How it Happened: The Ducks had little trouble scoring, piling up 466 first-half yards on the way to a 41-13 halftime lead. UO coach Mark Helfrich‘s ire was drawn when a careless play took points off the board, along with five early penalties and some porous run defense. But Oregon was able to work nearly every available player onto the field, valuable experience for a team that brought 40 newcomers into preseason camp.
Who Stood Out: Quarterback Marcus Mariota took advantage of an array of new offensive weapons, including the Pac-12’s top returning rusher Byron Marshall in a new all-purpose role and freshman running back Royce Freeman. Mariota played the first half and finished 14-of-20 passing for 267 yards and three touchdowns, adding six rushes for 43 yards and a score. Marshall caught six of those passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, and rushed twice for 58 yards, though he also cost the Ducks six points by dropping the ball just short of the goal line at the end of a long run. Freeman had touchdowns on two of his first three carries, backing up the considerable hype he generated in preseason camp.
What it Means: The Ducks certainly looked like a top-five team in the nation when they had the ball, with Thomas Tyner getting the bulk of the carries and Mariota spreading it around to the likes of Marshall and Darren Carrington. South Dakota’s 20 first-half rushes for 120 yards were troubling, especially with mighty Michigan State coming to town next, but some of that was against backup Duck defenders, making it tough to completely assess how things will look under new coordinator Don Pellum.
Odds and Ends: Ten true freshmen saw the field, a number that Ducks haven’t exceeded in any of the last four full seasons. The ten were long snapper Tanner Carew, kicker Aidan Schneider, offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby, receiver Charles Nelson, defensive linemen Austin Maloata and Henry Mondeaux, linebackers Justin Hollins and Jimmie Swain, cornerback Arrion Springs and Freeman. Nelson returned a third-quarter punt for a touchdown. … At positions where the Ducks hadn’t previously announced starters, the first reps went to Dwayne Stanford at receiver, Pharaoh Brown at tight end, Jake Pisarcik at right guard, Reggie Daniels at safety and Thomas Tyner at running back … Mariota set UO career records for total touchdowns (82) and passing touchdowns (66), tying Darron Thomas in the latter category.
Next Up: The No. 3 Ducks remain at home for the nation’s most anticipated nonconference matchup of the 2014 regular season, against No. 8 Michigan State on Saturday in Autzen Stadium (3:30 p.m. PT, FOX)