NCF Nation: Avery Patterson

Pac-12 all-bowl team

January, 9, 2014
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Who were the Pac-12 standouts this bowl season? Here are our picks.

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeBrett Hundley
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsBrett Hundley finished the season with a strong performance in the Bruins' bowl win.
QB Brett Hundley, UCLA: Hundley accounted for four touchdowns in the Bruins' 42-12 win over Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl. He rushed for 161 yards on 10 carries -- 16.1 yards per run -- with two touchdowns and he also completed 16 of 29 passes for 226 yards and two scores. Other QBs had nice games, but Hundley put up big numbers against an outstanding defense.

RB Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona: In the AdvoCare V100 Bowl win over Boston College, Carey rushed for 169 yards on 27 carries and two scores, averaging 6.3 yards per rush. He decisively outplayed Boston College RB Andre Williams, who won the Doak Walker Award and was a Heisman Trophy finalist.

RB D.J. Foster, Arizona State: Despite being banged up, Foster rushed for 132 yards on 20 carries -- 6.6 yards per carry -- in the Sun Devils' 37-23 loss to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. He also caught five passes for 23 yards.

WR Marqise Lee, USC: In his career finale, Lee caught seven passes for 118 yards with two touchdowns in USC's win over Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl.

WR Nate Phillips, Arizona: Phillips, a true freshman, caught nine passes for 193 yards in the Wildcats' win over Boston College.

WR Josh Huff, Oregon: Huff caught five passes for 104 yards and a touchdown in Oregon's 30-7 win over Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl.

OL Xavier Su'a-Filo, UCLA: Su'a-Filo led the Bruins' offensive line against a tough Virginia Tech defense. UCLA rushed for 197 yards against a top-10 rushing defense and yielded only two sacks.

OL Abe Markowitz, USC: The sixth-year walk-on stepped in at center for an injured Marcus Martin -- the Trojans' best offensive lineman this season -- and played well in the 45-20 win over Fresno State. The Trojans yielded only one sack and rushed for 154 yards. He was named the "Offensive Outperformer of the Game" by his coaches.

OL Jake Fisher, Oregon: Fisher led a strong effort from the Ducks' offensive line in the win over Texas. Oregon rushed for 216 yards and yielded only two sacks. Fisher did a good job against Texas' top defender, end Jackson Jeffcoat.

OL Micah Hatchie, Washington: Hatchie, the Huskies' left tackle, was the biggest reason BYU didn't record a sack in the Fight Hunger Bowl, a 31-16 Huskies victory. Washington also rushed for 190 yards.

OL Isaac Seumalo, Oregon State: Seumalo led perhaps the Beavers O-line's best effort of the season. Oregon State rushed for 195 yards and yielded no sacks.

K Travis Coons, Washington: Coons made a 45-yard field goal against BYU -- the longest Pac-12 postseason field goal -- and was good on all four of his PATs.

DEFENSE

DL Scott Crichton, Oregon State: Crichton had three tackles for a loss, a sack, a forced fumble and pass breakup in the win over Boise State.

DL Taylor Hart, Oregon: Hart had a game-high 11 tackles, with half a sack and a forced fumble in the Ducks' win over Texas.

DL Hau'oli Kikaha, Washington: Kikaha had nine tackles with three sacks and a forced fumble in the Huskies' win over BYU.

LB Shayne Skov, Stanford: Skov had nine tackles, three tackles for a loss, a sack and a forced fumble in Stanford's 24-20 loss to Michigan State in the Rose Bowl.

LB Jake Fischer, Arizona: Fischer had a game-high 14 tackles in the Wildcats' win over Boston College. He also had a sack and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Arizona held Williams to only 75 yards on 26 carries.

LB John Timu, Washington: Timu had a game-high 14 tackles, a sack and an interception in the Huskies' win over BYU.

LB Jabral Johnson, Oregon State: Johnson had a game-high 12 tackles, a sack and a quarterback hurry in the Beavers' win over Boise State.

DB Rashaad Reynolds, Oregon State: Reynolds had 10 tackles and returned two fumbles for touchdowns in the Beavers' win over Boise State. The fumble returns went for 70 and 3 yards.

