EUGENE, Ore. — Three games into the season and No. 4 Oregon still has plenty of work to do, at least according to coach Chip Kelly.
The Ducks rolled past lower-division Tennessee Tech 63-14 on Saturday. Redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota threw for 308 yards and four touchdowns before the starters were pulled. Multitalented De’Anthony Thomas had 222 all-purpose yards on 10 touches. He ran for a 59-yard touchdown and caught a 16-yard scoring pass from Mariota.
And while the Ducks piled up 652 yards in total offense compared to the Golden Eagles’ 177 yards, Oregon had an uncharacteristic 12 penalties for 105 yards.
“There’s a lot of stuff to teach from this game,” Kelly said. “But it’s always easier to teach off a win than a loss.”
The Ducks (3-0) were playing their final nonconference game before hosting Arizona next Saturday. They have barely been tested so far, jumping out to big leads in wins against Arkansas State and Fresno State.
The Golden Eagles (2-1) have never defeated an FBS-level team in 28 tries. The game against the Ducks was the Ohio Valley Conference team’s first against a Pac-12 opponent.
Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown thought that his team got some valuable experience.
“I’m proud of my kids. We always go and we always fight our hearts out and give it our best. It’s bittersweet because you know coming in you’ve got a tough road . but at the same time, I think we get a lot out of it,” Brown said.
Da’Rick Rogers, who transferred to Tennessee Tech from Tennessee right before the season started, had three catches for 38 yards and the first touchdown of the game. He took a short pass from Tre Lamb and ran for a 23-yard TD.
Rogers was suspended indefinitely by Tennessee on Aug. 23. He told reporters it was because of failed drug tests.
He was a first-team all-SEC receiver in 2011, with 67 receptions for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns for the Volunteers. He faced Oregon when the Ducks visited Knoxville in 2010, finishing with a carry for 21 yards in Oregon’s 48-13 victory.
The Ducks quickly answered Rogers’ TD with Kenjon Barner’s 1-yard scoring run and Thomas’ 59-yard touchdown sprint.
On Oregon’s next series, Thomas had a 49-yard run that appeared to be an easy touchdown, but he was caught from behind by Tennessee Tech’s DaJuan Brown and fumbled. Ducks right tackle Jake Fisher pounced on it for the 1-yard touchdown to make it 21-7.
“It’s a teachable moment for me,” said Thomas, who is already getting some Heisman buzz. “You’ve got to finish to the finish line, like it’s a track meet.”
Oregon further padded the lead with Mariota’s 4-yard scoring pass to tight end Colt Lyerla, but Rob Beard’s attempt at a 25-yard field goal was blocked.
Thomas pulled down his 16-yard scoring pass from Mariota as the first half ended to give the Ducks a 35-7 lead.
Mariota found Keanon Lowe with a 3-yard touchdown early in the third quarter before Oregon subbed out many of its starters. Backup Bryan Bennett had a 4-yard run to make it 49-7.
Tennessee Tech scored on Darian Stone’s 6-yard pass to Doug Page but Bennett added a 6-yard keeper to make it 56-14 at the end of the third quarter.
True freshman Byron Marshall ran for a 4-yard score in the final quarter. Marshall finished with 125 yards rushing in the game.
Lamb, who started for the Golden Eagles and played until midway through the third quarter, completed eight of 13 passes for 46 yards and the TD to Rogers. He threw one interception and was sacked five times.
“That’s football. That’s what happens when you play quarterback in a spread offense. You’re going to get hit after you throw, you’re going to get hit while you throw and you’re going to get hit when you’re running the ball,” he said.
In addition to the penalties, Oregon had three fumbles, including one for a loss, and Mariota and Bennett were each intercepted once.
“When we turn the ball over — we’re not supposed to do that. When we have penalties — we’re not supposed to do that,” Kelly said. “Luckily today it didn’t come back and rear its ugly head.”
Kelly called the Ducks “a work in progress.”
The victory capped a difficult week for Oregon, which was hit by the loss of two of its senior leaders, free safety John Boyett and guard Carson York.
Boyett told his hometown newspaper that he needed surgery to repair patellar tendons in both knees. The injury will end his career with the Ducks unless Oregon successfully petitions the NCAA for an additional year of eligibility.
York hurt his right kneecap during Oregon’s 42-25 win over Fresno State last weekend. He announced to reporters that he also required surgery and his season was done.
Junior receiver Josh Huff, who went down with what appeared to be a left knee injury on a first-half kickoff return last week against Fresno State, was in uniform but did not play.
Despite the errors Saturday, Fisher says the Ducks are ready for the Pac-12.
“Absolutely. Of course,” he said. “We were prepared in fall camp.”