Saturday, September 28, 2013
Ducks don't need to take their time
By Craig Murphy
Special to ESPN.com
EUGENE, Ore. – Oregon enters its Saturday night Pac-12 opener against California at Autzen Stadium ranked as the worst team in the country.
In time of possession, that is.
The high-octane Ducks offense has a habit of scoring quickly. Of the Ducks' 25 touchdown drives in the first three games of 2013, 21 of them (84 percent) chewed less than two minutes off the clock.
No. 2 Oregon (3-0) has averaged only 22 minutes, 18 seconds per game thus far this season possessing the ball, last in the FBS.
Normally that would be bad. It’s quite the opposite for the Ducks.
Oregon has averaged 61.3 points per game (second in the country) in three easy victories. The Ducks defense might be on the field a lot, but Oregon has only allowed 9.0 points per game.
“You watch the film, and it’s 7-0, and all of a sudden you look up and it’s 52-0,” Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. “They make these runs, and I think you have to weather the storm.”
Weathering the storm has been a problem for Oregon opponents – and for Cal. The Golden Bears are allowing 42.0 points per game, 121st in the country. The Ducks will try to eclipse 50 points for a program-record fourth consecutive game and enter the game as five-touchdown favorites.
The game features two first-year head coaches in Dykes and Mark Helfrich, the first Oregon native since 1942 to coach the Ducks. The game also features two quarterbacks putting up big numbers.
Oregon redshirt sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota has thrown for 889 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 262 yards and four touchdowns. Mariota is currently leading the ESPN Heisman Watch.
When Mariota is not doing something, running back De’Anthony Thomas typically is. He averages 112.7 yards per game and has scored six touchdowns.
On top of that, the Ducks are the only team yet to turn the ball over this season.
“Turnover margin and scoring points off turnovers is the No. 1 contributing factor to winning or losing,” Helfrich said. “That’s the biggest stat in football.”
Cal freshman quarterback Jared Goff has raised eyebrows by throwing for 435.3 yards per game, tops in FBS. However, the Golden Bears (1-2) are only 97th in rushing and 54th in scoring.
Both teams enter the game off bye weeks. The Golden Bears lost 52-34 to Ohio State on Sept. 14 and had to come from behind to knock off Portland State 37-30.