The last time Fresno State beat Oregon at Autzen Stadium was in 1982. At quarterback for Fresno State was a young gun named Jeff Tedford, later one of former Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti’s offensive coordinators and now the current head coach at California.
The score on that day during a dreadful season that saw the Ducks go 2-8-1? 10-4. This one was a little more exciting.
Carried on the back of Kenjon Barner, the No. 4 Oregon Ducks topped the Fresno State Bulldogs 42-25 on a warm Saturday afternoon in Eugene. The Ducks (2-0) and quarterback Marcus Mariota raced out to a 35-3 lead late in the first half, but the Bulldogs (1-1) roughed the Ducks up a little bit in the third quarter — the second straight week Oregon has seen a huge lead shrink in the second half.
Turning point. In a way, this one was over after De’Anthony Thomas’ first touchdown run from 39 yards out as its momentum pushed the Ducks out to an insurmountable lead. But if the second half’s lack of urgency from Oregon left an inkling of doubt, that was erased with senior running back Kenjon Barner’s third touchdown of the day.
Defensive consistency. Quarterback Derek Carr, the younger brother of former No. 1 NFL draft pick David Carr, went 29-for-47 for 234 yards and a touchdown. He looked particularly sharp on the Bulldogs’ first drive, hitting Robbie Rouse for 12 yards and Josh Harper for 22 before Oregon forced a field goal.
Perhaps his best throw of the game he didn’t even see. After an Oregon fumble put Fresno State in the redzone, Carr lofted a pass over backup safety Avery Patterson to Isaiah Burse while taking a vicious hit. He picked himself off and hobbled to the sidelines was back under center during the Bulldogs’ next possession.
On the horizon. Next up on Oregon’s schedule is Tennessee Tech. The Golden Eagles (2-0) opened the season with wins against Hampton and North Greenville and sit atop the Ohio Valley Conference. They mark the end of nonconference play for the Ducks this year.
Final: Oregon 42, Fresno State 25
The fourth quarter ended up as little more than a footnote. Two plays after a 28-yard rush up the middle, Marcus Mariota lost the ball after a crushing hit by Phillip Thomas. It was Mariota’s third sack of the day, and the fumble was one of four by Oregon in an uncharacteristically sloppy second half.
After a Fresno State field goal made it 35-19, the Ducks methodically marched the ball 77 yards on 11 plays over the span of nearly six minutes. Oregon’s longest drive of the night in terms of time was capped by a 16-yard touchdown by Kenjon Barner. It was the perfect finishing touch on a night to remember for Barner. The senior posted career numbers across the board: 34 carries, 201 yards and three touchdowns.
A Robbie Rouse touchdown run in the final minutes for Fresno State ended the night’s scoring.
End of the third quarter: Oregon 35, Fresno State 16
6:33 p.m.: After not doing much of anything in the second quarter, the Bulldogs punished the Ducks in the third stanza, forcing three punts and two fumbles on consecutive drives. Mariota encountered the first adversity of his collegiate career, making a series of questionable reads and coughing up the ball deep in Oregon territory after taking a sack from Shawn Plummer.
Bulldogs QB Derek Carr converted the opportunity two plays later with a pretty pass to Isaiah Burse in the corner of the endzone, and the deficit was cut to 22. Carr took a shot on the play and limped off the field but returned to start the next drive.
During Oregon’s next possession, freshman Bralon Addison lost the handle on a screen pass after taking a hit by defensive back Sean Alston, and again the Bulldogs had the ball inside Oregon’s 15-yard line. Solid play from linebacker Kiko Alonso and defensive end Taylor Hart held Fresno State to a field goal, and that’s where the scoring would end going into the last period.
Carr is quietly assembling an impressive performance through the air, especially considering he’ll likely finish the game with over 50 pass attempts as the Bulldogs’ ground game averages just 3.4 yards per carry so far.
Halftime: Oregon 35, Fresno State 6
5:18 p.m.: Simply put, the second quarter belonged to Oregon. Assembling scoring drives of 85, 69 and 98 yards, the Ducks again turned to their backfield. Running backs Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas have now tallied 231 yards and four touchdowns on 22 combined carries.
Quarterback Derek Carr has been solid, going 15-for-26 for 125 yards, but lacked the big throws he made in the first half. After coming out swinging to start the game, the Bulldogs have been more content to slow things down and feed running back Robbie Rouse. The 5-foot-7 senior from San Diego, Calif., has 53 yards on 14 carries.
The biggest difference early on has been on third down. Oregon’s converted five of their nine attempts; Fresno State’s converted just one of nine and punted the ball five times in the first half.
Defensively, Avery Patterson has stepped up at safety, filling in for the injured John Boyett. His four first-half tackles are second to only Dion Jordan. Rover Brian Jackson has been just as consistent, breaking up passes all over the field. Across the ball, Bulldogs safety Derron Smith has been a force. He’s got 10 tackles, seven unassisted.
Fresno State kicks to Oregon to start the second half, just eight minutes away.
End of the first quarter: Oregon 14, Fresno State 3
4:29 p.m.: The first quarter just wrapped up here at Autzen Stadium, with the first round going to the Ducks. Fresno State took the opening drive 11 plays and 57 yards before settling for a field goal by Quentin Breshears to strike first blood, 3-0.
But consecutive minute-long touchdown drives, first a 39-yard option scamper by De’Anthony Thomas and the second ending with a three-yard punch-in by Kenjon Barner, capped the quarter’s scoring, as both teams saw drives stall down the stretch.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota is 2-of-4 passing, a far cry from his debut against Arkansas State, but Oregon has seen considerable success on the ground. Barner sits at 81 yards on 8 carries, and Mariota and Thomas both added 39 more rushing yards.
Fresno State’s Derek Carr found several openings in a Ducks’ secondary missing free safety John Boyett who’s out ostensibly due to an undisclosed injury. Avery Patterson got the start over Boyett. Carr is 8-for-13 for 74 yards, 26 of them to wideout Josh Harper.