Sometimes in life, it is not about how you start, but rather how you finish.
Marcus Mariota and Oregon proved that this afternoon. Mariota and the Ducks overcame a bit of a slow start in their game and wound up vivisecting the Tennessee Volunteers 59-14 today at Autzen Stadium.
Mariota started off two for his first seven passing, and the Ducks as a team had four penalties for 35 yards in the first quarter. But after Tennessee took a 7-0 lead on a four yard Justin Worley touchdown pass, it was game on.
An early field goal after a drive stalled in the red zone put the Ducks down 7-3. The track meet started shortly thereafter, with Mariota connecting with backup tight end Johnny Mundt. Mundt was playing because starting tight end Colt Lyerla was out for undisclosed reasons, although the belief is that Lyerla had a stomach virus.
Mundt was a breakout star for the Ducks today, but it was all about Mariota. The sophomore quarterback tied for third-most yards in a game, finishing the matchup with 456 yards passing for four touchdowns-two to Mundt (five catches, 121 yards) and one each to wide receivers Josh Huff (six catches, 125 yards) and Daryle Hawkins (three catches, 61 yards).
The vaunted Ducks running game was overshadowed for a day by the aerial assault, although the Ducks did rush for 216 yards. DeAnthony Thomas led the way on the ground with 13 carries for 86 yards, but the ball was being moved much more efficiently through the air by the Ducks.
Tennessee got off to a good start early, but again, it is how you finish, and the Volunteers did not finish well. The offense, after the opening possessions, did not move the ball efficiently or effectively, as they didn’t find the end zone as a team until a little over halfway through the fourth quarter.
Tennessee held the ball for over 38 minutes, but against Oregon, that doesn’t really matter if you aren’t putting points on the board yourself. Tennessee’s passing game only racked up 138 yards on 29 pass attempts, and 316 yards overall. Justin Worley was largely ineffective under center, and that was not enough to support a running game that moved the ball a little bit. The Volunteers had played well early this season, but in this first test of 2013, they failed hugely on the road. There is not much of a chance for a break for Tennessee, so they have to regroup very quickly.
What’s next for Oregon: The Ducks get a bye week before beginning conference play at home against California on September 28.
What’s next for Tennessee: No rest for the weary, although the Volunteers are going to face a less dynamic offense next week in the Florida Gators. However, it will be second ranked team that Tennessee is facing in as many weeks.