Mariota leads No. 12 Oregon’s rout of UCLA
PASADENA, Calif. — One snap after Oregon’s defense recovered Brett Hundley’s fumble deep in UCLA territory, Marcus Mariota found an edge and scampered around it, diving for the Ducks’ first touchdown.
With those back-to-back plays, the Ducks demonstrated why it has been seven years since they lost back-to-back games in the same season — and why it certainly wasn’t about to happen again at the Rose Bowl.
Mariota ran for two touchdowns and passed for 210 yards and two more scores as No. 12 Oregon rebounded from its first defeat with a 42-30 victory over No. 18 UCLA on Saturday.
Royce Freeman rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns for the Ducks (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12), who built a 42-10 lead early in the fourth quarter with systematic superiority over UCLA, a preseason Top-10 team. Thomas Tyner and Pharaoh Brown caught TD passes as Oregon coasted home in its sixth straight win over the Bruins (4-2, 1-2).
A week after a 31-24 home loss to Arizona, Oregon showed no symptoms from the loss.
“It says a lot about the character of this team that they were able to flush (last week) and just keep chugging,” Mariota said. “We came out this Monday, and you could feel the intensity pick up. ... We believed in what we could do.”
Left tackle Jake Fisher’s return from injury boosted the offense and encouraged Mariota, who had been sacked 12 times in the past two games without Fisher watching his back. The defense kept Hundley uncomfortable for most of the day, giving up just 232 yards in the first three quarters while Oregon built an insurmountable lead.
“I know that our guys were ready to go today,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. “It meant a ton to them in every phase, and they earned it.”
Mariota also made the game’s most entertaining play when he recovered his own fumble while rushing for a 23-yard score early in the second half, impressing his teammates and coaches with his dribbling skills.
“Next time, I want him to do a 360, pick it up and score,” Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost said with a grin.
Hundley passed for 216 yards and ran for a score for the Bruins, who followed up their last-minute loss to Utah by falling into a huge early hole. The Bruins are probably out of the national title race after back-to-back defeats, and their large home crowd trickled out of Arroyo Seco throughout the second half.
Paul Perkins rushed for 190 yards and Jordan Payton caught two fourth-quarter TD passes for UCLA. But the Bruins, a preseason Top-10 team, failed to contend with Oregon’s speed and sophistication.
“When you play a team like Oregon, you’ve got to be almost perfect to beat them,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. “They are just so explosive and so good. I think that we did some things today that were really positive, but we shot ourselves in the foot a couple times.”
Mora and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich got into a heated exchange on the sideline after Oregon’s second touchdown. While their players looked on uncomfortably, Ulbrich removed his headset and handed what appeared to be his play sheet to Mora during the discussion. Mora grabbed Ulbrich’s face in both hands as the coaches calmed down.
“He is one of my closest friends, and we are both very passionate and very competitive,” said Mora, who coached Ulbrich with the San Francisco 49ers. “If you don’t have that fire, then something is wrong in this business.”
But neither coach had an answer for Mariota, who revitalized his Heisman Trophy hopes with a stellar effort in his second career head-to-head meeting with Hundley.
After UCLA got only a field goal out of an 83-yard drive, Mariota hit Tyner for a 21-yard TD on a screen pass, prompting the sideline dispute between Mora and Ulbrich.
UCLA defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes also threw a punch after a play during the first half. He was penalized, but not ejected, and Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said the league would review the play.
UCLA pulled to 21-10 at halftime on Hundley’s gutsy 16-yard TD run up the middle with 3 seconds left. But Mariota capped the Ducks’ first drive after halftime with his dribbling TD run up the middle, and Iko Ekpre-Olomu returned an interception moments later to the UCLA 10, setting up Freeman’s second TD run and a 35-10 lead.
“He’s a dynamic quarterback, as everyone knows,” UCLA safety Anthony Jefferson said about Mariota. “He finds a way to make plays on his feet. Throughout the game, he rarely just made throws in the pocket. Most of his throws were him scrambling around and making something happen.”
Payton and Nate Starks scored fourth-quarter TDs, and UCLA recovered one onside kick before Freeman recovered the Bruins’ second onside attempt.