DB Avery Patterson, Oregon: Patterson had nine tackles and returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown in the win over Texas.

DB Josh Shaw, USC: Shaw held Fresno State receiver Davante Adams to nine receptions for 73 yards in the Trojans' win over the Bulldogs. He finished with six tackles and had an interception in the end zone.

DB Anthony Jefferson, UCLA: Jefferson had seven tackles, shared a tackle for a loss and had a pass breakup in the Bruins' win over Virginia Tech. The Hokies completed only 15 of 36 throws for 176 yards.

P Ben Rhyne, Stanford: With five punts, Rhyne averaged 49.8 yards per boot in the Rose Bowl.

Instant Analysis: Oregon 30, Texas 7

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
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SAN ANTONIO -- No. 10 Oregon beats Texas 30-7 in the Valero Alamo Bowl. A few thoughts on the game:

It was over when: Oregon safety Derrick Malone picked off a Case McCoy pass over the middle midway through the fourth quarter, then went 39 yards for the score. The Ducks went up 30-7 on McCoy’s second pick-six of the night.

Game ball goes to: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was masterful both on the ground and through the air, throwing for 253 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 133. A month off to heal a nagging knee injury did him plenty of good.

Stat of the game: McCoy finished with 48 passing yards and no touchdowns. The two passes he completed to Oregon defenders were returned for a total of 75 yards and two touchdowns.

Unsung hero: Oregon safety Avery Patterson, who gave the Ducks a 7-0 lead just 68 seconds into the game when he picked off a McCoy pass and scored on a 37-yard return. The senior added nine tackles in his final game.

Best call: The Ducks’ first score on offense came when Mariota, with Jackson Jeffcoat fast approaching, flipped to Josh Huff on a shovel pass and he found the end zone from 16 yards out. Huff finished with 104 receiving yards and a school-record 1,140 in 2013.

What Oregon learned: If Mariota makes good on his promise to return in 2014, Oregon should once again have a preseason top-10 team and plenty of firepower to make a run at a college football playoff bid.

What Texas learned: Nothing it didn’t already know, really. Its Case McCoy-led offense can pound the rock but couldn’t keep up with elite teams and capitalize on opportunities. The Longhorns couldn’t give Mack Brown a satisfying sendoff. Now it’s time to find his successor.

To watch the trophy presentation of the Valero Alamo Bowl, click here.

Pac-12 helmet stickers: Week 9

October, 27, 2013
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So who deserves a helmet sticker for a job well done?

USC defense: The Trojans held Utah to 201 total yards in a 19-3 victory. They recorded six sacks, nine tackles for a loss and three interceptions and kept the Utes scoreless after a field goal on their first possession.

Avery Patterson, S, Oregon: Patterson had seven tackles with three coming for a loss and an interception in the Ducks' 42-14 win over No. 12 UCLA.

Byron Marshall, RB, Oregon: Marshall rushed for 133 yards on 19 carries (7.0 average) with three touchdowns in Oregon's win over UCLA.

B.J. Denker, QB, Arizona: Denker completed 21 of 32 passes for 265 yards with a TD and interception in the Wildcats' 44-20 win over Colorado. And he also rushed for 192 yards on 15 carries. He nips RB Ka'Deem Carey, who rushed for 119 yards and four TDs.

Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington: Sankey rushed for a career-high 241 yards on 27 carries -- 8.9 yards per rush -- and scored two touchdowns in the Huskies' 41-17 win over California to break a three-game losing streak.

Trent Murphy, OLB, Stanford: Murphy had 2.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for loss among his eight total tackles in Stanford's 20-12 win over Oregon State. He also broke up a pass and blocked another as the Cardinal defense held the Beavers to just 288 total yards.

Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford: Gaffney rushed for 145 yards on 22 carries (6.6 average) with three touchdowns in Stanford's victory.

Stanford's Oregon problem

November, 16, 2012
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Stanford is 31-5 since the beginning of the 2010 season. The Cardinal have lost three games during that span by a combined 14 points, and two of those were in overtime.

And they lost the other two, both to Oregon, by a combined 44 points.

Stanford has an Oregon problem.

"I think the entire conference has an Oregon problem," Stanford coach David Shaw countered reasonably.

