marcus mariota

Now the fun begins

Tennessee drafted Marcus Mariota Thursday, but should he play immediately?
May 1, 2015 / By Cliff Pfenning, Oregonsports Journal

When the Tennessee Titans drafted Marcus Mariota Thursday night, fans of the University of Oregon football program could finally take a big, deep breath with finally knowing where its most famous, recent, player was headed.

Now, he just has to wind up there, and represent the school for future Heisman-level quarterbacks. That’s something that’s been a tough sell at Oregon over the past two decades.

And, fast starts may have accounted for that.

The Titans have already expressed expectations that Mariota will be their starter on opening day, when the team plays the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who drafted Jameis Winston with the top pick, one ahead of Mariota. There’s a bevy of media experts who promoted getting Mariota into the starting line-up that fast, or even in his first season, was a career mistake for him and his team.

Mariota did a fabulous job moving directly into the starting line-up at Oregon as a freshman, but the pro ranks are entirely different in their style and the opponents, none of whom have to attend class or have a limit on their seasons. Mariota will face harden pro defensive players from his first snap, and even the most dedicated student of the game will need game experience to handle that. Four preseason games isn’t going to help that a ton.

Mariota handled the experience well Thursday.

“For me, I’m going to do my best to transiton to everything,” Mariota said in a conference call with Titans reporters Thursday.

“I’ll continue to be the player I’ve always been, and do whatever’s asked of me. Coach Whisenhunt’s going to have his offense and the complexities of his system, and I’m going to do my best to execute it.”

And No. 2, the only player from Oregon ever selected higher was quarterback George Shaw, the top overall pick in 1955.

Shaw was a classic Oregon pro - he started as a rookie with the Baltimore Colts, but got hurt his second year and finished his eight-year career primarily as a back-up with the Colts and New York Giants.

Other notable Oregon quarterbacks who just never took off were Akili Smith, drafted in the first round in 1998, and Joey Harrington, who was the third overall pick in 2002. Smith was selected third overall by Cincinnati in 1999, but only played in 22 games with the team, and finished his career with the Canadian Football League's Calgary Stampeders. Harrington was promoted extensively by the Ducks, and Nike as an Oregon senior, but lasted just six years in the NFL. He started 12 games as a rookie.

If the Titans have a long-term desire to keep Mariota on their roster, starting, or even playing early in his career with the team is a big mistake. Look at Tom Brady’s career. Drafted in the sixth round out of Michigan in 2000, he threw only three passes as a rookie, but has started almost every game since - outside of missing the 2008 season due to injury. Having a year to prep for the game is huge.

But, when you’re selected second, and not in the sixth round, you have expectations that don’t allow for time to grow into the job. People expect performance right away, whether you’re ready for it or not. Mariota was ready for it on Day 1 in Eugene. Oregon fans can only predict, and hope, he’ll produce the same in Memphis when the pro game gets going in Summer.



Here's to a slow start for Marcus

Fri, 05/01/2015 - 5:58am
Cliff Pfenning
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When the Tennessee Titans drafted Marcus Mariota Thursday night, fans of the University of Oregon football program could finally take a big, deep breath with finally knowing where its most famous, recent, player was headed.

Now, he just has to wind up there, and represent the school for future Heisman-level quarterbacks. That’s something that’s been a tough sell at Oregon over the past two decades.

And, fast starts may have accounted for that.

The Titans have already expressed expectations that Mariota will be their starter on opening day, when the team plays the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who drafted Jameis Winston with the top pick, one ahead of Mariota. There’s a bevy of media experts who promoted getting Mariota into the starting line-up that fast, or even in his first season, was a career mistake for him and his team.

Mariota did a fabulous job moving directly into the starting line-up at Oregon as a freshman, but the pro ranks are entirely different in their style and the opponents, none of whom have to attend class or have a limit on their seasons. Mariota will face harden pro defensive players from his first snap, and even the most dedicated student of the game will need game experience to handle that. Four preseason games isn’t going to help that a ton.

Mariota handled the experience well Thursday.

“For me, I’m going to do my best to transiton to everything,” Mariota said in a conference call with Titans reporters Thursday.

“I’ll continue to be the player I’ve always been, and do whatever’s asked of me. Coach Whisenhunt’s going to have his offense and the complexities of his system, and I’m going to do my best to execute it.”

And No. 2, the only player from Oregon ever selected higher was quarterback George Shaw, the top overall pick in 1955.

Shaw was a classic Oregon pro - he started as a rookie with the Baltimore Colts, but got hurt his second year and finished his eight-year career primarily as a back-up with the Colts and New York Giants.

Other notable Oregon quarterbacks who just never took off were Akili Smith, drafted in the first round in 1998, and Joey Harrington, who was the third overall pick in 2002. Smith was selected third overall by Cincinnati in 1999, but only played in 22 games with the team, and finished his career with the Canadian Football League's Calgary Stampeders. Harrington was promoted extensively by the Ducks, and Nike as an Oregon senior, but lasted just six years in the NFL. He started 12 games as a rookie.

If the Titans have a long-term desire to keep Mariota on their roster, starting, or even playing early in his career with the team is a big mistake. Look at Tom Brady’s career. Drafted in the sixth round out of Michigan in 2000, he threw only three passes as a rookie, but has started almost every game since - outside of missing the 2008 season due to injury. Having a year to prep for the game is huge.

But, when you’re selected second, and not in the sixth round, you have expectations that don’t allow for time to grow into the job. People expect performance right away, whether you’re ready for it or not. Mariota was ready for it on Day 1 in Eugene. Oregon fans can only predict, and hope, he’ll produce the same in Memphis when the pro game gets going in Summer.

