For the second week in a row, the Oregon football team was involved in a relatively close game at halftime.
And for the second week in a row, the Ducks blew the game wide open in the second half.
Second-ranked Oregon improved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in Pac-12 Conference play with a 51-26 victory over Washington State on Saturday in Seattle, showing in the process that the Ducks are, without a doubt, a second-half team.
Under coach Chip Kelly, Oregon's fast pace has typically had opponents gasping for breath by the end of the third quarter, giving the Ducks an advantage based almost solely on their conditioning.
Against the Cougars, it was more of a methodical approach that gave Oregon the edge.
The Ducks opened the second half with a patient, clock-killing drive that ate up 6 minutes, 14 seconds and culminated in De'Anthony Thomas' 4-yard touchdown run that gave Oregon a 30-19 lead.
The touchdown drive was almost a minute longer than Oregon's four first-half scoring drives combined -- the Ducks used just 5:25 of clock time to tally three touchdowns and a field goal in the first two quarters. But most importantly, the drive seemed to really wear down Washington State, and Oregon never looked back.
A minute and 19 seconds after Thomas' touchdown, safety Avery Patterson completed a 34-yard interception return for a touchdown and a 37-19 lead; less than 3 minutes later, Ducks running back Kenjon Barner found the end zone from 10 yards out, and the rout was on.
While the formula might have been a little different, the end result in Seattle was similar to Oregon's Pac-12 opener a week prior.
Up 13-0 at halftime, the Ducks scored five second-half touchdowns -- including two by the defense -- to roll over Arizona 49-0.
This time, however, it was a pair of quick-strike drives that helped Oregon pull away for good, with a three-play, 39-second drive ending with Colt Lyerla's 1-yard touchdown run at the 6:41 mark of the third quarter, and a two-play, 34-second drive finishing with a 55-yard TD pass from Marcus Mariota to Bralon Addison with 1:01 left in the quarter.
Slightly different approach, same result -- an Oregon blowout.
The Ducks have proven in the past they can chew up a clock when necessary -- remember that 2010 game against Cal in Berkeley, when they used up the game's final 9-and-a-half minutes on one drive? -- but against Washington State, they switched gears early in the second half with an efficient, 18-play drive that seemed to wear out the Cougars' defense and turn the tide firmly in Oregon's favor.
Perhaps it was just the latest wrinkle to Chip Kelly's no-huddle "blur" offense.
Adam Sparks has been following Oregon Ducks football since 1990, and has written about the team as a freelancer since 2009.
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