EUGENE, Ore. » There are many Oregon opponents over the years who have probably felt the same way the Ducks do now. Accustomed to being a team that routs its opponents, Oregon got payback of sorts from Utah.
The Utes came to Eugene and beat the Ducks 62-20 on Saturday night. Oregon’s defense had no solution for Utah quarterback Travis Wilson, who threw for 227 yards and four touchdowns and ran for 100 yards and another score.
Afterward, Oregon players and coaches seemed stunned.
"There are a lot of teams in this league that were waiting to step on us like that," offensive coordinator Scott Frost said wryly.
The Ducks, ranked No. 13 going into the game, dropped out of the AP Top 25 on Sunday, snapping a 98-week run in the poll.
Oregon hadn’t lost so badly at home since 1977, when visiting Washington blanked the Ducks 54-0. Utah scored the most points ever for a visiting Oregon opponent, surpassing Washington State’s 55-16 defeat of the Ducks at Autzen in 2003.
Oregon, 2-2 with losses to Michigan State and Utah, hasn’t had two losses this early in the season since 2004, when the Ducks went 1-3 through the opening four games under Mike Bellotti. Oregon finished 5-6 that season, which was the last time the team had a losing overall record.
Last season, the Ducks were ranked No. 2 when unranked Arizona beat them 31-24 at Autzen, the team’s first home loss since 2012. Oregon recovered, reeling off nine straight wins and making it to the national championship game against Ohio State.
But that team was led by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. His replacement at starting quarterback this season is Vernon Adams Jr., who transferred to Oregon from Eastern Washington for his final season of eligibility.
Adams, however, broke his right index finger in the season opener against his former team. He struggled in the second game against Michigan State, then sat out of Oregon’s 61-28 victory over Georgia State.
He returned against the Utes, but completed just two of seven passes before he was replaced by Jeff Lockie, Mariota’s backup last season. Afterward, Adams refused to use the finger as an excuse.
Lockie marched Ducks to a touchdown on his first drive of the game, but Utah quickly answered to make it 27-13 at the half. Lockie would finish with 10-of-20 passing for 139 yards. He was intercepted twice and sacked four times.
But perhaps a bigger factor in the loss was Oregon’s defense, which was already under scrutiny before Utah came to town.
The Ducks’ overall defense is ranked 110th among FBS-level teams, with opponents averaging of 474.8 yards a game. Oregon’s opponents are averaging 40.8 points through the first four games, and the Ducks have allowed 301.5 passing yards per game.
The Ducks’ secondary was particularly struggling. The coaches tried to shake things up, with redshirt freshman cornerback Glen Ihenacho and redshirt sophomore safety Juwaan Williams making their first starts, joining freshman corner Ugo Amadi and sophomore safety Tyree Robinson.
"I was surprised," Oregon defensive coordinator Don Pellum said about the D. "I thought we were where we needed to be, but there are some things we’ve got to figure out."
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich took responsibility for the loss after the game. The Ducks were off on Sunday, but will return to practice on Monday to prepare for Colorado on the road next weekend.
"Anything that could have gone wrong went wrong," Helfrich said. "We didn’t play well enough to win. That starts and ends with me."