EUGENE, Ore. (AP) – With nothing to lose, Colorado started off against No. 3 Oregon with an onside kick.
“I wanted to show our kids, we came to win. Nobody gave us a chance, and we didn’t win, but we were going to play to win,” Buffaloes coach Mike MacIntyre said. “We were going to do things to try and win the football game.”
It was the first of two onside kicks Colorado tried, but the team was simply overwhelmed by the Ducks in a 44-10 loss on Saturday at Autzen Stadium.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota threw for 323 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 73 yards and another score, while freshman Royce Freeman ran for 105 yards and two more scores for the Ducks (10-1, 7-1 Pac-12, CFP No. 2). Oregon has already clinched the North Division’s berth in the conference championship game on Dec. 5.
It was the seventh straight loss for Colorado (2-9, 0-8).
“I thought our kids played hard,” MacIntyre said. “I said it and I mean it, I think we’re getting better. Last year this team took a knee and could’ve beat us by 70. I thought we battled hard.”
Colorado started sophomore Jordan Gehrke at quarterback instead of Sefo Liufau. It was Gehrke’s first start.
Liufau, who has 27 touchdowns this season, started the second half. He had a bye to recover from a concussion he sustained against Arizona but his status for this game was still in question earlier this week.
“It’s obviously different coming in the second half than starting the game, but every time you go out there you want try and get better,” Liufau said. “Obviously, it was a rough day but there’s definitely things we can learn from.”
Gehrke completed nine of 18 passes for 64 yards, while Liufau was 7-of-14 for 41 yards and a touchdown.
The Ducks held Nelson Spruce to just two catches for 15 yards.
Colorado managed 226 total yards on offense compared to Oregon’s 597.
Mariota, a Heisman front-runner, has thrown 32 touchdowns this season with just two interceptions and leads the nation in quarterback rating. With 42 total touchdowns this season (32 passing, 9 rushing and 1 TD catch), he passed former USC quarterback Matt Barkley (41) for the Pac-12’s single-season record.
Mariota also became the fifth in an exclusive group of quarterbacks who have thrown for 9,000 yards and run for another 2,000. Among the names on that list are Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernick.
He may have been playing in his final game at Autzen. Although he has a year of eligibility left, many expect Mariota to declare for the NFL draft after this season.
Oregon scored on Freeman’s 20-yard run on the Ducks’ first drive of the game, but the two-point conversion failed. Mariota ran for a 46-yard TD to up the lead to 13-0.
Freeman added a 7-yard scoring run to give the Ducks a 20-0 lead before Will Oliver’s 23-yard field goal put Colorado on the scoreboard.
Mariota threw a 31-yard scoring pass to freshman Charles Nelson and Matt Wogan added a 25-yard field goal to make it 30-3 for the Ducks at halftime.
After Mariota’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Evan Baylis to start the second half, Liufau found Donovan Lee with a 5-yard scoring pass for Colorado to make it 37-10.
Nelson caught a 14-yard TD from Mariota – which put him past Barkley for the Pac-12 touchdown record – before the third quarter was over.
Mariota came out for Oregon’s first series of the fourth quarter and took a snap before he was replaced by backup Jeff Lockie. That move gave Oregon fans a chance to give him a standing ovation.
Last season, Mariota set an Oregon record with seven total touchdowns – five via pass and two more on the run – in a 57-16 victory over the Buffaloes in Boulder.
“Truly, we prepared for this for two weeks. It wasn’t really that different than what they’ve been doing,” running back Phillip Lindsay said. “We just didn’t execute when we were supposed to. That’s our fault.”
– By ANNE M. PETERSON, AP Sports Writer
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