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Oregon knows one loss doesn't end its season

EUGENE — The Ducks know they made crucial mistakes during Saturday night’s 31-28 loss to Michigan State.

Oregon also played well enough to put itself in position to beat a top-five team on the road at the end of the game.

If Vernon Adams takes a little bit of mustard off his routine throw to Byron Marshall, the tandem would have been celebrated nationally for a gutsy comeback and the team would be in everyone’s early season playoff bracket.

The incompletion doesn’t have to haunt Oregon all winter. Consider the loss to Arizona, a 24-point underdog at Autzen Stadium last October.

That defeat didn’t prevent the Ducks from winning the Pac-12, the Rose Bowl and appearing in the College Football Playoff championship game.

“There’s a bunch of guys that were in that same locker room,” coach Mark Helfrich said. “We just talked about how that (Arizona loss) galvanized us last year and there’s absolutely zero reason why that can’t happen again.”

Marcus Mariota, who fumbled away a late comeback opportunity when Scooby Wright stripped the ball away during a sack, went on to win the Heisman Trophy.

“That’s a good point,” Adams said when reminded of Oregon’s low point in 2014 before he transferred from Eastern Washington to apply for Mariota’s old gig.

An Oregon repeat as conference champions could still lead to the program’s inclusion in the football final four this December.

As long as the Ducks are able to turn the page.

“I hate losing, I’m a sore loser, I don’t do well with losing,” a frustrated Marshall said in the bowels of Spartan Stadium. “It don’t matter who we play or how early we play them, we want to win.

“The goal is to win, we should have won and we didn’t. So we’ve just got to make sure we don’t feel like this ever again.”

Ohio State, which lost at home to Virginia Tech last season, was the final team selected for the College Football Playoff. The Buckeyes battered Alabama in the Sugar Bowl before running over Oregon in the title game.

“It’s real early,” Bralon Addison said after leading Oregon with 138 yards receiving and returning a punt for an 81-yard touchdown against Michigan State.

“The two teams that played in the national championship last year both had one loss. It’s a long season.”

POLL POSITION: Oregon dropped from No. 7 to No. 12 in the Associated Press poll, and Michigan State moved up a spot to No. 4 and received two first-place votes.

Ohio State remained No. 1 and received the other 59 first-place votes with No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 TCU and No. 5 Baylor rounding out the top five.

Two Pac-12 teams from the South Division, No. 6 USC and No. 10 UCLA, are now ranked ahead of defending conference champion Oregon.

In the coaches poll, the Ducks are ranked 13th.

SECONDARY GROWING UP: After allowing 438 yards passing and five touchdowns to Adams’ former backups in the 61-42 victory over Eastern Washington, John Neal’s young secondary made some encouraging strides against Michigan State.

Connor Cook was 20-for-32 passing for 192 yards and two touchdowns. True freshman cornerback Ugo Amadi intercepted the Spartans’ senior quarterback, and sophomore Arrion Springs finished with a team-high 13 tackles and two pass breakups.

“I think our whole team will get better,” Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. “We’re young in the secondary; I think those guys made a giant leap.”

UP NEXT: The Ducks will finish the nonconference slate against Georgia State on Saturday at Autzen Stadium (11 a.m., Pac-12 Networks).

The Panthers (1-1) are coming off a 34-32 road victory over New Mexico State.

Nick Arbuckle passed for 372 yards and two touchdowns to lead Georgia State to its first Sun Belt victory.