True that. Oregon is on track for its fourth consecutive outright Pac-12 title. As ESPN's Brad Edwards noted this week : "If [the Ducks] can win [the Pac-12 title game] again this season, they will join John McKay's USC teams from 1966 to 1969 as the only groups in the history of that conference to win four consecutive outright titles."

[+] EnlargeJosh Huff, Kenjon Barner
Kelley L Cox/US PresswireOpponents haven't been able to slow down the Ducks' potent offense for four quarters.
So Oregon is historically good.

And Stanford, though on a historically good run for its own program, has been Wile E. Coyote to Oregon's Road Runner.

Stanford (8-2) will get another chance to change that Saturday in Autzen Stadium, with ESPN's "College GameDay" on hand. The stakes, just like the previous two seasons, are big. The winner takes control of the Pac-12 North Division. The Ducks, of course, need to win to remain in the national title chase.

Shaw didn't hold back praising Oregon (10-0) this week. It could be gamesmanship, but Shaw also seems to genuinely appreciate what coach Chip Kelly has built at Oregon. As Shaw said: "Great athletes, great scheme in all three phases."

"They know how to adjust those schemes based on what you are doing, which to me is the biggest key," he said. "You don't see them stopped for long. If you're doing something that is slowing them down, they are going to make a tweak and make you pay for it."

Well-put. That about sums up Oregon.

And yet ... what about Oregon's injury-riddled defense?

"It doesn't matter," Shaw said. "They put young guys in there, they put new guys in there, and those guys go out there and play great."

Maybe. But maybe not.

There are cracks in the Oregon facade, mostly because a number of front-line players on the Ducks' defense -- once a nationally elite unit -- are questionable or out for Saturday.

Safety Avery Patterson is out for the year with a knee injury. You might recall Oregon previously lost All-America safety John Boyett to a knee injury. Defensive tackle Wade Keliikipi also is almost certainly out with a leg injury.

Also banged up and of questionable health on the defense: DE/DT Taylor Hart (foot), DE/OLB Dion Jordan (shoulder), DT Isaac Remington (ankle) and NT Ricky Heimuli (knee). And backup cornerbacks Troy Hill and Dior Mathis didn't play last weekend against California, which is why word coming out of practice this week was that De'Anthony Thomas was taking reps on defense.

That's a lot of banged up high-quality players, particularly on the defensive line. The past two weeks, Oregon has had to rely on three true freshman D-linemen -- Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Alex Balducci -- often playing them at the same time.

While Stanford's offensive line is not what it was last year with David DeCastro and Jonathan Martin, it still is an above-average unit, one that likes to go mano a mano in the trenches. It's certainly much better than the Cal unit that did a fairly good job against the Ducks last weekend.

So the Cardinal may be able to control the football with Stepfan Taylor running the ball, though you can expect Ducks "Stop the Run First" defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti to dare Stanford to throw the ball with redshirt freshman quarterback Kevin Hogan, who is making his first road start.

But the bigger issue, as usual, is slowing the Ducks' explosive offense, which has gashed Stanford the past two years with big plays -- seven TD plays of 25 or more yards, not including a 40-yard pick-six last season.

Stanford has the nation's No. 1 run defense, but few teams run the ball as well as Oregon. And Ducks redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota leads the nation in passing efficiency.

Oregon, particularly playing at home, seems fully capable of outscoring Stanford if the Ducks' defense is having a bad day. A few teams have been able to slow the Ducks for a quarter here or a quarter there. But even then -- boom! -- things go haywire. Stanford has experienced that itself. Twice in the past two years, in fact.

The question then becomes simple for Stanford: Can it somehow make Mariota and the Oregon offense have a bad day for four quarters?

It's the Oregon problem, and it's not easy to solve.


With California keeping things close and injuries piling up, it looked like Oregon might be in trouble early in the third quarter. It wasn't. The Ducks, as usual, rolled, this time winning 59-17.

It was over when: It appeared Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota was hurt in the second quarter. And, in the third quarter, when California cut the Ducks lead to 24-17, it looked like the Ducks' national title hopes were threatened. But 35- and 39-yard touchdown passes from Mariota to Josh Huff made it 38-17 to start the fourth, and the Ducks then coasted home.

