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PAC-12 FOOTBALL: Oregon takes care of business at Autzen, beating Colorado 52-29.

Oregon's offense was unstoppable as the Ducks throttled Colorado 52-29 at Autzen Stadium Saturday, Oct. 30. The Ducks did not punt and generally had control of the game throughout.

Big picture: Against a Colorado defense missing its top player (linebacker Nate Landman), Oregon's offense looked better than it has all season, an encouraging sign heading into a challenging final four games, beginning with next week's visit to Husky Stadium. At 7-1, 4-1 in the Pac-12, the Ducks figure likely to climb to No. 6 in the rankings next week. Whether Saturday's win was impressive enough to help Oregon land high when the College Football Playoff committee announces its first rankings on Tuesday, Nov. 2, is questionable.

Oregon is alone in first place in the Pac-12 North after Oregon State's loss at Cal, but the Beavers, Washington State and Washington each have two conference losses and the Ducks still play each of them.

The versatility of the offensive line and the depth at running back, receiver and tight end are contributing to the improved play of the offense as a whole, and of quarterback Anthony Brown Jr. specifically. Brown statistically had the best game of his career, completing 25 of 31 throws for 307 yards and three touchdowns.

The value of having offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead healthy and calling plays was again evident, as Oregon's short passing and screen games kept the Buffaloes off balance. Oregon did not punt. The only drive that didn't produce points came in the fourth quarter, when freshman Ty Thompson got a series at quarterback and threw an interception. The Ducks were 7 for 10 on third down and converted its one fourth-down attempt.

True freshmen receiver Troy Franklin, running back Byron Cardwell and running back Seven McGee each scored his first career touchdown.

A Colorado team that had scored six offensive touchdowns through its first six games scored four on Saturday. Two second-quarter drives were effective by having freshman quarterback Brendon Lewis get the ball out quickly and play with some tempo. The fourth-quarter Colorado touchdowns came with some reserves on defense, but coach Mario Cristobal said that will be no excuse when the film is reviewed.

Perhaps the best news out of Cristobal's postgame media session is that he does not believe any of Saturday's injuries at safety will be long-term. Starting safety Steve Stephens left early, a position where Oregon already lost Bennett Williams for the season and did not have Jordan Happle for this game.

"If we do have some guys that cannot play, we'll mix and match and move guys around guys that have played corner or whatnot to nickel and safety positions," Cristobal said. "But we feel that we have the depth necessary to adjust and move forward."

Notable numbers: Oregon netted 568 yards, 312 through the air and 256 on the ground. Cardwell had seven carries for 127 yards and his 34-yard touchdown … Travis Dye had three more touchdowns, two rushing and the first on a swing pass as part of a five-catch, 75-yard day. … Eleven receivers caught passes, led by Devon Williams catching five of six targets for 95 yards and a touchdown.

On defense, Oregon made six tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

Reaction:

Cristobal on the contributions from true freshmen running backs Cardwell and McGee: "Byron had some monster runs today. Seven had some really big ones as well, some really important ones. Ever since camp we knew there was enough there to get these guys ready to play this year. The most important thing was getting them to understand all the things that go with this offense, especially protection-wise and then all your duties and obligations in the passing game to be a complete back and to allow coordinator call the game do you want to call it can't be can't be pick and choose."

Brown on his improved play in recent games: "Efficiency, consistency and just making the right reads all around the board. It came from a lot of things, but just staying in the groove and continuing to do what I do throughout the week. Continuing my process on watching extra film and doing extra things."

Cardwell on getting more opportunities with C.J. Verdell out for the season: "I'm here for a reason. I always say that to everybody that asks. And I'm always prepared for anything that happens."

Up next: Oregon at Washington, Saturday, Nov. 6, 4:30 p.m. (ABC/KATU).


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