Football Preseason Wrap-Up

By UO student Chelsea Fullmer

Three up, three down. Before Pac-12 play gets underway, the Ducks went undefeated in preseason play against foes from across the nation. Nicholls State, Virginia, and Tennessee all fell to the No. 2 ranked team in the nation in impressive victories and blowouts. Marcus Mariota is still on numerous Heisman Trophy candidate watch lists and Coach Mark Helfrich has been proving himself worthy as Chip Kelly’s successor.

The opening home game against Nicholls State brought fans back to Autzen on a hot August afternoon. Decked out in white across the stadium and field, the Ducks stormed through the Southland Conference opponent in a 66-3 victory.

With 500 yards of rushing alone, the Ducks took flight and never looked back. De’Anthony Thomas had 128 yards on 18 carries and Mariota went 12-of-21 for 234 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions, and ran for an additional 113 yards and two touchdowns. The defense kept the Colonels out of the endzone, settling only for one field goal while blocking a 41-yard attempt early in the fourth quarter.

Next up was first-time opponents the Virginia Cavaliers. Many Ducks travelled across the nation to Charlottesville and Scott Stadium, and many also attended the Duck Alumni Tailgate.  Both teams came into the game 1-0, looking to continue an undefeated record. With the Ducks jumping Ohio State in the polls to No. 2, Virginia prepared to rival the ranked Ducks.

After a quick start out of the gate, the Ducks were up 8-0 merely 1:51 into the game. Mariota broke down the middle for a 71-yard touchdown run on the Ducks’ first series, finishing with a successful two-point conversion.  Mariota rushed for 122 yards on four carries and went 14-of-28 for 199 yards. On top of a dominating offense, the defense forced three interceptions and one fumble while special teams made a statement when Josh Huff blocked a Virginia punt at the 14-yard line. In the end, the Ducks flew home with another strong victory, 59-10. De’Anthony Thomas performed a hat trick with three touchdowns, and true freshmen Thomas Tyner made his college debut with a pair of touchdowns in the fourth quarter.

Continuing to make impressions across the nation and hold its No. 2 ranking in the AP and Coaches Polls, the Ducks welcomed SEC’s Tennessee in only their second meeting. The Ducks let the Volunteers strike first, going down 7-0 in the first quarter. After a handful of penalties, the quarter ended 10-7 with the Ducks ahead. The offense eventually found their rhythm to work towards a 59-14 win.

Mariota threw for a career high of 456 yards and four touchdowns and Josh Huff had six catches for 125 yards and one touchdown. The student section chanted “We want Bama” as the Ducks continued to crush the scoreboard and make big plays, impressing the nation and holding the No. 2 ranking.

Following a bye week, the Ducks started Pac-12 play against the Cal Bears, making a strong 4-0 start beating the Bears 55-16 on a rainy night in Autzen. Travelling to Colorado, Washington, Stanford and Arizona, Coach Helfrich and the Ducks prepare to battle for the Pac-12 Championship title.

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