Game ball goes to: Mariota has gone from a very good redshirt freshman quarterback, to a good QB period, to a potential first-team All-Pac-12 QB. He completed 27 of 34 passes for 377 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. That's a 230.79 passing efficiency rating. Yeah, through the roof. He has 28 TD passes this season.

Stat of the game: Oregon was outrushed 236 yards to 180. But the Ducks' receiving corps -- perceived to be a weakness at the beginning of the season -- caught seven total touchdown passes for 395 yards.

Unsung hero of the game: Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. His defense was decimated by injuries. At one point, five members of his front seven were freshmen, including three true freshmen on the line. It appears he lost safety Avery Patterson (knee) for the season, the second starting safety to go down. Still, the Ducks' defense, which was getting pushed around in the first half after getting pushed around by USC, regained its footing and held Cal to a single touchdown in the second half.

What it means: This sets up a major Pac-12 North Division showdown for the Ducks with Stanford in Autzen Stadium on Saturday. It also showed, again, that the Ducks have plenty of grit when they get challenged. Cal, meanwhile, falls to 3-8. The Bears complete their season next weekend with a visit to Oregon State. Will that be coach Jeff Tedford's last game in Berkeley?

Oregon's Avery Patterson

October, 19, 2012
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Ted Miller talks with Oregon's Avery Patterson following the Ducks' 43-21 win over Arizona State.


TEMPE, Ariz. -- This was not a test of the Oregon football system. If this had been an actual test, you would have seen Arizona State still in the game after the first quarter.

Some test? After an odd flurry to start the game, No. 3 Oregon was never challenged by Arizona State in a 43-21 victory Thursday night in Sun Devil Stadium, which was less than half full to start the third quarter.

We all know that Ducks coach Chip Kelly is not much for media scripts. The Washington game is supposed to be a bitter rivalry. Kelly gave that a shrug and a "Neh," and announced how much he liked and respected Huskies coach Steve Sarkisian.

The visit to Arizona State on Thursday was supposed to challenge the Ducks. It was supposed to give us a measure of redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota in a frenzied, hostile environment.

But after a horrible start -- a fumble on the second play, a 28-yard Sun Devils touchdown pass on the third -- the Ducks simply rolled. Test Mariota? He didn't need to throw. It was 22-7 after the first quarter and 43-7 at the break.

"One thing I love about this team," Kelly said, "is we don't flinch."

Oregon rushed for 329 yards. By halftime.

Mariota didn't play in the second half, yielding to Bryan Bennett and the second unit.

[+] EnlargeOregon's Marcus Mariota
Matt Kartozian/US PRESSWIREMarcus Mariota and Oregon have more challenges than just USC awaiting them in Pac-12 play.
Arizona State entered the game 5-1, ranked 24th in the coaches' poll. The Sun Devils topped the Pac-12 in most major defensive categories and were led by quarterback Taylor Kelly, who was No. 1 in the conference in passing efficiency. While the naysayers are sure to come out -- they lost to Missouri! -- this was, at least, a solid team.

And Oregon simply curb-stomped them.

Just as they had done to the rest of their Pac-12 schedule thus far. Average margin of victory in four games: 31.8 points. And that includes three teams that have been ranked at some point this season.

In defense of the Sun Devils, they lost their best player -- defensive tackle Will Sutton -- to a knee injury just after he forced a fumble from Mariota on the game's second play. Shortly thereafter defensive end Junior Onyeali went down with a shoulder injury.

Those were major blows to the Sun Devils' defense, without a doubt.

"Losing Will was very disruptive and we did a poor job being prepared for that as a staff," Arizona State coach Todd Graham said. "So much of what we had planned was around him and you have to have a plan B and it took us well into the game to figure out what to do there. Making no excuses, we got beat by a team tonight that's a lot better than us, but we made them look a lot better by making a lot of mistakes."

The Ducks' defense fully matched the offense. It grabbed four interceptions, two which in the first half were returned inside the Sun Devils' 10-yard line. It also relentlessly pressured Sun Devils quarterbacks, recording five sacks. The first-team defense only gave up the early touchdown on a 28-yard pass. The other Arizona State scores came in the fourth quarter on a pick-six and a late tally against backups.

