Putting the game in Mariota’s hands, Oregon feeds off the do-everything quarterback

Whatever it was, Oregon simply could not find the rhythm it is so used to playing at. 10 penalties combined on both the offense and defense – that played a huge factor in drives either stalling or prolonging – paired with seven sacks given up by its depleted offensive line gave every indication that things were heading in an unfavorable direction.

However, after totaling just -12 yards on its first two drives out of the gate, the Ducks’ do-everything quarterback did something his coaches and teammates are so used to seeing.

He responded.

Darting a pass to a streaking Devon Allen across the middle of the field, Oregon would score its first of many touchdowns in its 38-31 win over Washington State.

The redshirt junior went 21-for-25 for 329 yards to go along with five touchdown passes, not to mention rushing 13 times for 58 yards, and Mark Helfrich had one word to describe the performance.

“Ridiculous,” the second-year head coach said. “That guy is special. He did a great job too of taking some of the blame and taking some of the heat off of the o-line and lead them through it. He did a good job rallying the defense as well.”

Whether it was the unexpected 21-21 tie at halftime, or the constant responses Connor Halliday and the Washington State offense was able to execute (Halliday went 43-for-63 for 436 yards and five touchdowns), Mariota was driving the engine. He just needed the ball.

“We’re all feeding off each other,” senior defensive back Erick Dargan said. “And that’s what it was. He told us he wanted the ball back so when he tells us that we know he’s serious.”

Dargan and the defense did just that, at least enough, and with the game virtually in Mariota’s hands, Oregon was able to do everything it could to withstand an upset scare.

Adjusting to Washington State’s constant inside pressure, offensive coordinator Scott Frost utilized his mobile quarterback on various rollouts in the second half which proved beneficial in the overall efficiency of  the offense. Byron Marshall, working out of the slot, was found consistently in the fourth quarter, tallying six catches for 45 yards during the game.

“That was huge,” Mariota said. “It really helped get guys open and started to open up some running lanes as well.”

As the game progressed into its later stages though, Oregon’s third-year signal caller faced numerous times in which his improvisations effected the play’s outcome. Taking off and running 13 times, yet only on one called draw play that was later called back, Mariota would dance his way to well over 100 yards if it weren’t for the sacks, with his 4th-and-10 scramble for 28 yards in the third quarter highlighting it all.

“Marcus is going to do what’s right with the ball,” Frost said. “There was one draw that was called back other than that it was Marcus making plays.”

But like the coaches and players noted after the game, its nothing we didn’t already know about the Heisman frontrunner.

“Marcus is a special player,” Keanon Lowe said. “I don’t have to say to much about him that anybody doesn’t know.”

Follow Justin Wise on Twitter @JustinFWise



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