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TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Running back Taj Griffin dies for the goal line as the Oregon Ducks defeat Georgia State on Saturday at Autzen Stadium.EUGENE — The numbers looked decent by the end of the game, and Oregon won 61-28, but does Jeff Lockie’s start at quarterback against Georgia State on Saturday at Autzen Stadium signify the Ducks would be in good shape should something happen to Vernon Adams during the Pac-12 season?


Maybe, maybe not. Lockie had his moments in leading the offense in the rout of Georgia State — a rout by score standards, although the Panthers, a building team that had two wins since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2013, cut through the UO pass defense, a la Eastern Washington in the season opener.

Starting presumably because Adams was resting a sore finger on the sideline, Lockie went a respectable 23 of 31 for 228 passing yards and two scores, with no interceptions. He led some touchdown drives, but also four times the UO offense had to settle for field-goal tries after deep penetrations into GSU territory.

Aidan Schneider converted them all, including three from 40 yards.

At times, Lockie looked pedestrian in his play, but he still executed the offense and threw TD passes to Dwayne Stanford (a pretty 35-yard screen play) and Johnny Mundt (11 yards). Not a bad day for a guy relegated to being a graduate transfer’s backup.

The Ducks scored two defensive touchdowns, by Tyrell Robinson on an interception return and Joe Walker on a fumble return, and the offense played conservatively at times — Royce Freeman had only 10 first-half carries for 101 yards and a TD. But, Lockie managed the game fairly well.

“Our rhythm wasn’t perfect, but the two-minute drive set us up for the second half,” said Lockie, referring to a late first-half possession that ended with Schneider’s 40-yard field goal and made the score 33-7 at halftime.

The Ducks scored on two long drives in the third quarter — Taj Griffin’s 3-yard TD run capping a 98-yard drive, Mundt’s TD capping a 75-yard drive.

“That’s how we have to play the whole time,” Lockie said. “We had some miscues with myself and some calls. We’ll take what we can fix and keep going. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We didn’t score touchdowns (on some possessions), and that starts with me.”

One would think that Adams returns as the starter against Utah in the Pac-12 opener on Saturday, Sept. 26 (time to be announced) at Autzen Stadium. But Lockie, while shaky at times, might have built some confidence in teammates, although the Panthers ranked as one of the worst FBS teams heading into the season.

Does Lockie think he made a case for more playing time, with or without an Adams injury? “I’m going out there, and we’re trying to win,” he said. “No one truly cares who’s playing as long as we’re winning games,” including Adams and coaches in the discussion.

“He ran the show pretty well,” UO coach Mark Helfrich said.

The Ducks (2-1) had 539 yards offense against the Panthers (1-2), including 311 on the ground.

In his first appearance, Taylor Alie, a walk-on QB, had a memorable day — he scored on an 87-yard TD run in the fourth quarter on his only carry. It was the fifth-longest TD run in UO history (second among QBs to Bob Smith’s 92-yarder in 1938).

Eleven Oregon players caught passes, including speedster Devon Allen (three receptions for 28 yards) in his second game back from his knee injury.

The defense’s day was quite interesting. Coordinator Don Pellum’s unit succeeded in getting in the backfield more than in the first two games (four sacks, 11 tackles-for-loss), created turnovers (two interceptions, two forced fumbles) and even scored touchdowns. But the defense still gave up 431 yards, as GSU quarterback Nick Arbuckle went 25 of 35 for 318 yards and three TDs. Receiver Penny Hart had nine catches for 128 yards.

Helfrich said he thought the defense played decently, considering the big plays it made. But he pointed to the offensive stumbles as part of the problem.

“Offensively, we need to smell blood a little bit,” he said. “We have to play off each a little better (on defense and offense). If the offense finishes with touchdowns (rather than field goals), it’s a different game."

Young Oregon defensive backs Ugo Amadi and Arrion Springs both got beat for touchdowns; Chris Seisay didn’t play. Springs said after the game he wasn’t concerned about the secondary’s performance, because the Ducks were playing single coverage mostly.

The Ducks got burned by several passing plays — a 75-yard Arbuckle-to-Robert Davis TD play and a 44-yard Arbuckle-to-Hart play included. Even on Robinson’s pick-six for 41 yards for the game’s first score, the ball bounced off a Georgia State receiver’s hand on a wide-open play.

The Ducks have given up 10 TD passes in three games.

“Everybody’s trying to test our secondary,” said safety Tyree Robinson, a fairly experienced defensive back playing next to returning starting safety Reggie Daniels.

The Ducks, after succumbing to Michigan State’s balance last week, allowed passing yards but not much on the ground (113 yards on 36 carries).

“We’re getting better, we’re doing more things,” Helfrich said. “We need to do even more against better (Pac-12) teams.”

Helfrich said he was “similarly concerned” with the pass defense as after the Eastern Washington game, particularly noting that the Ducks ran to the ball better against the quick passes of Arbuckle.

But the story from Saturday was the play of Lockie. He received an endorsement of sorts from Freeman, who said it doesn’t matter who plays quarterback.

“Both are great quarterbacks,” he said, of Adams and Lockie. “Both are taking so many reps with the offense, it shouldn’t matter.”

Added Freeman: “We’re trying to find the identity of the offense.”

Rather than play redshirt freshman QB Morgan Mahalak, the Ducks turned to Alie to take snaps after Lockie. Alie serves as holder for extra-point and field-goal kicks.

“To see the team’s (jubilant) reaction (to the score),” Helfrich said, “tells you all you need to know about Taylor Alie.”

Other highlights: Jesuit High’s Doug Brenner started at right guard, basically replacing Cameron Hunt in the starting lineup. ... Schneider, from Grant High, became the first UO kicker to boot four field goals in a half (the first half) since Paul Martinez had five in the first half against Montana in 2005. ... Receiver Bralon Addison lined up in the wildcat formation, piloting the offense during Griffin’s third-quarter score.

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