EUGENE, Ore. – Tennessee thought it had nice team speed.
Oregon’s “Autobahn” Ducks showed the Vols what real speed – without limits – is all about.
After Tennessee took a 7-0 first-quarter lead, second-ranked Oregon scored 59 unanswered points and crushed the Vols, 59-14, before 57,895 raucous fans at Autzen Stadium in what turned out to be a monumental inter-sectional blowout.
“I think they are very deserving of where they’re ranked,” Vols coach Butch Jones said in quotes posted on the Tennessee athletics website.
Oregon’s point production – Ducks starters started heading for the sidelines with about five minutes left in the third quarter – is the second-highest ever against a Tennessee football team, matching the 59 scored by Florida in 2007. The Gators set a scoring record versus the Vols in a 62-37 rout in 1995.
Guess who’s up next for the Vols? Yep. Florida.
After the team’s West Coast rout, Tennessee faces Florida (No. 18) in the Southeastern Conference opener in Gainesville. Then the Vols host South Alabama before taking on Georgia (No. 9), South Carolina (No. 13) and Alabama (No. 1).
“Florida is not going to feel sorry for us,” Jones said. “We knew at this juncture of the season, against the most difficult schedule in the history of college football, it’s going to take perseverance and resilience. We have to learn from this and move forward.”
The 45-point loss was the worst for Tennessee since losing to Mississippi State 48-0 in 1910. The Vols opened the 1981 season with a 44-0 loss to Georgia and a 43-7 defeat against Southern Cal before rebounding for an 8-4 record that included a 28-21 victory over Wisconsin in the Garden State Bowl.
When Oregon’s sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota put his foot on the gas pedal, the Vols looked like they were running in molasses. Mariota completed 23-of-33 passes for a career-high 456 yards and four touchdowns in less than three quarters of action.
“Anytime you have a quarterback who can throw the football and run the football, you’re always a gap short, always a man short,” Jones said.
Mariota is the first quarterback to throw for 400-plus yards against Tennessee since Kentucky’s Andre Woodson had 430 in a four-overtime game on Nov. 24, 2007. Mariota’s 456 passing yards are the third-most against the Vols behind Kentucky’s Tim Couch (476, 1997) and Vanderbilt’s Whit Taylor (464, 1981).
“It’s pretty cool,” said Mariota, who is a low-key leader for the Ducks.
Mariota has thrown at least one touchdown pass in all of his 16 games for Oregon, who went into the game averaging 62.5 points. He is the first Ducks quarterback to throw for 400 yards in a game since Kellen Clemens in 2005.
Tennessee defensive back Brian Randolph was disappointed the Vols didn’t perform better in the nationally televised game.
“We just didn’t play up to our standards,” he said. “We need to play like we know how to play.”
Reserve quarterback Jeff Lockie added 15 yards passing, giving the Ducks (3-0) a total of 471 through the air.
Mariota started the game 2-for-7, but caught fire and singed the Vols’ defense. When it was over, Oregon had 687 yards of total offense, a bit shy of the record 721 Troy piled up against Tennessee in 2012.
“I thought we handled ourselves very maturely,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said in a postgame interview on ABC. “We love everything Marcus does and he’s really matured as a leader.”
Mariota, who also had a 9-yard rushing touchdown, was well on his way to record-setting territory in the first half when he went 15-of-22 for 350 yards and three touchdowns. The Ducks had 458 yards of offense at the break.
Wide receiver Josh Huff caught six passes for 125 yards and a touchdown covering 54 yards in a 28-point second quarter that gave the Ducks a 38-7 advantage.
Huff had this to say about Mariota’s eye-popping show for all the country to see.
“His performance is one for the ages,” Huff said. “He’s probably one of the best quarterbacks in the nation.”
Tight end John Mundt had five receptions for 121 yards and touchdowns of 16 and 54 yards.
Mundt averaged 24.2 yards per catch and Huff gained 20.8 yards each time he snagged a pass and they had 116 and 104 yards in receptions at halftime. Compare that combined yardage to Tennessee’s 166 total yards after two quarters. The Ducks’ duo also outdistanced Worley’s 100 yards passing at halftime.
