. They tried an onside kick to open the game and a clever pooch kick later. They scored on a wide receiver reverse pass, went for it on fourth downs, and heaved the ball deep, completing just 12 passes in 34 tries. A couple of the Buffs gave outstanding efforts: linebacker Addison Gilliam roamed and raged, tacking up 15 tackles, the fiercest defender on either sideline. Paul Richardson, their sleek outside receiver, caught 5 passes for 134 yards, one a diving one-handed grab down the left sideline with Ifo Ekpre-Olomu pulling on his right arm to prevent another touchdown. He also shot-putted the 75-yard reverse option throw to D.D. Goodson, only the second touchdown and the seventh reception of Goodson's college career.
After the game, Colorado coach Mike McIntyre told Kyle Ringo of the Boulder Daily Camera,
"We talked about, 'Don't stick your toe in the water.' You know how sometimes the pool is cold?" MacIntyre said. "You go, 'I don't know if I want to get in.' Well you can do that with Oregon. You know, 'Do I want to go play?' We dove right in the pool and we started swimming.
"... I was pleased with how hard we played. I was pleased with our fight. I was pleased with our aggressiveness. I thought we did some good things."
The Buffaloes were brave and determined, but Oregon was too talented. Jeff Lockie took a knee at the Colorado two at the end of the game.
Last night in the PAC-12 nightcap Stanford defeated Washington 31-28. Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan was just 12-20 passing for 100 yards and an interception, and the Washington defense held The Cardinal to 279 (they're allowing about 280 a game) but Tyler Montgomery had two long kickoff returns to spark the win. Washington scored three touchdowns in the second half and rallied furiously with two more late drives. One ended at the Stanford 5 when Keith Price's pass was deflected at the line into the arms of inside linebacker A.J. Tarpley. Their last drive ended at the Stanford 49 needing a field goal to tie, Price's pass to Kevin Smith on 4th and 10 ruled an incompletion by the replay official after an agonizing deliberation.
The Cardinal didn't look like an offensive juggernaut, but they sacked the Washington quarterback five times and had ten tackles for loss. Neither of these teams looked complete enough or fast enough to stay with the Ducks, but it's likely that each will be as urgent and aggressive as the Buffaloes were yesterday. Both have enough talent to make it close and pressure-packed, something the Ducks haven't experienced since they lost to Stanford last November.