The critics said Oregon still weren’t tested enough with a quality rival and some fourth quarter pressure in order to be considered as a national title contender. But Marcus Mariota raised his game when the time was right, and the Ducks remain the only undefeated team in the Pac-12 North, taking one huge step towards doing what they failed to complete last year.
Washington made life very difficult for Stanford during an entire game. Against Oregon? Their reliance on running back Bishop Sankey, going for 167 yards, lasted them three quarters before the Oregon offense turned it up to a notch and pace no one in the nation can match; Marcus Mariota threw a touchdown pass and ran for another, and Oregon came away with the 45-24 win, even without D’Anthony Thomas playing.
Mariota proved that fourth quarter pressure means nothing to him, taking the Ducks on two long drives in the fourth quarter while the defense shut down the Washington passing game (Keith Price with only 182 yards and an interception). He has still not thrown an interception this season, but has dished out 17 touchdown passes and ran for 8 more, scoring at least one in each of Oregon’s six wins this season.
In a hostile environment, under some duress, when you can make some adjustments and execute those adjustments in all three phases, that’s a big deal. It’s a sign of a mature team. I don’t have a Heisman vote, but I’d be hard-pressed to say we’ll see a better quarterback this year. That guy is special. I don’t know when he is planning on going to the NFL, but when he does, I think he’ll be a top-five draft pick.
The number 2 offense in the nation, and also 6th when it comes to point against, allowing only 13.8. Washington were outgained by over 250 yards, and besides Sankey didn’t really have a proper answer to Oregon’s attack and fourth quarter defense, also turning the ball over twice. Meanwhile, Mariota threw for three touchdown passes, 366 yards and ran for 88 more. He got a big helping hand from Byron Marshall, going for 106 yards as they leaped over one of the three potential hurdles in their way to going undefeated this season, avoiding the glitch they had last year, preventing them from a deserved place in the national championship game.
The offense seems too deep for most to handle, although Stanford, even after a loss, should be more than a hands-full when the two meet in Palo Alto, even without De”Anthony Thomas. Bralon Addison had a huge game with 157 yards and two touchdown catches, while Josh Huff, a senior, is putting up the best numbers of his career, enjoying Thomas’ absence with 107 yards and one touchdown receiving, but also adding 103 yards on three kick returns.
Oregon is an offense that overdoes numbers and possibly balloons certain aspects. But you still need talent to make it work this well, carrying the longest road win streak in the nation with 18, and now beating Washington 10 times in a row. The questions whether Mariota is a system quarterback or not will be answered later in his future, when the NFL is calling. For now, there’s no other quarterback in College Football playing this well.