The boisterous crowd was chanting “SEC! SEC!” and “We Want ’Bama!”
Two-time defending champion Alabama held off Texas A&M for a 49-42 victory.
Down a touchdown after Justin Worley , Oregon scored on five consecutive drives following Vol punts and had the game secured after 30 minutes of play.
Tennessee (2-1) had 316 yards of total offense, including Justin Worley’s 126 yards on 13-of-25 passing with a 4-yard touchdown toss to freshman Jason Croom – it was Croom’s first college reception.
It took Oregon a while to establish its vaunted “pace and space” offense but the 28-point second quarter – the Ducks added 21 in the third – put the neon-yellow attired football roadrunners’ juggernaut in motion.
“We finally got the (tempo) going,” Helfrich said.
Passing so much wasn’t really the game plan.
“It just happened,” Helfrich said, “and we went for it.
Helfrich also wanted to talk about the Ducks’ defensive effort that throttled the Vols’ rushing and passing attacks.
“That’s our philosophy,” Helfrich said. “We’re going to make them run it. We want to put pressure on the quarterback, whether its anxiety in terms of our looks or rushing the passer. When you tackle well and don’t give up those explosive plays that’s how that happens.”
Oregon has won both games against Tennessee by a combined score of 107-27. The Ducks scored the final 45 points in a 48-13 win over the Vols three years ago in Knoxville, Tenn.
Tennessee’s other touchdown came on an Alden Hill run from 8 yards out with 2:19 left in the game.
Tennessee 7 0 0 7 — 14
Oregon 10 28 21 0 — 59
TEN – Jason Croom 4 pass from Justin Worley (Michael Palardy kick), 9:00
ORE – FG Matt Wogan 38, 5:45
ORE – John Mundt 16 pass from Marcus Mariota (Alejandro Maldonado kick), 3:34
ORE – Mariota 9 run (Wogan kick), 14:54
ORE – Josh Huff 54 pass from Mariota (Maldonado kick), 9:53
ORE – Daryle Hawkins 45 pass from Mariota (Wogan kick), 4:20
ORE – De’Anthony Thomas 28 run (Maldonado kick), 1:19
ORE – Mundt 17 pass from Mariota (Wogan kick), 11:30
ORE – Byron Marshall 11 run (Maldonado kick), 5:40
ORE – Thomas Tyner 2 run (Wogan kick), 2:19
TEN – Alden Hill 8 run (Palardy kick), 7:14
ATT – 57,895
First Downs 14 29
Rushes-Yards 38-178 41-216
Passing Yards 138 471
Total Yards 53-316 66-687
Com.-Att.-Int. 15-29-0 25-35-0
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-0
Punts.-Avg. 9-43.6 3-46.3
Penalties-Yds. 4-40 8-62
RUSHING — Tennessee: Marlin Lane 13-63, Rajion Neal 12-42, Alden Hill 5-38, Tom Smith 5-25, Deanthone Summerhill 2-8, Worley 1-2; Oregon: De’Anthony Thomas 13-86, Byron Marshall 6-41, Marcus Mariota 6-27, Lane Roseberry 3-16, Jeff Lockie 1-8, Kenny Bassett 2-5.
PASSING — Tennessee: Worley 13-25-0-126, Nathan Peterman 2-4-0-12; Oregon: Mariota 23-33-0-456, Lockie 2-2-0-15.
RECEIVING — Tennessee: Johnathan Smith 1-51, Neal 4-23, Marquez North 3-9, Brendan Downs 2-18, Lane 2-16, , Jacob Carter 1-11, Vincent Dallas 1-6, Jason Croom 1-4; Oregon: Josh Huff 6-125, John Mundt 5-121, Bralon Addison 6-78, Daryle Hawkins 3-61, Marshall 1-36, Thomas 1-28, Devon Allen 1-11, Keanon Lowe 1-7, Chad Delaney 1-4.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)