The No. 2 Oregon Ducks (8-0, 5-0) came into their Homecoming match with Colorado as heavy favorites over Colorado (1-7, 1-4) Saturday afternoon. It did not take long for the Ducks to establish their game plan. Five plays into the game on a 57 yard drive the Ducks opened the scoring with an easy one yard touchdown run by Kenjon Barner for a 7-0 lead.
No one questioned whether the Duck offense would be able to score on Colorado, but would the Duck defense dominate the Buffaloes early? That question was also answered in a hurry as Colorado muffed the ensuing kickoff which the Ducks turned into a three play 17 yard drive culminating in a 9 yard De'Anthony Thomas touchdown run to give the Ducks a 14-0 lead with 12:28 left in the first quarter.
Senior linebacker Michael Clay talked about the defensive performance.
"We play every down likes it is our last. We have so many guys rotating in that there is no excuse for you to not give your 100% every single down," Clay said. "This intensity fuels the way we play."
The mystery of the game was over as Oregon led 28-0 at the end of the first quarter. Duck fans got a rush of adrenaline on an incredible 73 yard punt return which saw Thomas backpedaling to get to the ball then using a stop-go move at the sideline to escape a group of Colorado defenders before racing up the sideline to extend the Oregon lead to 42-0 early in the second quarter.
Asked about the return after the game Thomas said that "the guys gave me some key blocks and I just found the hole and ran right through it. I have to credit the blockers more than anything they give me the blocks. They have the harder job, I just run as fast as I can."
With the outcome all but decided, the reserves would get some work early for the Ducks. Bryan Bennett entered the game for the Ducks with just over two minutes left in the first half and quickly led the Ducks on a 7 play, 68 yard drive which Bennett capped off with a five yard quarterback keeper to extend the Duck lead to 56-0 just before halftime.
After being pulled early in the second quarter, "my competitive side hates when Coach Kelly tells me I am done for the game," Mariota said. "But on the other hand I love watching Bryan (Bennett) and Dustin (Haines) play," Mariota continued
The second half started with the Ducks emptying their bench getting valuable game time for reserves and Colorado would take advantage early scoring on their opening drive. After an early fumble by the Ducks on their first possession of the second half, Colorado was able to take advantage of the short field scoring on a fourth-and-goal play from inside the one to cut the lead to 56-14.
Coach Kelly said after the game that "we had an opportunity to get everyone in today and it's always experience for them. The more experience they get, the more comfortable they get in that environment and the better off it's going to be for us."
Oregon allowed the backups on offense to continue playing, though and Bennett made several nice plays for Oregon leading a 10 play, 75 yard drive capped by a 3-yard run for Bennett.
After scoring his third rushing touchdown of the day to extend the Duck lead to 70-14, Bennett gave way to walk-on Dustin Haines for the fourth quarter.
With his last touchdown, Oregon set a record for most points scored against a conference opponent besting the 65 points scored against arch-rival Oregon State in the 2008 Civil War.
In the end, this was about as dominant as any team can look with the Ducks rushing for over 400 yards for the second consecutive week and notching over 600 yards of total offense while working deep into the roster to get playing time for as many as possible.
The Ducks, looking to make a case to move up in the BCS standings did their part Saturday afternoon. The dominant 70-14 win sets up the game of the year in the Pac-12 with the Ducks taking to the road to face pre-season number one (or two depending on the publication) USC Trojans at the Coliseum in Los Angeles. The winner will likely host the second Pac-12 Conference Championship.
Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu summed up the upcoming road trip after the game. "It's a tough atmosphere at the Coliseum, we'll definitely get their A game, just like we do from opponents every week, Ekpre-Olomu said. "I will bring my A game, better competition will make me play better. We have a better all around team this year, our defense is much more sound this year," Ekpre-Olomu continued.
With Marquise Lee coming off of a record setting weekend, the Ducks defense will need that "A" game to stay alive in teh BCS National Championship Game hunt.