The Ducks racked up 680 yards in a very crisp offensive performance. They blocked the line of scrimmage extremely well and LaMichael James gave the stiff arm to murmurs that he had lost a step or become tentative, accelerating through holes with 90 and 50-yard touchdown runs on the way to a 204-yard day. He also had a 27-yard scamper with a screen pass.
Darron Thomas delivered the ball beautifully to a variety of receivers, finding Lavasier Tuinei and Rahsaan Vaughn downfield for long pass plays. On the day he was 11-15, 207 yards and 3 tds. For the season he’s thrown 10 touchdown passes against just one interception. In three games he still has not been sacked.
The defense continues to struggle getting off the field. The 0-2 FCS Bears moved the ball up and down the field in the first half, wearing down in the second as the score mounted. Kiko Alonso, touted as a physical presence who could shore up the middle of the Oregon defense, was not a factor. Missouri State ran the ball in chunks but had some difficulty throwing it.
A 35-7 halftime lead and James quick third quarter 50-yard touchdown run, his third of the day, enabled the Ducks to go deep into the bench, and their young players showed tremendous promise in extending and protecting the lead. Tra Carson, The Baby Rhino, charged for 82 yards on 9 carries. Bryan Bennett operating the offense efficiently and tossed two touchdown passes, one to Colt Lyerla over the middle and the other on a bubble screen to fellow redshirt freshman Eric Dungy. It was Dungy’s first career td catch after nabbing his first reception on a slant route last week. Lyerla had a nifty pair of td catches, and all three of his grabs this year have gone for touchdowns. He’ll continue to be a weapon in the Red Zone for the Ducks, and his role is sure to expand based on his early effectiveness.
De’Anthony Thomas also continued to live up to his spectacular personal legend with 169 all-purpose yards, 10 rushes for 66, two catches for 13, one a tough catch over the middle on third and six near the goal line on the opening scoring drive, a kickoff return for 35 yards, and a punt return for 48.
The wide receiver group and the downfield passing game were much sharper today. Lavasier Tuinei hauled in four passes for 90 yards and two touchdowns, while on the other side Rahsaan Vaughn solidified his hold on the 3rd wide receiver spot with a pair of catches for 64 yards, one a superb connection with quarterback Thomas on a 46-yard post pattern.
The Ducks looked sharper on offense and the offensive line play was much improved. They rolled for 416 yards on the ground. They went deep into their bench, with seven freshmen and many redshirt freshmen getting significant playing time and valuable experience. Freshman linebacker Rodney Hardrick had a couple of perfectly-executed open field tackles.
But the yardage and early drives surrendered by the first-team defense remain a serious concern with the Ducks beginning PAC-12 play next week in the desert heat, a date with Nick Foles and Juron Criner and a much more dangerous offensive attack.
Kenjon Barner, Josh Huff, Rob Beard and John Boyett sat out the game with injuries. Cliff Harris suited up for the second week in a row, but did not play this week. In his absence young cornerbacks Mitchell, Hill, and Ekpre-Olomu all played solidly, Olomu with a very Cliff-like breakup of a fourth quarter pass, playing the ball perfectly. Is Harris still in the doghouse? Will he conform sufficiently and in time to have an impact in the games to come? They missed him at LSU, didn’t need him for Nevada or MSU, but he has a track record of great plays in big games, picking at least one pass against Stanford, USC and Auburn last year while returning four punts for touchdowns on the season.