The third-ranked Oregon Ducks found themselves down at halftime to #7 Michigan State but rallied in the second half to rout the visiting Spartans 46-27 Saturday afternoon in Eugene.
Oregon scored its first touchdown late in the first quarter on a Thomas Tyner 1 yard run that was set up by an Erick Dargan interception of a Connor Cook pass. As is their style, the Ducks then completed a successful 2-point conversion as Taylor Alie found DeForest Buckner on a quick pass. The Ducks later added a field goal early in the second quarter to go up 11-0.
Michigan State responded in its next possession with a Jeremy Langford 16 yard touchdown scamper to cut into the Oregon lead.
Oregon took no time answering the MSU score as Mariota hit Devon Allen for a 70 yard touchdown strike just two plays later to increase its lead to 18-7.
However, Oregon would not see its powerful offense do any more damage in the first half as all of the momentum turned to the Michigan State sideline. The Spartans scored 17 straight points and headed into the locker room with a 24-18 edge.
Cook was outstanding for the Spartans in the second quarter with two scoring tosses of 7 yards each. He finished with 343 yards passing with two touchdowns but also threw a pair of interceptions, both of which killed drives in Oregon territory.
The second half belonged to the homestanding Ducks, however, as Oregon scored early and often in racking up 28 points, while the Oregon defense stiffened and held the Spartans to just a single field goal. All-American defensive back Ifo Ekpre-Olomu picked off Cook on a diving play to stall a Spartan drive when MSU trailed by 12 with just over nine minutes remaining. Oregon then drove 96 yards on 11 plays and iced the game with a Royce Freeman 14 yard scoring run.
Mariota secured his place among the top players in the country as he threw for 318 yards and three scores and rushed for another 42. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment on the afternoon was his poise and calmness in the pocket when the Ducks faced their 8-point deficit.
Devon Allen caught three passes from Mariota for a total of 110 yards and 2 touchdowns. Freeman led Oregon in rushing with 89 yards on 13 carries and a pair of touchdowns.
Oregon entered the game with Michigan State, a favorite to win the Big 10, looking for a signature victory over a top-ranked team from another power conference. The Pac-12 is arguably the deepest in the nation with Oregon, UCLA, USC, Stanford, and Arizona State all receiving national rankings this week. Washington and Arizona have also garnered top 25 votes. Michigan State, meanwhile, dropped its first game after winning 11 in a row going back to last season.
The Ducks’ win over the Spartans certainly goes a long way towards solidifying an early hold on one of the four top spots needed to qualify for the first ever college football playoff. And while there is much football to be played, Oregon has to like where it is at early in this 2014 season.
Oregon will welcome the Wyoming Cowboys to Autzen Stadium next Saturday, with kickoff set for 11am Pacific Time.