After struggling to find its offensive footing through more than a half, the No. 6 Oregon Ducks scored four unanswered second-half touchdowns on their way to a 44-21 win over Utah Saturday. The win keeps Oregon (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12) in the hunt for a conference title and BCS bowl spot, while the defeated Utes (4-6, 1-6 Pac-12) will need wins in their last two games against Washington State and Colorado to earn a bowl trip.
Oregon's usual high-octane offensive attack looked sluggish early. With just three minutes left in the first half, the Ducks held a tenuous 10-0 lead. Utah narrowed the lead to just a field goal when Adam Schulz connected with Jake Murphy on a 34-yard touchdown with 2:52 left in the second quarter, but Oregon struck back in just 45 seconds with a three-play, 64-yard scoring drive capped with a Marcus Mariota touchdown pass to Josh Huff.
The Ducks' lead was again cut to three points in the third quarter, when the Utes took the opening kickoff 75 yards in eight plays. Schulz's 4-yard touchdown run capped the drive and again put the Ducks on upset alert.
Enter De'Anthony Thomas: The dynamic Oregon running back and kick returner took a short Utah kick and went 86 yards for a touchdown, restoring Oregon's two-possession advantage and kickstarting the Oregon offense. A Utah punt pinned Oregon at its own 7-yard line, but Mariota needed just eight plays to cover the 93 yards for another score. Utah's stingy run defense finally relented, leading to a pair of Byron Marshall touchdown runs, and the rout was complete. Utah added a late touchdown that held special importance for some fans, but the result had long since been decided.
Box Score Hero: Mariota struggled in the running game -- four carries, minus-18 yards -- but more than made up for it through the air. The Heisman contender was 19 of 26 passing for 288 yards and three touchdowns. He also maintained his interception-free streak, now at 10 games.
Rankings Ramifications: Oregon held serve, so a move up in the polls is unlikely barring an upset in the Top 5.
But Did They Cover? Oregon was a 29-point favorite Saturday, and a late Utah touchdown prevented them from covering.
For More On This Game: For more on Ducks football, visit Oregon community Addicted To Quack. For more on Utes football, visit Utah community Block U, plus get information on both teams at Pac-12 community Pacific Takes.
Next Week's Schedule: Utah faces a trip to Washington State with bowl eligibility on the line. Oregon pays a visit to Arizona.