Oregon demolishes Virginia, 59-10
Marcus Mariota, De'Anthony Thomas spearhead Ducks' explosive offensive showing
It started early. Just two minutes into Saturday’s game, the vaunted Oregon speed quickly went from legend to reality at Scott Stadium. Sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota went untouched through the Virginia defense for a 71-yard touchdown, blazing past would-be tacklers. The play set the tone for the day, as the athletic Ducks repeatedly beat an overmatched Cavalier defense.
Cavalier sophomore quarterback David Watford was challenged drive after drive to respond, but the quarterback had few answers, throwing three interceptions and fumbling once before being replaced by redshirt freshman backup Greyson Lambert. What could have been a national coming-out party for Virginia (1-1), after an encouraging win against Brigham Young, quickly dissolved into a blowout loss, as No. 2 Oregon (2-0) used a huge second half to cruise to a 59-10 win.
“They got on us early, and in every phase,” coach Mike London said. “We could not stop them defensively and we struggled with interceptions. The players in their system execute and do what they are asked to do … We have a lot of things to address.”
The game was nearly wrapped up in the first quarter. Oregon followed up Mariota’s score with two touchdown runs from junior running back De’Anthony Thomas, and the Cavaliers found themselves in a 21-0 hole just 10 minutes into the game.
The defense began to slow the onslaught late in the first quarter. Two consecutive stops gave the Cavaliers some breathing room, and junior tailback Khalek Shepherd found the end zone on a 45-yard run to narrow the deficit to 14.
But Mariota found sophomore wide receiver Bralon Addison on a 30-yard touchdown connection early in the second quarter to extend the lead to 28-7. Sophomore Ian Frye’s 37-yard field goal near the end of the first half kept the Cavaliers within 18 and appeared to give Virginia some momentum heading into the break. Instead, those would be the final three points Virginia would score during the entire miserable afternoon.
“Well you want to remain upbeat, you don’t want to come into the locker room and be down about anything,” London said. “They were up by two touchdowns and the fact that we were getting the ball back, that’s something to find positive coming out for the second half. You have to respond and you have to perform to be successful in that regard.”
Whatever solace Virginia took from its first half performance was quickly wiped out after halftime. Oregon forced two interceptions and a fumble from Watford and capitalized on each turnover, piling on to push the lead to 52-10. Tasked to lead the charge back, Watford looked overmatched against the Oregon defense.
“I made three costly mistakes, three costly turnovers, and it wasn’t the offense’s fault as a whole — it was my fault,” Watford said. “I take the blame solely … The receivers made plays, the running backs ran, the receivers caught the passes, the tight ends caught the passes … I just need to execute better, and that’s on me.”
Virginia’s defensive line made an impression against Brigham Young, but that same front four seemed out of its depth against Oregon. Thomas picked up 125 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 rushes, while Mariota had 51 more rushing yards on top of the deep run. Freshman running back Thomas Tyner made his collegiate debut late in the game, and even he was able to pick up two touchdowns in just four rushes.
“Their speed was something that we’ve never really seen before, but that’s not really an excuse for us,” junior linebacker Daquan Romero said. “There were a whole lot of missed assignments that we blew and alignments that we could have cheated. We didn’t capitalize on the opportunity.”
Virginia worked in practice to try to simulate Oregon’s style of play, but it was clear that there was a gap between the simulation and reality. The Ducks capitalized on every sliver of opportunity to break off several big plays, and the Cavaliers even found it hard to react to the plays they anticipated seeing.
“Everything we practiced, they did,” junior cornerback DreQuan Hoskey said. “We tried our best, but they ended up with the big win.”
Offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild moved from the box to the sideline for the game, but his presence did not seem to help the offense improve from a tepid opening last week. Oregon’s talented secondary forced Virginia to play conservatively, and the Cavaliers relied on many short passes and runs. Virginia actually led Oregon in offensive plays – 86 to 69 – but they averaged just 3.5 yards per play.
“Oregon is just a fast overall team,” Watford said. “They may make mistakes, but they just do it at 100 miles per hour, and that just makes up for the mistakes that they may make … It was hard to get certain things against them, certain looks they kind of took away with their speed.”
Watford’s numbers through two games have not been impressive, but he believes that is at least partially a reflection of the tough opposition the Cavaliers have faced.
“[Brigham Young and Oregon] are two of the toughest defenses in the nation,” Watford said. “We played them back to back … I’m just learning every week. That’s all I can do, is to continue to grow and continue to learn.”
Watford saw some success late in the game rushing the ball, and it gave a small spark to a ground attack that had been relatively anemic in the game. Aside from Shepherd’s breakaway touchdown run, the Cavaliers had only 79 rushing yards on 38 attempts. That paltry average of barely more than two yards per carry will be a point of concern heading into the bye week.
“I think we have to find out what our identity is going to be,” London said. “Does it entail the quarterback running more, is it a personnel issue, is it schematic, or whatever it may be. We want to be committed to run the ball, but we have to find those guys that can run it and move the chains for us. I think with this open week coming up we can address those issues.”
Virginia returns to the field in two weeks against Virginia Military Institute, and the step down to an FCS opponent may provide a chance for the Cavalier offense to perform as it has envisioned. The Cavaliers are disappointed in the loss, but are also confident that they will be able to bounce back quickly.
“It won’t be hard,” Watford said. “Oregon is a great defense and a great team. They’re No. 2 in the nation for a reason. That’s why we have to just learn from the film and learn from the mistakes and get ready for VMI.”