EUGENE A UCLA team with very good defense and an elusive quarterback pushed the Oregon Ducks on Saturday, taking a tie game late into the third quarter and causing the Autzen Stadium crowd to act a bit nervously.
But even UO coach Mark Helfrich knew one thing: If the Ducks could break through with the go-ahead score, the home team would likely move on to victory. The Bruins couldn't move the ball against the Ducks' defense, at all.
"Our defense was playing good, and we were closer on offense (to scoring) than they were," Helfrich said. "I thought our guys would endure."
Byron Marshall's 11-yard TD run late in the third quarter broke the tie, and the Ducks cranked up the tempo and running game and scored three more fourth-quarter touchdowns to win 42-14.
It was a rout of a score, after the 14-14 tie with 17 minutes left, and Oregon, just like how the Ducks played at Washington two weeks ago, impressively took over in winning time and won going away.
"We knew UCLA was good, and they lived up to it," Helfrich said. "It was a heavyweight fight (in the first half). ... The second half was a total team effort."
To be tied at halftime doesn't happen too often for the Ducks, who moved to 8-0 overall and 5-0 in Pac-12 play and now will prepare to play Stanford in the anticipated league showdown of the year, Nov. 7.
Helfrich said his players were "excited" more for the second half than the first half, with the score 14-14. They accepted the challenge.
"Coaches kept our spirits up," linebacker Boseko Lokombo said.
"It was upbeat," Marshall added. "We knew we'd have to come back in the second half and work hard. We did that."
The Ducks held the Bruins to 94 yards and zero points in the second half. They forced two punts, but the Ducks still got stagnant on offense, with QB Marcus Mariota coughing up a fumble after a low snap.
A third forced punt,though, helped set up the game-winning drive. Oregon took over at the UCLA 49 and needed only five plays to score on Marshall's TD run.
Avery Patteron then picked off standout QB Brett Hundley, and the Ducks took the momentum and scored on Mariota's 8-yard TD pass to Bralon Addison to lead 28-14. early in the fourth quarter. Another UCLA punt, and Oregon scored again after a nine-play drive Marshall scoring on a 3-yard TD run to make it 35-14. Later, Thomas Tyner scored on a 3-yard TD run to close out the scoring.
Mariota, who went a modest 21 of 28 passing for 230 yards and a TD, credited the defense for securing momentum in the game.
"The defense did an unbelievable job. They were able to bail us out a few times, and we were able to build off their enthusiasm," he said. "They did an awesome job all night and deserve the credit. ... After the TD and we were up by 7, we felt we could do some things, because they were getting tired. We were able to put a few drives together, especially using our tempo, one of our greatest allies."
De'Anthony Thomas returned to the lineup after missing four games with an ankle injury and started at running back, but it was Marshall and Tyner who stole the show. Marshall topped 100 yards for the fifth consecutive game, going for 133 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries, and Tyner had 77 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. Thomas, bottled up by the UCLA defense, appeared to not play in the second half, finishing with 31 yards and a TD on 10 carries and three catches for 17 yards.
The Ducks, despite their offensive hiccups, had 555 total yards, including 325 on the ground. UCLA finished with only 283 yards, as Hundley, the Bruins' only legitimate dangerous offensive weapon, went 13 of 19 for 64 yards, suffering two interceptions and three sacks. He ran, using scrambles, for 72 yards on 15 carries, to complement steady back Paul Perkins (93 yards on 22 carries).
"We just played better" in the second half, defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said, especially on the defensive line. "I wish there was some secret. We got simpler. We played better, had better pad level, stayed in our gaps, we ran to the ball like there was 12 (players) out there. That's a good team, and our kids did a nice job of controlling the inside run, not letting Hundley hurt us and doing a good job on the perimeter with what I call orbit, bubble and flare screens."
Both defenses played well in the first half.
The Bruins scored right away, after Keanon Lowe fumbled after a reception, on Hundley's 4-yard run. And, the Bruins really had the momentum when they forced UO to fourth down deep in its territory, wiht star linebacker Anthony Barr sacking Mariota and forcing a fumble (that Mariota recovered) But, the Ducks faked the punt, short-snapping to Rodney Hardrick, who rambled 66 yards to the UCLA 8. Thomas scored on a 1-yard TD run to even the score.
"I'm happy for those (punt) guys," special teams coach Tom Osborne said. "They spend a lot of time practicing it. I'm glad they had a chance to do it."
Later, the Ducks stopped UCLA on fourth down and marched 68 yards on six plays, the final play Marshall's 40-yard TD run that put UO up 14-7. It appeared the Ducks had gained control of the game. Hundley drove the Bruins into UO territory, but Lokombo picked him off. "It was a great call by Coach Aliotti," he said. "My job was to jump up and get the ball."
But, UCLA later returned the favor on special teams, as Myles Jack blocked Alejandro Maldonado's punt attempt with UCLA taking over at the UO 28. Hundley hit Thomas Duarte on an 11-yard TD pass to tie the score. Said Osborne, of the blocked punt: "Our left guard absolutely blew an assignment. I'm shocked, as something as simple as a guy lined up six inches over your nose ... and (Jack) takes off running. I don't have an explanation. Blows my mind."
Another special teams blunder came later in the waning seconds, as Maldonado missed a 37-yard field goal attempt, wide right. It brought back memories of his fatal missed kicks against USC and Stanford the past two seasons. "Practicing and (kicking in) games are two different things," Osborne said. "Since Aug. 6, Maldonado has been great in practice. He didn't hit it well. Shocking."
So, the Ducks entered the second half being challenged, but persevered.
UCLA plays several true freshmen, and played without injured running back Jordon James.
"That was a very disappointing loss," said UCLA coach Jim Mora, whose team fell to 5-2 and 2-2. "We didn't come up here to play close or give it the old college try."
On the second half, he added: "We couldn't move the ball. We didn't stop them when we needed to in the second half. They turned it on and we didn't stay with them."