UCLA vs. Oregon: 10 Things We Learned in the Ducks Win over the Bruins
After being tied 14-14 at halftime, the Oregon Ducks turned on the jets and ran away from the UCLA Bruins in the second half, winning by a score of 42-14.
Byron Marshall rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns on the night. His effectiveness directly correlated with Oregon taking control of the contest from the third quarter on.
The Bruins put up a valiant effort, but were unable to sustain any sort of offense in the second half. As a result, the defense got tired. The Bruins gifted Oregon's offense extra possessions, and the game as a result got out of hand.
Here's 10 things we've learned from the Ducks win against the Bruins.
The Future for UCLA Is Extremely Bright
UCLA is one or two years away from being a national player.
The Bruins have played 18 true freshmen this season. A good majority of those either start or play extensively. In tonight's game, UCLA started three true freshmen on the offensive line.
UCLA also started true freshmen at tight end, defensive tackle, punter and outside linebacker.
Losing to Oregon in Eugene isn't something to be embarrassed about. The experience of competing against the Ducks will go a long way in aiding the development of the young group. It's scary to think how good the likes of Myles Jack, Eddie Vanderdoes, Caleb Benenoch, Thomas Duarte and Alex Redmond will be as juniors.
Bruins fans need to exercise some patience. It's truly a testament to Jim Mora's coaching that he has this team being as good as it is, especially with the huge number of young athletes playing integral roles.
Oregon Passed Its First Test of the Season
This game presented Oregon with this season's first taste of adversity.
UCLA's defense was giving the Ducks lots of problems in the first half. The Bruins were also rushing the ball with a lot of effectiveness early.
Oregon went on to outscore the Bruins 28-0 in the second half. The Ducks defense limited UCLA's offense to a paltry 283 yards of total offense on the day.
This was arguably Oregon's best win of the season. It might not have been the best played game by Mark Helfrich's team, but it was a win against the best opponent it has faced all year to this point.
The Curious Case of Mark Helfrich
This was in some respects the first game of Mark Helfrich's career as a head coach.
He and his team faced adversity for the first time—and responded accordingly. It took a lot of gall to call for a fake punt on a 4th-and-14 play from your own 26-yard line. It ultimately resulted in a 66-yard rush by linebacker Rodney Hardrick.
Helfrich also decided to bench De'Anthony Thomas in favor of Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner. The result? A combined 210 yards and four touchdowns by the duo on the ground.
Simply put, Helfrich pushed all of the right buttons in this game.
UCLA's Defense Played Well Enough to Win
It might sound funny saying that, considering that UCLA allowed 42 points.
The Bruins defense played inspired football. Oregon didn't adjust to UCLA's overall speed in the first half. The defensive line was also getting constant pressure and was disrupting Oregon's rhythm in its run game. De'Anthony Thomas was effectively taken out of the game. Inside linebackers Eric Kendricks and Jordan Zumwalt in particular were literally all over the field.
Ultimately, UCLA's inability to sustain drives on offense hung the defense out to dry. UCLA's D got considerably winded in the second half and could never fully stop Oregon's rushing attack led by Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner.
Noel Mazzone's Peculiar Play Calling
UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone called an extremely predictable and vanilla game plan tonight. The Bruins virtually ran the same four plays for the entire night.
Now, there are some reasons for why that may be. It's no secret that Brett Hundley right now is struggling immensely. The condensed playbook may have been in order to compensate for Hundley's recent issues. It also could be a fact that Mazzone doesn't fully trust Hundley to throw the ball down the field.
Also, UCLA played with three true freshmen starting on the offensive line. It might have been a case where Mazzone didn't want to overload the young unit with a sophisticated scheme on the road in a hostile environment.
The fact remains that Mazzone never adjusted to Oregon's defense. Oregon began loading up the box in order to stop the run. The middle of the field was open and was ripe for slants and crossing routes. Those seemingly never came, and UCLA resorted to running the same zone-read play into the teeth of the Ducks defense.
High-percentage throws in the way of screens could have been attempted. Even the sheer threat of throwing the ball down the field was absent. Oregon knew that UCLA was unlikely to attempt a pass beyond 10 yards, and its defensive alignments showed a disregard for the Bruins ability to push the ball downfield.
Marcus Mariota Stepped Up When He Needed to
Oregon's quarterback didn't have a bad first half, per se. He was 11-of-18 for 131 yards.
In the second half, when his team needed him most, Mariota stepped up.
Mariota was a perfect 10-of-10 for 99 yards and a touchdown in the second half. His command of the offense was impeccable. Whether it was throwing down the field with magisterial strikes or running for yards, Mariota demonstrated why he's one of the best players in the entire country.
For the game, Mariota finished 21-of-28 for 230 yards and one touchdown.
We Will See These Two Teams Play Again
Barring injury, both of these teams will play one another in the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Oregon has perhaps its toughest remaining test next week, when it faces Stanford in Palo Alto on Thursday night. If the Ducks can come out unscathed, they should run the table.
UCLA enters an easier portion of its schedule. The game against Arizona State will in all likelihood determine the Pac-12 South Division representative. UCLA has to like its chances, considering that the game is at the Rose Bowl.
Byron Marshall Is a Star in the Making
The Oregon tailback possesses a wonderful combination of size, speed and elusiveness.
Marshall is very adept at reading his blocks and exploiting the requisite running lanes. He's also a physical runner who can churn his thick lower body forward for extra yards.
At this point, it's not a stretch to say that Marshall is a key for Oregon's offense. He's a bigger back who can get the tough yards between the tackles. He's not the traditional Oregon running back, but nonetheless he's extremely valuable to this team.
Against the Bruins, he rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns.
Something's Wrong with Brett Hundley
Something isn't right with Brett Hundley.
Dating back to the contest against Utah, he hasn't looked like the same player. Starting left tackle Torian White did suffer a season-ending injury in that contest. The offensive line in general has been a bit of a mash unit throughout the year as well. It could in theory be a case where Hundley doesn't have faith in his offensive line.
Hundley appears to be playing with a significant lack of confidence. He's extremely tentative in the pocket. There's no going through his progressions on dropbacks. He locks onto one receiver, and it makes him susceptible to interceptions.
Additionally, he hasn't displayed a great feel for the position. His accuracy on passes has suffered as a result. Against Oregon, he repeatedly missed open receivers.
Is it due to a patchwork offensive line, or are there mental and/or physical issues plaguing the signal-caller?
No one truly knows at this point.
Oregon Impressed BCS Voters
Alabama, Florida State and Oregon will be compared against each other every single weekend until (if) one loses.
It's arguable at this point as to whether the SEC or the Pac-12 is the dominant conference in college football this season. The ACC doesn't figure into the equation, considering that the depth is relatively poor compared to the other two conferences.
On this particular weekend, Alabama and Florida State registered big wins against inferior opponents (Tennessee and North Carolina State, respectively).
Oregon's win over a ranked UCLA team will appeal to BCS voters. I'm not saying that Oregon is better than Florida State or Alabama, but the fact is, the Ducks should move up to No. 2 due to notching a quality win against a good opponent.