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Mariota eases transition at Oregon

The SportsXchange

EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon accomplished offensive milestones in the first game under coach Mark Helfrich that it never reached for Chip Kelly.

Oregon had a school-record 772 yards of total offense in a dominant 66-3 home win over outmatched Nicholls, an FCS school coming off back-to-back one-win seasons. The Ducks had three runners go over 100 yards in a game for the first time in school history en route to 500 yards on the ground.

Oregon's 66 points were the fourth-most in the country on the opening weekend and impressed the Associated Press voters enough to move the Ducks up one spot from No. 3 to No. 2 in the poll.

It all added up to an easy opener for Helfrich, who was promoted from offensive coordinator when Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles. Helfrich called games from the coaches box as a coordinator, but moved down to the field as head coach.

"I had not been on the sideline for a game since 1996, so that was a new experience trying not to get killed when somebody is running down the sideline," he said. "In the game, there were a few more things going on, but all in all, it was game day as usual."

The competition gets tougher this week when Oregon travels to Virginia, which defeated BYU 19-16 in its opener.

"Specifically on defense, they dominated BYU, which doesn't happen very much," Helfrich said. "BYU is traditionally a very high-powered offense, but they had about a 55-yard 'Hail Mary' on the final play and other than that had about 250 total yards. Virginia's front is big, physical, athletic, and good right up the middle. Their linebackers and safeties are very good. This will be a completely different test."

Oregon got the kind of production it expected from its offensive stars in the opener as both junior running back De'Anthony Thomas and sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota have gotten preseason hype for the Heisman Trophy.

Thomas is the feature back for the first time and ran 18 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

"He's a little bit heavier, but he's a guy that will do anything," Helfrich said of the 5-foot-9, 169-pound junior. "We obviously need to sometimes pick our spots and be smart with him. He's a little thicker and more confident physically in his knowledge of the big picture."

Mariota threw for 234 yards and a touchdown while running for 113 yards and two scores.

"He's a great passer, a tough guy, smart and very fast," Helfrich said. "He is a great decision-maker with a quick release. He would be good in any offense."
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