No. 2 Oregon shook off a rusty first half and kept its BCS title dreams alive by crushing No. 12 UCLA in Eugene on Saturday, 42-14.
The Bruins and Ducks were tied at 14 at the half and the game started to evoke memories of Oregon’s 17-14 loss to Stanford last season. But Heisman Trophy front runner Marcus Mariota completed all 10 of his second half passes for 99 yards and the Ducks scored on four out of six second half possessions to pull away.
You might have to credit the Oregon defense for this win. The Ducks intercepted UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley twice and held him to just 64 yards passing. The Bruins were more successful on the ground, but ended up with 283 total yards — their second-straight sub-300-yard game. Ducks linebacker Boseko Lokombo really came to play — he had two sacks and snared a key interception when UCLA was threatening to score.
Unlike previous games, Oregon didn’t come up with many big plays on offense. Instead, it was content to nickel and dime UCLA’s defense, with 325 of its 555 yards coming on the ground. Byron Marshall notched his fifth-straight 100-yard game, rushing for a game-high 133 yards and three touchdowns.
Mariota had a solid game — 21 of 28 for 230 yards and one score, plus 18 rushing yards — and he extended his Pac-12 record streak of passes without an interception to 292. While it wasn’t his flashiest performance, he should remain atop the Heisman race for now.
Oregon has passed its first two tests of the season — marquee games with ranked Washington and UCLA teams — with both wins coming by an average score of 44-23. But we’ve become so spoiled by how easy the Ducks make it look in beating teams by huge margins, it’s easy to think they’re struggling when they don’t dominate from the first snap.
For UCLA, it really is right where it should be. The Bruins are playing so many true freshmen, it was probably too much to expect them to pull out the last two games versus elite teams like Stanford and Oregon. But a game like this will definitely play dividends down the road for such a young roster.