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April 27, 2013

Offense dominates Spring Game

Using a scoring format that clearly favored the offense in the annual Spring Game, the White team (offense) dominated the Green team (defense) on Saturday piling up over 800 yards of offense and 65 points.

The offense was led by second year starter Marcus Mariota who looked nearly flawless. After getting his first exposure and bursting on to the Oregon football scene with a dazzling run last Spring, Mariota was clearly more comfortable and in command in 2013.

Making quick decisions, Mariota completed 13 of 15 passes for 169 yards and 2 touchdowns.

"Once we got the jitters out and got in a rhythm, everything was rolling. It's hard to stop us once we get in a rhythm," Mariota said.

With the top three quarterbacks in red jerseys, the read option did not provide the same risk factor for the defense as a finger on the jersey was sufficient for a "tackle."

Despite the lack of a running threat from the quarterback, Byron Marshall played well in limited snaps. With De'Anthony Thomas, the explosive All-American candidate not seeing much action, the bulk of the early load fell on to Marshall's capable shoulders.

Marshall led the team with 6 carries for 60 yards and a touchdown. More impressively, Marshall was not caught behind the line early against a stout defensive line.

"Byron has improved a lot this Spring," running backs coach Gary Campbell said. "It's one thing to be able to run and catch a ball, but doing it consistently for an extended amount of time is what's most important," Campbell continued.

"I've got big shoes to fill, but all you can do is go out and play," said Marshall.

The receiving corps looked very strong today with Josh Huff and Bralon Addison both playing extremely well. Addison finished with 8 catches for 136 yards and a long 49 yard touchdown pass from Jeff Lockie.

"We all came out and competed which was great. The defense has torn us up at times this spring, but the scoring system didn't give them enough credit today," Addison said after the game. "It was great to catch a lot of passes. The system is all about getting the ball into spaces and I think we did that today."

Huff, despite not seeing much action after the first few series, recorded 4 catches for 60 yards and 2 touchdowns.

The competition for the back-up quarterback spot saw some interesting numbers with Lockie completing 22 of 28 for 217 yards and 2 touchdowns. Given fewer passing plays, Rodriques completed 13 of 19 for 165 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Rodrigues showed plenty of potential running the ball while Lockie showed a knack for hanging in the pocket and finding a receiver. Both still have a lot of work between now and the 2013 season, but both looked like very capable back-ups for the future.

When asked about the play of the two young quarterbacks Coach Helfrich said "they both did some good things and also made some day one mistakes. Both took some solid steps forward."

For those worried about the defense playing "poorly" keep in mind that there were no breaks for the defense and they were missing two players who are possible starters in the Fall with Derrick Malone and Rodney Hardrick sitting this one out.

Christian French, the sophomore from Iowa looked sharp early. While in many cases the quarterback would likely have gone for much bigger gains than he was credited, French had a legitimate sack in the first quarter that showed tremendous potential.

French led the team with 9 total tackles (7 unassisted) and had the sack.

The defensive tackles and defensive backfield are solid with the starters, so the reserves saw plenty of action today and Dior Mathis especially looked impressive Saturday. Saturday, Mathis accounted for 7 tackles and a sack of his own.

In addition, Oshay Dunmore and Stephen Amoako played well for the defense notching 7 total tackles.

The real question come fall, though, will be at linebacker. The Ducks are looking to replace two outstanding players with recent second round draft pick Kiko Alsonso and Michael Clay having both graduated.

There were no answers to be seen Saturday as the linebacker corps was nearly unidentifiable with so many players nursing nagging injuries.

Junior college transfer Joe Walker got his first taste of Division I football and had some nice moments. He was relentless in pursuit and made strong tackles once he got to the ball carrier. He managed 5 tackles and a half tackle for loss Saturday. It is too early, though, to get a read on where he will end up in the two-deep with the absence of others in the battle.

As has become customary, the Ducks finished off the day of festivities by having each player present his jersey from the game to a member of the armed forces. It is always a special moment to see the immense respect the young men have for their peers that have given their lives in service of the nation.

Defensive lineman Arik Arstead summed up the day saying, "It was fun putting on a show for the fans and the troops."

The next time the Ducks will have a chance to put on a show will be in late August. Until then stay tuned to Duck Sports Authority for in-depth coverage.

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