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Oregon starts Helfrich era with 63-point win

The SportsXchange

EUGENE, Ore. -- Oregon is just as fast with Mark Helfrich at the helm.

The third-ranked Ducks once again showed off their high-speed offense in Helfrich's debut as head coach, setting a school record with 772 yards of total offense to defeat Nicholls 66-3 Saturday afternoon at Autzen Stadium.

De'Anthony Thomas ran 18 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns while Byron Marshall added 124 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Quarterback Marcus Mariota ran five times for 113 yards and two touchdowns while also competing 12 of 21 passes for 234 yards and a touchdown.

It was the first time in school history that Oregon had three runners go over 100 yards.

"We are starting legacies now," Marshall said. "This is a new beginning for us and things are starting to change. I hope this is the first of many."

Oregon took a 38-3 lead at halftime so Mariota and Thomas were able to rest in the fourth quarter against the Colonels, an FCS school, in the debut of Helfrich, who was promoted from offensive coordinator when Chip Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles.

"Everything was pretty similar to last year," Mariota said. "Other than a couple miscues, I thought we played really well today."

Helfrich also noted some miscues that can be corrected.

"I told the guys, 'Welcome to Oregon football,' where you win 66-3 and there is still an element of disappointment," Helfrich said.

Senior Josh Huff led the Ducks with five catches for 118 yards.

Oregon scored on six of seven possessions in the first half and did not need much time to get those points. Seven of Oregon's eight touchdown drives took less than two minutes.

Thomas has been the backup to current NFL running backs LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner in the last two years but got a career-high 18 carries and averaged 7.1 yards per carry.

"I felt great out there and looking forward to Monday," he said. "Whatever I can do to contribute to my team, I will do."

Oregon finished with 500 yards rushing on 45 carries, an average of 11.1 yards per carry, to go with 272 through the air.

Oregon took the opening kickoff and Thomas capped a six-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown run as the Ducks led 7-0 just 1:31 into the game.

The Ducks forced a punt and once again put together a short touchdown drive that culminated with a 27-yard pass from Mariota to Bralon Addison. Thomas added a 22-yard touchdown run for the Ducks.

Oregon recovered a fumble at the Nicholls 17-yard line late in the quarter and added a 29-yard field goal by Alejandro Maldonado to take a 24-0 lead.

Oregon cornerback Terrance Mitchell was ejected under the new targeting rule when he hit Nicholls quarterback Beaux Hebert in the head.

Hebert left the game with an injury on the play and was replaced by Kalen Henderson. He led the Colonels to a field goal as Andrew Dolan booted a 35-yarder early in the second quarter to cut Oregon's lead to 24-3.

Oregon answered with a 12-yard touchdown run by Mariota to push its lead to 31-3. Mariota added a 46-yard touchdown run later in the second quarter to put the Ducks ahead 38-3.

Byron Marshall had a 49-yard touchdown run for Oregon late in the third quarter and Colt Lyerla scored on a 3-yard run. Backup quarterback Jeff Lockie added a touchdown run in the fourth quarter and Jake Rodrigues threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Chance Allen.

Nicholls had 343 yards of total offense. Henderson was 21-for-40 for 214 yards and ran for 46 yards on 16 carries. Marcus Washington ran for 40 yards on 13 carries as the Colonels were held to 2.4 yards per carry.

"We will not go into a more hostile environment than we had here," Nicholls coach Charlie Stubbs said.

NOTES: Oregon has won nine straight home openers since a loss to Indiana in 2004. ... Oregon's Thomas went over 4,000 all-purpose yards in the win and moved past Ahmad Rashad into fourth place in school history with 38 touchdowns. ... Nicholls fell to 2-19 against FBS schools, with wins over Arkansas State in 2001 and Rice in 2007.
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