Charlottesville, VA – The Oregon Ducks will attempt to prove they are worthy of their newly-minted No. 2 ranking, as they travel east for a matchup with the Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday afternoon.
Oregon may have lost Chip Kelly in the offseason, but the team didn't skip a beat in its opener under new head coach Mark Helfrich, as it dismantled FCS foe Nicholls State, 66-3. Helfrich is just the second Ducks head coach in the past eight regimes to win his opener, and despite both teams winning last week, Oregon was able to overtake Ohio State for the No. 2 ranking in the latest AP poll.
"I thought our preparation was outstanding," Helfrich said. "I am really happy with how our guys performed. We worked during fall camp and now we get in the game routine."
Virginia experienced a disappointing 2012 campaign, finishing 4-8, but a clean slate for 2013 got off to a great start, as it came from behind in the fourth quarter to defeat BYU, 19-16, extending head coach Mike London's perfect record in season openers to 6-0. A late interception by Anthony Harris led to the game-winning touchdown with less than three minutes to play in regulation.
"I'm just so proud of this team," London said. "It was a long game and that was a very good football team. We are looking forward to our next game. We can be happy now, but we cannot be satisfied."
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these two schools on the football field.
The Ducks' high-flying offense had a field day against the overmatched Colonels last week, amassing an incredible 772 total yards despite owning less than 20 minutes of possession time.
Marcus Mariota's Heisman chase got off to a fine start, as he completed just 12-of-21 passes but for 234 yards and a touchdown, and he also showed flashes of his dynamic running ability by picking up 113 yards and scoring a pair of TDs. The maturation of Mariota in his second season is also starting to excite his head coach.
"He was clean and did a nice job," Helfrich said of his quarterback. "During the second quarter there was a stagnate play and he made sure to get after everyone in the huddle. Just shows he is progressing, taking the next step in his maturity."
Mariota wasn't the only 100-yard rusher for the Ducks on the afternoon. De'Anthony Thomas turned 18 carries into 128 yards and two touchdowns, while Byron Marshall tallied 124 yards and a score on just eight totes.
Josh Huff acted as the team's primary receiving target, logging five receptions for 118 yards. Bralon Addison caught Mariota's touchdown pass in the first quarter, while Chance Allen was on the receiving end of backup quarterback Jake Rodrigues's scoring strike in the fourth.
Oregon's defense stifled Nicholls State early in the game, but naturally let its foot off the gas pedal late as it finished the contest having allowed 343 yards.
The Ducks recorded six sacks and recovered a pair of fumbles. Derrick Malone led the unit with 11 tackles, while Tony Washington had a sack and a forced fumble.
Virginia's offense had a tough time in the opener against an impressive BYU defense, as the squad managed just 14 first downs and 223 total yards while turning the ball over twice.
David Watford's debut as the starting quarterback was anything but memorable in terms of his final line. He completed just 18-of-32 pass attempts for 114 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Kevin Parks was equally underwhelming at running back, turning 20 carries into only 65 yards, but he redeemed himself by ripping off the game-winning 13-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter.
Darius Jennings was the bright spot in an otherwise lackluster passing attack, accounting for seven receptions, 62 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, the Cavaliers played very well in the opener, creating two turnovers while holding BYU to just 7-of-23 on third down.
Maurice Canady, Daquan Romero, Eli Harold, Anthony Harris and Henry Coley all registered double-digit tackles on the busy afternoon. Harold added to his big game with 3.5 TFL, two sacks and a forced fumble, while Harris had a crucial interception.