The Sun Devils finished with 408 yards, but gained only 202 through the first three quarters.

Mariota had an 86-yard TD run, a beautiful 6-yard scoring toss to Bralon Addison and even caught a touchdown pass from Bennett. He completed 9 of 12 passes for 46 yards, bouncing back from the early fumble to demonstrate plenty of poise. In his first road game, in Seattle against Washington State, he threw two interceptions. This was a more polished outing.

"Up in Seattle, I tried to do too much," he said.

But the Ducks aren't going to say too much. They're not into the idea of making statements.

Asked what statement a blowout win made, safety Avery Patterson deadpanned, "That we're 7-0."

Said Mariota, "I'm happy about tonight, but it's just one game."

Oregon's next, er, Super Bowl is at back at home against Colorado on Oct. 27. Then comes the much-ballyhooed trip to USC on Nov. 3.

Whether the Ducks admit it or not, they made a statement: This team is clearly good enough to contend -- again -- for the national title. But, as Kelly and players said, there's plenty of work ahead. Starting with, yes, the woeful Buffaloes.

Said Kelly, "We're going to get everybody's best shot. We know that."

Another part of this evening's statement? Everybody else's best shot may not be enough to even get close to the Ducks.

Oregon has no, er, rival in the Pac-12

October, 7, 2012
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EUGENE, Ore. -- There was just a smidgeon of tension late in Chip Kelly's post-game news conference after Oregon whipped Washington 52-21. Reporters tried to draw out an iota of special emotion from Kelly in reaction to a ninth consecutive victory -- each by at least 17 points -- over the Ducks' archrival, but Kelly wasn't biting.

Kelly has repeatedly told reporters that every game is the same, meriting the same complete commitment to preparation and focus. This has devolved into the "every game is a rivalry game" quip from him to all questions on the Ducks' heated and historical rivalries.

"You can shrug your shoulders but, I'll tell you what, our formula for success has worked every single time," Kelly said. "Every single game is the most important game we play."

Kelly did admit such an approach wasn't good for reporters' copy. And you could, perhaps, quibble with his refusal to at least humor on occasion the feelings his fan base hold for the Huskies, such as not announcing that Washington coach "Steve Sarkisian is a good friend of mine," the very idea of which will make some Oregon fans cringe.

But you can't argue with the results. On a day when No. 3 Florida State, No. 4 LSU and No. 5 Georgia crashed and burned, the Ducks made another ranked foe look like a Pinto trying to keep up with a Lamborghini. They further solidified their standing as the nation's No. 2 team, which puts them in position to play for the national title for a second time in three seasons.

[+] EnlargeChip Kelly
AP Photo/Don RyanOregon coach Chip Kelly reached 40 wins faster than the likes of Bear Bryant and Bobby Bowden.
The simple fact is this: Though we've only reached midseason, Oregon already has distinguished itself among its Pac-12 brethren. Only the Ducks and Oregon State remain unbeaten. Oregon dispatched Arizona 49-0, a team that pushed the Beavers and Stanford to the limit in thrilling games. And Oregon now has whipped Washington, which beat Stanford. And Stanford beat USC.

Yes, the Pac-12 blog is on record -- repeatedly -- as being against the transitive property of college football, of comparing various results of games and reaching grand conclusions. But it's hard to ignore what Oregon has done so far compared to its rivals. Er, other Pac-12 teams.

The Ducks' average margin of victory is 32.3 points. Their closest decisions was in Week 2 against Fresno State, a 42-25 decision. They are playing well on both sides of the ball. They've reacted to injuries to major players with little more than a shrug: "Next guy in," they all say.

That preseason concern that perhaps redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota wouldn't be up to the pressure and week-to-week demands of being a Pac-12 quarterback? He bounced back from a middling showing in the victory over Washington State by throwing four touchdown passes and showing excellent running skills and pocket presence against Washington.

"He's showed improvement," Kelly said. "That's something awesome about Marcus. Very rarely does he make the same mistake twice."

