This battle between top-10 powerhouses did not disappoint during its first 30 minutes, with the teams trading game-changing plays in true heavyweight fight fashion.
Michigan State QB Connor Cook's calm and collected play in the two-minute drill at the end of the half proved the early difference, as MSU came back onto the hostile Autzen Stadium turf with a 24-18 lead.
The Ducks' first drive of the second half would start out ominously, with their starting right tackle (Andre Yruretagoyena) carted off the field with an injury and replaced by a true freshman. The drive would finish as badly as it started, with a three-and-out and two illegal procedure calls before a punt.
Spartans QB Connor Cook would reacquaint himself with WR Tony Lippett (who provided his own separation on an 11-yard reception) on MSU's first second-half drive to push Michigan State into Oregon territory.
The Ducks would ramp up their pass rush to drop Cook for their first sack of the day, but the MSU QB would still push the Spartans enough forward to set up a 43-yard field goal by K Michael Geiger.
With the Spartans' lead extended to two scores at 27-18, the Ducks dropped to 1-for-9 on third down conversions on their next drive, forced to kick it away after just one first down (an 11-yard rush by RB Thomas Tyner).
The Oregon pass rush would start the next drive off with their ears pinned back, as they provided a sack and a hurry to drop Connor Cook and the Spartans into a 3rd-and-15 hole to start out. Cook would hit Lippett to convert that 1st down, but the drive would end three downs later as the Ducks D stayed suffocating in its pressure.
Ducks QB Marcus Mariota realized the weight of the situation at hand, using his legs and downfield creativity to lead Oregon on a crucial (and quick) counter-punch drive, punctuated by a beautiful 27-yard TD strike to WR Devon Allen. The Ducks' crowd was instantly reenergized, with the Spartans' lead cut to 27-25.
With the energy of their 98th consecutive sellout acting as their buoy, the Oregon defense would force a quick three-and-out on the Spartans' next possession to hand the ball right back to Mariota at their own 40.
The momentum of their previous drive remained emphatically intact, as Mariota decided to heed the announcers' cries to "be selfish." With a perfect mix of his legs and his arm, the Heisman candidate finished off a quick scoring drive with a 37-yard strike to wide-open WR Keanan Lowe.
The Ducks would preserve their 32-27 lead at the end of three with an elite-level defensive series to force another three-and-out. DL Arik Armstead's sack of Connor Cook sent the already roaring Autzen crowd into a 12th Man-level frenzy, as the Ducks looked poised to keep their downhill momentum rolling.
That momentum became a steam roller on the Ducks' next drive, as it took just two plays (finished off by a 38-yard TD run by RB Royce Freeman) to extend the Oregon lead to 39-27 in Arena Football-like fashion.
Far from ready to turn off the lights, the Michigan State offense buckled in and quickly got to midfield on a 30-yard R.J. Shelton rush. They would close in on the red zone before a short 4th-down rush was turned back - a beyond huge stop for the Oregon defense.
Oregon would a couple of minutes off the clock on their next possession, before handing it back to the Spartans. Things didn't get much better for Sparty when Connor Cook and the boys took the field, however, as Ifo Ekpre-Olomu sprawled out for a highlight reel interception to squash the Spartans drive before it got moving.
The Oregon offense would play drain-the-clock from there, as they killed 3/4 of the remaining time with a bevy of rushes before finishing it off with a punctuation mark of a touchdown rush by Royce Freeman.
Down 46-27, the game was academic despite Michigan State's final surge into Oregon territory. Oregon finishes off the #7 Spartans with a convincing 19-point victory.
Player of the Game: Marcus Mariota
The Oregon Ducks' star quarterback seemed slightly tentative at times in the first half, but took over the game with his All-American pocket sense, downfield awareness, and top-tier speed. While the numbers may not look it (29-for-47, 343 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT), Mariota owned the second half - pushing the Oregon offense forward without a hitch while turning his skill-position players into full-scale weaponry. If this is what is ahead for the Ducks' offense, Mariota could run away with the Heisman by midseason.
Back to the Michigan State Spartans Newsfeed