EUGENE — It was a historic day for the Oregon running game, with three players recording 100-yard rushing performances.
How will the Ducks replace Kenjon Barner? By committee if Saturday's 66-3 season-opening victory against Nicholls University at Autzen Stadium was any indication.
Junior running back De'Anthony Thomas started and rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns, reserve sophomore Byron Marshall also had 124 yards and a score, and sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
It was the first time in school history three players eclipsed 100 yards rushing.
"We're starting new legacies now," Marshall said. "It's a new beginning today. A lot of things are starting to change and I guess this is the first of many."
There was little doubt Thomas and Marshall were going to split carries this season, it was just a matter of what percentage of the handoffs each would get.
Thomas has been a dynamic performer for the Ducks — he was the top receiver last season with 45 catches — but at 5-foot-9 and 169 pounds, there have been questions about his ability to be an every-down back.
But he took the bulk of the carries on Saturday, getting a career-high 18 for an average of 7.1 yards per rush.
"It was great just to be out there, get the rhythm back," Thomas said. "It was a good feeling. I'm just out there to contribute to my team and just make plays."
The 5-10, 207-pound Marshall got just eight carries but busted out for runs of 49 and 47 yards.
"It was good to see Byron in live action," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. "Good to see him break a couple."
Mariota also had some big runs, including a 45-yarder for a touchdown in the second quarter.
All told, the Ducks rushed for 500 yards and seven TDs on 45 carries for an average of 11.1 yards.
"I think my guys have progressed really well," running backs coach Gary Campbell said. "Obviously, we're not there yet, but I'm pleased with where we're at."
MITCHELL EJECTED: Starting cornerback Terrance Mitchell became the Ducks' first victim of the NCAA's new targeting penalty.
The junior was ejected late in the first quarter after a hit on Nicholls quarterback Beaux Hebert, who was sliding feet first near the sideline after a scramble. Mitchell dove and connected with Hebert's head, drawing multiple flags. The end result was a 15-yard personal foul penalty and an automatic ejection.
Penalties for helmet-to-helmet hits and targeting and initiating contact to the head or neck of a defenseless player have been in place for years. Beginning this season, players who commit these penalties will also get automatic ejections.
If Mitchell had been ejected in the second half instead of the first, he would have also had to sit out the first half of next Saturday's game against Virginia.
"We know the type of character he is," Oregon receiver Josh Huff said. "He said he didn't mean it and he apologized. "¦ It really rallied us to perform better and play for Terrance Mitchell."
Mitchell, who was second on the team in 2012 with eight pass breakups, was replaced by junior Troy Hill.
STARTERS PLAY THROUGH THIRD QUARTER: Despite a 38-3 lead at halftime, Helfrich kept his offensive starters in the game through the third quarter.
After their first drive of the second half stalled at the Colonels' 13-yard line, the Ducks scored on their second drive of the third quarter on Marshall's 49-yard run with 49 seconds left.
"We kind of wanted to leave with a better taste in our mouth on offense before we started substituting and I'm glad we finished the way we did," Helfrich said.
FRESHMAN DEBUTS: Oregon played four true freshmen Saturday, including kicker Matt Wogan, who handled all 11 kickoffs.
Linebacker Torrodney Prevot started on the kickoff coverage unit and later played on defense in the second half. He finished with five tackles, one sack and a forced fumbled.
Tight end Johnny Mundt, listed second to starter Colt Lyerla on the depth chart, also played on special teams, and offensive lineman Cameron Hunt saw time both on special teams and offense.
EXTRA POINTS: With his 27-yard TD pass to Bralon Addison in the first quarter, sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota has now thrown for a touchdown in each of his 14 games. "¦ Oregon recorded its 90th consecutive sellout at Autzen Stadium with an announced crowd of 57,769. "¦ Las Vegas oddsmakers made the Ducks 59-point favorites on Saturday and the Ducks covered thanks to their final touchdown with 3:45 left in the game.