Oregon led the No. 23 Huskies 21-0 after a quarter following a pick-six from safety Avery Patterson. It was his second in two weeks, and the Ducks now have returned four interceptions for touchdowns, tying a school record.

The 35-7 margin at halftime made it clear that there would be no intrigue. Washington moved the ball well at times, but the Huskies were done in by five turnovers -- two interceptions, three fumbles. They produced one play over 16 yards -- a 28-yard pass. The Ducks, meanwhile, had six plays of 20 or more yards.

If you need further validations of Kelly's concepts, consider this. He is now 40-6 as the Ducks' head coach. He won his 40th game sooner than Bobby Bowden (49), Pop Warner (59), Bear Bryant (57) and Joe Paterno (51).

So, you know, he's ahead of pretty good rivals. Er, company.

Oregon is off this week, but don't say that to Kelly, for this is an "improvement week." After all that improving, the Ducks will turn their focus to a visit to Arizona State on Thursday, Oct. 18. The Sun Devils are playing really well under new coach Todd Graham.

Of course, you know what's coming, don't you?

Said Kelly, "Arizona State is the next rivalry we have."

Make it nine in a row for the Oregon Ducks over the Washington Huskies. The Ducks jumped out to a 21-0 lead before pulling away for a 52-21 win. The Ducks have won all nine games by at least 17 points. Here's how it all went down at Autzen.

It was over when: In the first quarter, the Huskies had just made their second-consecutive stop on defense. But the Huskies muffed the ensuing punt and on the next play, De'Anthony Thomas darted for a 16-yard score. It seemed like all the life just got sucked out of Washington as the Ducks put up 21 in the first quarter.

Game ball goes to: Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. When he wasn't jumping out of sacks (that was sick athleticism), he was tossing four touchdowns on 15-of-24 passing. He did have one interception early, but bounced back to hit Colt Lyerla twice, Josh Huff and Keanon Lowe for scores.

Second game ball: Nick Aliotti. Oregon's defensive coordinator has this defense playing awfully good ball. The Ducks forced five turnovers and twice stopped the Huskies on fourth down. Most of Washington's 353 yards came in the second half when the game was out of reach.

Stat of the game: 3. Avery Patterson picked off Keith Price in the first quarter and returned it 43 yards for a touchdown. The Ducks have now had a pick-six in three straight games.

What it means for Oregon: For the Ducks, they hold serve -- and get some style points along the way -- as other top 10 teams behind them collapse. The number of undefeated teams is dwindling and Oregon is right where it needs to be. If anyone was still awake on the East Coast, they saw a dominating performance on both sides of the ball.

What it means for Washington: Much like their debacle at LSU, the Huskies will have to regroup with No. 13 USC coming to town next week. For as high as they were flying after last week's win over Stanford, this was another throttling by a top-5 team. Head coach Steve Sarkisian has to get the troops to shake this one off.

Oregon gains maturity in win

September, 30, 2012
9/30/12
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SEATTLE -- The occasional bloody lip can be a good thing. A body blow -- while it might stun momentarily -- is sometimes just what the lungs need to suck in fresh air.

And for 30 minutes Saturday night at CenturyLink Field, the Washington State Cougars swung and clawed and took their best shots at the No. 2 team in the country. They went for it on fourth down. They tried an onside kick. On offense, they attacked at the heart of their opponent and on defense they blitzed without fear or consequence.

And for a period -- a brief period, mind you -- the Oregon Ducks had a little blood on their lips.

But the Ducks calmly reached up, wiped it away, and delivered a potent and dismissive second-half performance en route to a 51-26 victory.

This was a good thing, because it’s only going to get harder for the Ducks (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12). Unlike their nonconference blowouts, things are a little tougher in the Pac-12. The athletes are a little faster and they hit a little harder. So facing a bit of an adversity is just what a team in the midst of a national title run could use.

“Absolutely,” said Oregon running back Kenjon Barner. “With our team, we know we’re going to get everybody’s best shot. Credit to Washington State because they played a great first half. They did everything you are supposed to do in that first half. They just did a great job. But we’re a strong-willed team and we know when we execute and do what we’re supposed to do, it’s hard to stop us.”

