Saturday’s game at Autzen Stadium closed an impressive non-conference schedule for the 5th ranked Oregon Ducks. After embarrassing the New Mexico Lobos 72-0 on opening day we all knew that the Ducks could score, but they remained relatively untested on defense. After taking down the talented yet inexperienced Tennessee Volunteers 48-13 in a raucous Neyland Stadium, Oregon climbed to #5, but nothing above expectations for the Ducks to that point. So coming into the game against Portland State it was expected of the Ducks to win and win big. Most wanted to watch quarterback Darron Thomas spread the ball around to his weapons and have success throwing down the field. Others wanted to see LaMichael James sprint back into the Heisman chase with a huge game, even if he only played a half. Personally I wanted to see the Ducks mascot Puddles do 1,000 push-ups then do a backflip. Well most of those wishes came true, but yet again my aspirations aim too high. When all was said and done on Saturday after the 69-0 shellacking of the PSU Vikings, Thomas had thrown 4 touchdown passes, James had 225 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Puddles had worked up a sweat after 422 total push-ups. Oh, and the defense pitched another shutout to boot, as if the day wasn’t impressive enough already!
The Ducks had racked up 668 total yards, the second time in 3 games they had eclipsed the 600 yard mark. I had mentioned that this game was never expected to be a test for the Ducks when it came to the scoreboard at the end of the game. The true mission goals for Oregon were to keep momentum and to learn as much as possible about themselves before they begin playing games that will require starters to remain in pads for 4 quarters. What I really wanted to see was the progression of Darron Thomas. Everyone knows Thomas can run like Jeremiah Masoli is threatening to rob him. But can he make the throws and decisions to lead his offense down the field when the game is on the line? Well, that question remains unanswered as the Vikings defense didn’t exactly provide a measuring stick. But through the first 3 games Thomas has thrown 8 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions. Has he made mistakes? Of course he has, I would be more concerned if he had the best passer rating in history. He needs to gain confidence but at the same time he needs to make mistakes he can learn from. Saturday he made a poor decision by throwing the ball deep while under pressure, a pass that was well behind WR Josh Huff and intercepted. But Thomas managed the game well and I was impressed with his overall performance in the preseason.
LaMichael James spent his half of football showing how versatile and valuable he really is. On one play he would catch the ball out of the backfield, the next he would lower his shoulder and go through tacklers. But of course, most of the plays he just flew past the defense untouched for huge gains. After being suspended for the first game of the year, James has returned to form quickly with over 300 yards rushing in 2 games. With Kenjon Barner and David Paulson suffering early muscle strains the Ducks did not want to risk either player to further injury, sitting them midway through the first quarter. So James took the heavy dosage of carries, which eventually opened up the passing game for Jeff Maehl, Malachi Lewis, and Daryle Hawkins to catch touchdowns from Thomas. A total of 6 ducks found the endzone Saturday, with Maehl and James scoring twice each.
As for the defense….no big deal. They just held the visiting Vikings to 140 yards of total offense and no points. Through 2 home games the Ducks have yet to surrender any points, while scoring 141 themselves. That’s a ratio I can live with. I’m sure Puddles wishes he only had to do as many push-ups as the opponents have points. But we can’t have an out of shape mascot, that would be unacceptable. So what do we do? Make him do 400+ push-ups both home games. Hey, the lucky duck (get it? Because he’s a duck…nevermind) gets to hang out with the cheerleaders all day, he probably likes to show off anyway. Look for the ducks to enjoy a challenge when league play begins. But defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti has to like what he sees so far.
Now the Ducks look to next week’s road match-up when they visit the Arizona State Sun Devils in Tempe. Oregon has plenty of momentum and looks to remain in rhythm on offense and defense. As for Puddles? He is just looking forward to some rest, an ice bath and maybe a massage from the cheerleading squad.
Until next week. GO DUCKS!
About the Author
Written by Rob Parness
My name is Robbie Parness and I am a student at the University of Oregon. I'm a California native that loves to play, watch and talk about all kinds of sports. I would love to become a sports writer someday or work in sports in any capacity.