Oregon is known for its lightning-strike scores. It took awhile, but once it realized its image, it didn’t disappointment.
Utah trailed by just three as late as midway through the third quarter, but then the sixth-ranked Ducks took over as expected, winning 44-21 on Saturday.
Rhett Wilkinson is a project manager for UtahPolicy.com and Utah State University athletics correspondent for the Standard-Examiner. He co-founded Aggie BluePrint, USU's first student magazine. email@example.com | Twitter: @UtahAffairsMan
Utah quarterback Adam Schulz went 13 of 30, but his first career start came at the raucous Autzen Stadium against a powerful team. Receivers also dropped five passes.
While Oregon was scoring four touchdowns to bury them, the Utes gained just 23 yards on 15 plays. Bubba Poole’s best run of the afternoon was a 9-yard fight through several Ducks midway through the fourth quarter.
Things were truly done after Schulz was sacked on Utah’s first drive of the fourth quarter, capping three straight plays of lost yardage and a three-and-out. A 48-yard reception by Utah's Dominique Hatfield highlighted a touchdown drive, cutting Oregon’s lead to 17-14 before the Ducks took over.
Jake Murphy proved how much he was missed. After missing the past four games (when the Utes went 1-3), Murphy re-debuted at Autzen Stadium at a good time, setting up Utah’s first touchdown — his 34-yard reception — with a third-down catch for a first down near midfield following an Oregon timeout. It also came at a good time personally, playing in front of family. His famous father Dale grew up in the state of Oregon.
Without bruising running back Kelvin York, Utah finished 9 of 18 on third downs — its best rate of the season — against a group including defensive ends standing at 6-5, 6-7 and 6-8. Utah's 21 points were higher than the 10th-best scoring defense in the nation usually allows. GRADE: C+
Known for their quick strikes, Oregon had two sets of two touchdowns just four minutes apart in the second half to bury the Utes.
The Utah defense had been so good until Murphy’s score. Then it allowed Oregon to go 64 yards in three plays and just 24 seconds, recovering its double-digit lead heading into halftime.
Despite that, Utah's D held up quite well until midway through the third quarter, when it allowed Marcus Mariota to engineer a 93-yard drive, the Ducks having abandoned the run with repeated play-action calls.
Then Byron Marshall gained 54 yards on three consecutive carries, scoring twice just 4:28 apart and proving that the Ute defense had worn down despite Utah leading in time of possession. Marshall's second and third carries led to touchdowns and a 44-14 Oregon lead seven minutes after the Ducks scored two distancing quick strikes lasting just 4:14.
Mariota proved his ability as a Heisman candidate, going 19-26 for 288 yards and three touchdowns. But Oregon was held beneath its scoring average of 51.7 points per game — and one touchdown came from its return team. GRADE: B
Immediately after Utah made it a three-point game in the third quarter, the kick coverage team was once again poor, allowing returner De’Anthony Thomas to get to the house for the first of four rapid Oregon scores. The Ducks didn’t have much time to get downfield, since Thomas started at the 14-yard line.
Tom Hackett punted just 25 yards early in the second quarter in an effort to stay away from Bralon Additon but was otherwise stellar. GRADE: C-
The Utah offense was near midfield with seconds remaining in the second quarter, but the Utes didn’t even take a shot downfield. Coaches also opted to punt with the Utes facing fourth-and-1 from their own 40-yard line.
Then trailing 30-14, offensive coaches got desperate, throwing on first down. The drive ended in a punt.
Each possession came trailing by two possessions midway through the third quarter, minutes before Oregon added another two touchdowns just four minutes apart to seal the win. The Utah offense and defense playing better than the Ducks’ opponents usually do raises the coaching grade multiple notches. GRADE: C+
Late in the third quarter, Utah nearly doubled Oregon in time of possession but trailed by 16 points before the Ducks sealed it. Simply, Oregon was too swift offensively.
Oregon had its series of scores in the last half of the third quarter and start of the fourth. It needed them to dominate as expected. The Utah offense’s drive in the final stanza and the defense’s forced punts on the Ducks’ last two drives of consequence suggested their commitment to the season. That says a lot about the Utes’ chances of becoming bowl eligible by winning their final two games.
Schulz’s decent outing compared with Wilson’s three consecutive awful games means that the junior should be given the chance to guide the Utes in that hunt. GRADE: C+