Barner got the Ducks going early. After the defense forced a three-and-out on Washington State’s first possession, Oregon calmly marched 50 yards in four plays, ending with a 22-yard Barner run -- the first of his three rushing touchdowns on the night. The Ducks cruised out to a 20-3 lead and it looked like another sleepwalk.

But the Cougars didn’t fold as others have. Carl Winston added a 2-yard touchdown run to Andrew Furney’s 18-yard field goal to make it 20-9 after the missed PAT. Then Brett Bartolone caught a 26-yard touchdown from Connor Halliday midway through the second quarter following a 34-yard field goal from Oregon’s Rob Beard. It was 23-19 and the folks at CenturyLink were thinking another upset could be possible -- following Washington’s stunner Thursday night over No. 8 Stanford.

[+] EnlargeOregon's Kenjon Barner
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesKenjon Barner rushed for 195 yards and three touchdowns, two of which came in the second half.
“We battled away,” said Washington State coach Mike Leach. “Some of our field goals should have been touchdowns. We gave them two relatively easy touchdowns early. I think if we played with more control, we wouldn’t have. We played pretty courageously throughout the rest of it.”

And with less than four minutes to play in the half, Washington State drove inside the red zone and looked poised to, at the very least, make it a one-point game. That’s when the Oregon defense really broke loose.

Three consecutive sacks (Dion Jordan, Michael Clay and Wade Keliikipi) put the Cougars out of field goal range and shifted the momentum heading into the locker room.

“We understood that they gave us their best shots,” said Jordan. “So the second half we went out and focused on going out and trying to finish the game. Guys made big plays … it was wonderful.

“We knew they were going to keep fighting and they weren’t going to change much in what they were doing. We just had to turn up the dial as a team and as a unit and that’s what guys did. We got after it and played smart football.”

And therein lies the maturity of the Ducks. They opened the second half with a grinding, 18-play drive (their longest since last year’s game against LSU, when they had a 19-play drive) that went 76 yards and took up 6 minutes, 20 seconds. De'Anthony Thomas capped the march with a 4-yard touchdown.

“We knew we were going to get the ball to beginning of the second half and that first drive was going to be key for us to set the tone for what we wanted to do,” said Oregon coach Chip Kelly. “Everybody contributed and made plays. I thought we were balanced. They made us work for it. Give them credit. I thought defensively they had a good plan and it took us a while to get on the right track.”

When the Cougars finally did get back on the field, the drive was ended when Avery Patterson intercepted Halliday and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown and a 37-19 advantage.

The Ducks no longer tasted blood. They smelled it, sacking Halliday seven times in the game, with two each from Taylor Hart and Keliikipi.

“We turned it up and tried to get him out of the pocket a little bit and get their offensive line on their heels,” Jordan said. “Those guys got more tired than we were in the second half.”

Barner would add a 10-yard touchdown on Oregon’s next possession for the third Ducks score of the quarter. He capped a fantastic game with an 80-yard touchdown run in the fourth, finishing with 195 yards on 20 carries.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Kelly said. “You get a chance and hopefully you don’t make the same mistakes twice and every week is its own season and how the games themselves unfold. We know in this league it’s going to be a 60-minute game … We think we’re built to play for the whole game and a lot of guys kept fighting and battling and they finished.”

Instant analysis: Oregon 51, WSU 26

September, 30, 2012
9/30/12
2:11
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SEATTLE -- After a wacky week of football at CenturyLink Field, it looked like the Washington State Cougars might make things interesting against No. 2 Oregon. Then came the second half and ultimately another Oregon blowout, 51-26. Here's how it all went down Saturday night in Seattle.

It was over when: Oregon’s Avery Patterson jumped a Connor Halliday ball intended for Gabe Marks and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown with 7:20 left in the third quarter. The play put Oregon ahead 37-19 and sucked the life out of any WSU comeback.

Offensive game ball goes to: Kenjon Barner carried 20 times for 195 yards and three touchdowns. He had scoring runs of 22, 10 and 80 yards. He also caught three passes for 37 yards and another score.

Defensive game ball goes to: Oregon’s Taylor Hart came up huge with a pair of big sacks in the first half when the issue was still in question. He finished with four tackles, three of them solo. As a unit, Oregon's defense registered seven sacks.

