It took No. 6 Oregon a little while to shake off the hangover that lingered from last week’s disappointing loss to Stanford, but the Ducks finally got going in the second half against Utah and returned to form in beating the Utes, 44-21, in Eugene on Saturday.
With the win, Oregon improves to 9-1 overall and 6-1 in the Pac-12. Utah fell to 4-6 and 1-6.
Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota was sharp from the beginning and he ended up throwing for 288 yards and three touchdowns on 19 of 27 passing. He now has 25 touchdown passes and no interceptions on the year in 286 attempts. If he’s going to crawl back into the Heisman race, he’ll need to have games like this one.
This game wasn’t decided until well into the third quarter. Utah quarterback Adam Schulz ran for a four-yard touchdown to make it 17-14 with 10 minutes to play in the third and it looked like Oregon was missing its mojo for the second-straight game.
But that’s when the Ducks exploded as they’ve been known to do so many times in the past. After the score by Schulz, De’Anthony Thomas took the ensuing kickoff 86 yards for a touchdown. After a Utah punt, Mariota led Oregon on a 93-yard drive that took a little under two minutes. Tailback Byron Marshall tacked on two touchdowns on the next two drives and suddenly the Ducks had a 44-14 lead, the byproduct of 27 unanswered points.
While it took a little while for the Oregon offense to get going, the defense was having few problems. Utah was held to 297 total yards and Schulz completed just 13 of 30 passes. Utah added a late Bubba Poole rushing touchdown to make the final margin more respectable.
Oregon still has some work to do to get its running game back up to snuff. The Ducks ran for 145 yards, their second-straight game under 200 yards rushing after eclipsing that mark in the previous 10. Luckily, Oregon also has Mariota and he’s a good safety valve to have when other things aren’t clicking.
At 4-6, Utah needs to beat Washington State and Colorado to return to bowl eligibility. Meanwhile, Oregon will sit back and wait — and hope — that USC can upset Stanford. If that happens, the Ducks might have a lot to play for in the next few weeks.