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Oregon may have beaten Virginia by 49 points, but the Ducks' rookie coach said there is work ahead.
Oregon running back De'Anthony Thomas (6) signals to the fans after the 59-10 victory over Virginia at Scott Stadium on Saturday in Charlottesville.
Saturday, September 7, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Second-ranked Oregon came a long way to play a football team it hoped would provide a worthy challenge.
Ducks head coach Mark Helfrich — now two games into his new job — said his squad did indeed get the competition they were hoping for from Virginia.
“Those guys, as advertised up front there … are outstanding,” Helfrich said of the Cavaliers defensive line. “That defense is really good.”
He added that he didn’t recall ever facing a team as tall as UVa, and the Cavaliers’ aggressive play caused some apprehension as the Ducks prepared for Saturday’s game at Scott Stadium.
By the way, the Ducks got past the Cavs by a score of 59-10 —not exactly the kind of score that normally results in a collective sigh of relief as the winning team leaves the field.
But a team that is now riding a streak of four consecutive BCS bowl appearances and is a prohibitive favorite to win another Pac-12 football title tends to have expectations that could appear to be extreme.
Helfrich did predict his team’s 2,800-mile trip back to Eugene, Ore., would “feel short,” and that everyone on the plane should be in a good mood.
Then the work will start again.
First, there is the issue of the Ducks keeping their composure.
Oregon took the long way around at times on the way to building a 28-10 halftime lead. The Ducks were flagged for five personal fouls in the first half and had 119 yards in penalties for the game. That doesn’t include two more 15-yarders that were nullified due to offsetting calls.
“Obviously, we need to clean it up and that’s 100 percent on me,” said Helfrich, who at 39 landed his first head-coaching job at one of the premier programs in the nation. “… Offensively, we stubbed our own toe with some silly penalties, and then put our defense on a short field with a couple of weird plays.”
Helfrich said he stressed at halftime that the penalties and other mental mistakes needed to stop (running back De’Anthony Thomas said that one-sided discussion was conducted at a decibel level that was a bi t higher than normal).
When Oregon outscored UVa 31-0 in the second half, it appeared that the Ducks got the message.
The Oregon defense, which has seven returning starters from last year’s Fiesta Bowl team, forced four UVa turnovers, and held the Cavs to 116 yards in the second half, is very good at giving its young offense plenty of opportunities to score points.
That young offense is good at overcoming the hardships they cause.
Thomas, who as a junior is the most experienced member of the Ducks’ high-powered backfield, earned one of those 15-yard penalties, but made up for his mistake by gaining 124 yards on 11 carrie s and scoring three touchdowns.
“I know I have to watch for that,” Thomas said. “Those guys were talking a little bit of trash and trying to get into our heads. But a lot of teams are going to be doing that. We have to keep it under control.”
Thomas wasn’t even the most impressive part of the day for the Oregon offense.
True freshman and five-star recruit Thomas Tyner didn’t even get on the field in the Ducks’ 66-3 win over Nicholls State last week. (Oregon does not provide injury information, although there were rumors that Tyner was banged up a bit during fall camp.)
Tyner saw his first collegiate action in the fourth quarter Saturday. His first carry was a 3-yard TD run. His second attempt was a 31-yard TD run. Helfrich shrugged his shoulders as he talked about that debut.
“Natural runner,” the coach aid of the guy. “I thought that zone cut on that longer touchdown run was a natural cut. Guys either have that, or they don’t. … You can’t teach that feel or to take the kind of angle that he took there.”
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