Season Report Card: Oregon Ducks
Oregon did just that en route to a 11-2 season overall, with the Stanford Cardinal and Arizona Wildcats being the only two teams to slow down the potent offensive attack of the Ducks.
Helfrich's first year as head coach in Eugene showed that this program could still do the same type of things that it had done under Kelly's leadership. This team was an absolute juggernaut up until its November 7 game in Palo Alto, as before that, Oregon hadn't played a game decided by less than three touchdowns.
While the Stanford loss took the wind out of the Ducks' sails, it was still a successful season, even though a national championship was the ultimate goal.
Let's grade Helfrich's team on the 2013 season:
It's not possible to give Oregon another grade in this category. The offense, led by Heisman contender Marcus Mariota, once again steamrolled over opposing defenses on a regular basis. The Ducks averaged 565 yards of total offense per game, which led to a nice little 45.5 points per game output. In fact, in the first eight games of the season, Oregon only scored under 45 points once. Mariota put up unworldly numbers, throwing for 31 touchdowns and not throwing a single interception until the 11th game of the season. Offenses like this don't come around often.
On the defensive side of the ball, Oregon was solid as well. The Ducks only allowed 20.5 points per contest, which when you consider that they scored 45.5, that's a pretty impressive margin between those two categories. Junior linebacker Derrick Malone led the team in total tackles, going for double-digits six times on the year. Oregon also benefited from 17 picks on the season.
The transition from Kelly to Helfrich was smooth, as Oregon was simply dominant for most of the season. But, the two losses are ones that really stand out. Despite the 26-20 final score at Stanford, Oregon was shut out for the majority of the game, and looked like a completely different team than the one we had seen months prior to that night. And the Arizona game was a massive disappointment, to say the least. Those two games take Helfrich's inaugural grade down a notch.
For most programs, 11 wins would be a monumental success. But, for Oregon, it's just another season. I think what will bother Oregon fans most about this season is that this team was essentially flawless for eight games to start the season, only to go in the complete opposite direction on the trip to Stanford. Things weren't the same for this team after that, as the Ducks' national title dreams were crushed. Still, 11 wins is quite an accomplishment in what was a tough Pac-12 this season.
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