EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Marcus Mariota threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns, including a pair to speedy redshirt freshman Devon Allen, and the No. 3 Oregon Ducks’ blur offense prevailed over No. 7 Michigan State’s stout defense 46-27 on Saturday night.
Mariota’s three touchdown passes in what was considered a premier nonconference matchup gave him 69 for his career, an Oregon record.
After falling behind 27-18 early in the third quarter, Oregon scored four unanswered touchdowns, including on a pair of runs by freshman Royce Freeman, who finished with 89 yards on 13 carries.
The loss snapped an 11-game winning streak for the defending Big Ten and Rose Bowl champion Spartans, who went 13-1 last season. Connor Cook threw for 343 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Spartans had the second-ranked total defense in the nation last year, allowing opponents an average of just over 252 yards per game. But the high-flying Oregon offense — combined with temperatures approaching 100 degrees — appeared to wear on Michigan State as the game went on.
The two teams both went three-and-out on their opening series and it appeared that defenses would rule the day. The Spartans broached Oregon territory midway through the quarter, but on third-and-10 on the 38, Erick Dargan intercepted Cook and ran it back 36 yards.
The Ducks capped the drive when Thomas Tyner barreled over the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown, and Oregon added the conversion for an 8-0 lead.
Matt Wogan’s 28-yard field goal pushed the Ducks’ lead to 11-0. But Michigan State answered with an impressive drive topped by Jeremy Langford’s 16-yard scoring dash.
Mariota hit Allen with a 70-yard touchdown pass to give the Ducks an 18-7 lead with 10:12 to go in the half. Allen, the NCAA’s reigning 110-meter hurdles champion, shook off strong safety RJ Williamson before sprinting in for the score.
The scoring pushed Mariota past Darron Thomas (66) on Oregon’s all-time list. Mariota has thrown at least one touchdown in each of the 28 games he’s played at Oregon.
Michael Geiger kicked a 34-yard field goal and Cook added a 7-yard touchdown pass to Tony Lippett with 2:26 left before the break to pull the Spartans within a point. Michigan State took a 24-18 lead with 18 seconds to go when Josiah Price leaped to grab Cook’s 7-yard TD pass into the end zone.
The Ducks were hurt early in the first half when junior offensive lineman Andre Yruretagoyena was carted off the field with what appeared to be a right leg injury.
Michigan State padded its lead with Geiger’s 42-year-old field goal, but Mariota found Allen with another touchdown pass, this time from 24 yards out, to cut the Spartans’ lead to 27-25.
Oregon regained the lead on Mariota’s 37-yard scoring pass to Keanon Lowe before Freeman’s 38-yard TD run.
With the Spartans threatening on Oregon’s 31 midway through the fourth quarter, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu intercepted a pass intended for receiver AJ Troup. Freeman added a 14-yard touchdown run for the final margin.
The Spartans’ 11-game winning streak included a 34-24 victory over Ohio State in the Big Ten championship and a 24-20 victory over Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
The Ducks were the highest-ranked nonconference opponent the Spartans had faced since they played top-ranked Nebraska in 1996.
It was the first time that two teams ranked in the top 10 had met in a nonconference tilt at Autzen Stadium. The then-No. 4 Ducks defeated then-No. 9 Stanford 52-31 in conference play in 2010.
The two teams had met four times before, with each team winning at home to make it 2-2. Michigan State rallied to win 27-20 in East Lansing for the last meeting in 1999.