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Helfrich era at Oregon begins with a win

September 1, 2013

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota says it was a little strange seeing Mark Helfrich roaming the sideline during a game.

Helfrich spent the past four seasons watching the Ducks from up in the booth at Autzen Stadium as offensive coordinator.

But now that Chip Kelly has moved on to the NFL, Helfrich is getting a close-up view of the No. 3 Ducks as their head coach.

The consensus among players was that he handled his first game on the job — a 66-3 victory over Nicholls — well.

“He held himself pretty well,” Mariota said. “He wasn’t getting angry at anything, really. He was pretty level-headed. I think that’s pretty cool for a head coach.”

Said receiver Josh Huff: “We start a new legacy now.”

The opener against the lower-tier Colonels was never really a contest, more of a shake-off-the-rust game for the Ducks.

The Ducks rolled to a school record 772 yards in total offense, surpassing the mark of 730 set last season in a 62-51 victory over USC in Los Angeles.

The Ducks ran for 500 yards. Those numbers are even more impressive because Oregon’s time of possession was just 19:46.

Mariota threw for 234 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown pass to Bralon Addison in the first quarter against the Colonels.

The Ducks’ sophomore quarterback also ran for 113 yards and two scores, including a 46-yard TD run.

De’Anthony Thomas rushed for 128 yards and a pair of touchdowns, averaging 7.1 yards on his 18 carries. Sophomore Byron Marshall ran for 124 yards and another score.

It was the first time that Oregon had three players with at least 100 yards apiece in a single game and the Ducks’ seven rushing touchdowns matched a school record.

In other words, it was more of the same from the Ducks.

Any jitters that Helfrich had were immediately dispelled the minute he set foot on the field.

“I had my arm around Marcus Mariota and I felt really good,” he said.

Helfrich said it was his first game on the field since he was a graduate assistant at Southern Oregon, his alma mater.

Helfrich has made stops as an assistant at Boise State, Arizona State and Colorado before he was hired by Kelly in 2009.

“That’s my first game being on the field since 1996. It’s different regarding more of the game management part of it,” he said. “It’s a completely different energy being on the field with the crowd and our players which is a lot more fun.”

This season, new offensive coordinator Scott Frost will be up in the booth for the Ducks.

The former Nebraska quarterback, who led the Huskers to a share of the national championship in 1997, was Oregon’s wide receivers coach for four years under Kelly.

Helfrich and Frost plan to be collaborative in the play calling this season.

“I thought he did a great job,” Helfrich said of Frost’s debut upstairs at Autzen.

“We haven’t done this before and it was good that a game of this nature worked itself out and we got through some of those kinks, where I’m yelling on top of him and he’s yelling on top of me. But that’s a good thing. That’s how we like to do it. ”

The Ducks went 46-7 the past four years under Kelly, who is credited with designing the Ducks’ innovative breakneck spread option. The Ducks played in BCS bowl games in each of the past four years.

Last season, Oregon went 12-1 and beat Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. In January, Kelly took a job with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Helfrich has vowed not to change too much now that he’s a head coach.

But most expect that he’ll gradually expand the passing game now that Mariota, a sophomore, has a season’s worth of experience as the starter.

Mariota gave Helfrich the game ball following Saturday’s game.

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