Oregon on Fresno State: 'We got too comfortable with the lead'

Oregon on Fresno State: 'We got too comfortable with the lead'
Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, left, gets past Fresno State defender Shawn Plummer during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Eugene, Ore., Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Oregon has grown so accustomed to routing certain opponents that there's a lot of head scratching when the margin of victory isn't what the No. 4 Ducks and their fans expect it should be.

And that's exactly what happened after Oregon's 42-25 victory over Fresno State this past weekend.

The Ducks rolled to a 35-6 halftime lead, but then it appeared that some complacency set in. One of those who thought so was quarterback Marcus Mariota.

"We took our foot off the accelerator there for a bit and let them climb back into the game. We got too comfortable with the lead, " Mariota said. "The adversity we faced today is good for us, it will help us better prepare for upcoming games, especially for conference play."

So did running back Kenjon Barner.

"Fresno state did a great job of adjusting and we kind of came out like we had the game in hand," Barner said. "We didn't have that intensity."

It was Barner who snapped the Ducks out of their funk late in the game against the persistent Bulldogs. The senior, who has taken over as starter now that LaMichael James moved onto the San Francisco 49ers, showed leadership in orchestrating Oregon's final scoring drive. Barner ran the ball 10 times in the drive, capping it with a 16-yard touchdown dash.

"I huddled the guys up and told them that it was 'GO' time," Barner said.

Barner ran for three touchdowns while rolling to career-highs with 201 yards rushing and 34 carries. It was his seventh career game with more than 100 yards rushing.

He also moved up in Oregon's record books. He's now got 32 career touchdowns, fifth-best in school history. He moved into 10th among Ducks all-time with 186 career points, and he became the eighth Oregon player to amass more than 4,000 all-purpose yards. His career mark of 4,121 all-purpose yards so far puts him at seventh on the career list.

"I'm going to carry the ball as many times as they're going to give it to me," he laughed.

De'Anthony Thomas rushed for 102 yards on seven carries, including two touchdowns. He added to his highlight reel by breaking several tackles with an impressive 51-yard scoring dash.

Mariota completed 19 of 27 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown. A redshirt freshman who has taken over the start's job after the departure of Darron Thomas, Mariota wowed fans in his debut the week before by throwing for 200 yards and three touchdowns, and leading the Ducks on seven straight scoring drives in a decisive victory over Arkansas State.

He played only a half against the Red Wolves. Against the Bulldogs, he stayed in the whole game.

Oregon's only score in the second half came when Barner took control late in the game. Mariota was sacked twice and had two fumbles.

"There were several things he's never had to deal with, some adversity," offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said about the young quarterback. "It's good that we can plow through that and just learn and grow."

Coach Chip Kelly said what impressed him about Mariota was that his demeanor didn't change, even when he appeared to struggle: He kept his wits about him.

Oregon still finished with 532 total yards in offense against Fresno State. And of course a win is still a win. The performance also didn't hurt the Ducks' standing in the AP Poll, where they remained at No. 4.

Kelly said the team will look at what happened in the second half against Fresno State and then move on to next Saturday's game against Tennessee Tech, Oregon's final tuneup for Pac-12 play.

"I think when you kind of turn it on and turn it off, that's what we need to work on as a group," Kelly said. "And that's what this group needs to learn is that we keep moving, it's not 'Hey, we got a lead so we can kind of kick our feet up.' You've got to bear down in certain spots."

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.