Stat of the game: 18 -- The Ducks opened the third-quarter with an 18-play drive that spanned 76 yards and ate up 6 minutes, 21 seconds of clock, ending with a 4-yard De'Anthony Thomas run. Very un-Oregon, but it was the kind of drive that was needed to deflate an excitable Cougars squad coming out of the locker room. It was Oregon's longest drive (by number of plays) since a 19-play drive last season against LSU.

What it means for Oregon: The Ducks could use a bit of adversity after coasting through their first four games. They responded admirably -- on both sides of the ball -- in the second half. A hungry Washington team visits next Saturday.

What it means for Washington State: The Cougars did better than a lot of other teams have done in 30 minutes against the Ducks. But ultimately youth, and pass-protection issues, doomed them in the second half. Still much work to be done.
Every team needs to hit every position group each recruiting season, but there are always priorities. It's not just positions where starters are lost or going to be seniors, it's about addressing weaknesses where a true freshman might be a better answer than a returning player.

Up next is the North Division.

California
QB
: Zach Maynard will be a senior, and it says something about the depth behind him that he never lost his job during his midseason swoon.
WR: Keenan Allen is back, but that's it in terms of returning production and experience.
S: Three of the top four safeties from 2011 are gone.

Oregon
Skill:
In Chip Kelly's offense, you can never have enough fast guys. Sure, Kenjon Barner, De'Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff are back, but there's a lot of youth and uncertainty after that at running back and wide receiver.
TE: His name is David Paulson, but he's gone. Colt Lyerla was a productive backup -- at least in terms of finding the end zone -- but after him things are uncertain. Tight end is one of the most underrated positions in the Ducks offense, so having more than one Kelly trusts is significant.
S: Eddie Pleasant is gone and John Boyett is a senior. Avery Patterson, Erick Dargan and Brian Jackson are next in line, but the young talent isn't as certain as it is at corner.

Oregon State
OL:
Oregon State lost three starters from a line that led the worst rushing attack in the conference and surrendered 27 sacks. Quarterback Sean Mannion has potential, but he needs time. And a running game.
DT: The Beavers had the worst rushing defense in the Pac-12 in 2011. 'Nuff said.
LB: The Beavers had the worst rushing defense in the Pac-12 in 2011. Almost enough said. Cameron Collins is gone, and all the contributors on the two-deep will be seniors, other than junior Michael Doctor.

Stanford
WR
: Perhaps the weakest position for the Cardinal in 2011, this need is augmented by the loss of Griff Whalen and Chris Owusu and the lack of up-and-comers other than sophomore Ty Montgomery.
DB: Three of four starters are gone, including both safeties. In the Cardinal's two losses -- to Oregon and Oklahoma State -- an absence of top-end athleticism in the back half was exploited.
OL: Three starters are back, but the losses are huge: Tackle Jonathan Martin and guard David DeCastro. And backup tackle Tyler Mabry and backup guard Matt Bentler also are gone. If coach David Shaw intends to remain a physical, downhill running team -- and he does -- he'll need to continuously stock up on linemen who can get the job done.

Washington
DB:
Lots of guys are back in the secondary, but the Huskies gave up 284.6 yards passing per game, which ranked 11th in the Pac-12. They couldn't cover anybody and often seemed out of position. So new blood might help.
DL: (See if you can notice a theme here that ignores questions at wide receiver and running back). Two starters are gone from a line that consistently underperformed based on preseason expectations.
LB: Second-team All-Pac-12 middle linebacker Cort Dennison is the only one of the eight men on the depth chart who won't be back, but he was the team's only consistent linebacker.

Washington State
DL:
Three of four starters are back, but all three will be seniors.
OL: Three starters are back, but to make the next step on offense, the Cougars need to run the ball better. They ranked 10th in the conference in rushing offense. And that might reduce a conference-high 3.3 sacks per game. Mike Leach's quick-hit offense also might help.
RB: 170-pound sophomore Rickey Galvin is back, as is senior Carl Winston, but the backs need to share responsibility for a 3.1-yards-per-carry average, worst in the conference (of course, losing 237 yards to sacks doesn't help).

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