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Marcus Mariota sharp as Oregon prepares for Michigan State


In Connor Cook's warm-up act, the Michigan State quarterback was nearly flawless in the team's opener against Jacksonville State.

For his response, Oregon's Marcus Mariota did what he could to match that performance against a similarly helpless opponent. In far less than a full game's worth of action against South Dakota, the Ducks' Heisman candidate went 14-for-20 for 267 yards with three touchdowns. He added another score on the ground and posted a robust 7.2 yards-per-carry average on the night.

Just about every play looked effortless for the offense and Mariota was particularly sharp before halftime, spinning the ball with increased velocity on several throws and operating the option with success while protecting himself from any big hits.

In short: Mariota is ready for next week's game against the Spartans.

One wrinkle the Ducks did show with their first-team offense was moving Byron Marshall around in a manner similar to the way De'Anthony Thomas was utilized last season. He was part of a two-back look in the backfield and was frequently seen lining up in the slot as a receiver. Despite being the Pac-12's leading returning rusher, Marshall caught eight passes for 138 yards and two touchdowns. He chipped in 89 yards on the ground, too.

The emergence of Thomas Tyner and freshman Royce Freeman might have something to do with Marshall's new role. Tyner came on strong last season and was able to show off his trademark speed with 64 yards in limited work. Freeman at one point had two touchdowns on three touches, showing off good speed for somebody with his size. Against a stout Michigan State front seven next week, he could be a goal-line back to watch as somebody that can pound it inside or hit the corner.

One of Oregon's top NFL draft prospects, cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, did not see much playing time. He appeared to injure his leg in the second quarter and was taken to the sideline to get re-taped and tended to by trainers. While he looked as though he wanted to return, the coaching staff limited him the rest of the night.

On Saturday night in Eugene, it was the same old song for Oregon against an FCS opponent with monster offensive numbers and solid play by backups on defense.

Things will be a little different next week when Michigan State rolls into town.

Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.

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