No line yet on Adams' influence in Eugene

His development with no spring practice will be a key for Oregon faithful
PAID COMMENTARY

A spiteful response from Eastern Washington University over the decision by quarterback Vernon Adams to transfer for his final year to Oregon could potentially slow his development within the Ducks’ high-powered offense for the 2015 season.

Adams, who’ll graduate in May from EWU, still has one year of eligibility remaining and has chosen to take advantage of the departure of Marcus Mariota by heading to Eugene. That option is available thanks to an NCAA rule that has drawn the wrath of EWU head coach Beau Baldwin.

Baldwin said that Adams will keep his scholarship, but he won’t be able to work out with the team during spring practice, use the weight room or any other athletic facilities. As Baldwin put it, “We’re not rolling out the red carpet around here for a guy that’s playing against us Game One. He’s going to have to figure out where to work out.”

Oregon plays host to the Eagles in the season opener for both teams, Sept. 5, and since Adams won’t officially be a graduate student at the school until later this year, after he earns his diploma fron Eastern Washington. He won’t be able to take part in the Ducks’ spring workouts either.

The EWU athletic department is following in lockstep with Baldwin’s actions, taking down the website they created to promote his exploits.

The reason UO looked at the 5-foot-11, 195-pound Adams to replace Mariota is because he put up monster numbers in his three years at EWU, throwing for 10,438 yards and 110 touchdowns. He was twice named the Big Sky Conference Player of the Year, and finished second as a Walter Payton Award nominee, the FCS equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. In the 2013 season opener, he led the Eagles to an upset at Oregon State, and lost 59-52 at Washington last season.

Adams became an attractive option after the Ducks determined that the returnees, Jeff Lockie, Ty Griffin, Taylor Alie and Morgan Mahalak, are still raw talents, given Mariota’s constant presence on the field. In addition, new recruit Travis Waller’s 6-3, 185-pound frame probably needs to fill out a little more before he’s inserted into the line-up, which likely means he’ll be redshirted.

Part of what lured Adams to Oregon requires a tip of the cap to the largesse of Nike founder Phil Knight. In an interview with The Oregonian, the quarterback noted the facilities were a big selling point - the barber shop definitely caught his eye.

The indignation expressed by Baldwin is the sound of a coach who knows that everything was done by the book, but he still doesn’t like the book. The rule's been in place for the last few years, and Baldwin need only look west to Seattle to find another quarterback who left under similar circumstances to play for another school: Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks. He played three seasons at North Carolina State, but left the school to play minor league baseball. Eventually, he played his final season at Wisconsin, where he led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl ... and a loss to Oregon.

Adams is a big loss for Baldwin and his team, and with the Ducks gaining popularity among football fans around the country, demonstrated by fan betting turning the team from an underdog to the favorite prior to the National Championship Game, Oregon is appealing for any ambitious college football player.

There is some concern about how Adams will keep his arm in shape, especially considering his past output and the production that will no doubt be expected of him by the Autzen Stadium faithful.

Adams said that he’ll be reduced to working out in the EWU student recreation center and throwing to friends. He won’t get a look at the Duck playbook until after he graduates from EWU, and will then go through a crash course during the four-week training camp in August. Of course, no one in Eugene anticipates he'll look at a blank chalkboard all spring and show up for fall practice without knowing plenty about what he'll be doing. After all, he'll be a graduate student.

None of this is ideal for a school looking to get back to the national championship game and win in January. However, the talent Adams has, coupled with the production capabilities of the Oregon offense should help ease some of that concern. And senior-season transfers are only likely to increase as the success those seniors experience, such as in Wilson's case, continue. Adams in next in line to experience that success. Or not.

Legally sanctioned sportsbooks such as those recommended at www.oregonsportsbetting.net/ will be featuring some higly competitive lines for betting on Oregon Ducks football games. And prop bets revolving around the Ducks are likely to create plenty of excitement as Adams acclimates to his new teammates and playing environment.

 

Ducks continue playoff prep

Oregon stands as 9-point favorite to beat Florida State Thursday
Dec. 30, 2014 / Ted Miller, espn.com

Coach Rich Brooks led Oregon to an 8-4 finish in 1989, his 13th season in Eugene. If that elicits a "so what," understand the Ducks hadn't won that many games since 1963. Five seasons -- and two losing records -- later, Oregon played in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1958, losing to Penn State by 18 points, though the Ducks' media guide celebrated the program's effort as proving it "belonged in Pasadena."

In 2013, Oregon went 11-2, beat Texas 30-7 in the Alamo Bowl and finished ranked No. 9 in the nation. It was considered a down season, and some wondered if first-year coach Mark Helfrich had what it takes to lead the Ducks, post-Chip Kelly.

Times change and so do expectations.

"We do sit back every now and then and kind of laugh at it, us that have been around here a long time," said first-year Ducks defensive coordinator Don Pellum, who's accumulated 31 seasons with his alma mater as a player, administrator and assistant coach.

For the vast majority of its 119 seasons of football, a winning record was an ambitious wish for Oregon. Yet now, as the Ducks eyeball defending national champion Florida State, winner of 29 consecutive games, as more than a touchdown favorites in the Rose Bowl Game Presented By Northwestern Mutual, the simple reality is Oregon needs to win the national title.

After going 69-10 over the past six seasons, playing for a national title in 2010 and finishing ranked in the top five three times, the Ducks need to finish the deal and be the last team standing. They need to make this their year.

That need is not only about program validation, though that's a big part of it, as the Ducks have accomplished everything else. It's not only about opportunity, though the greatest player in program history -- Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota -- is likely off to the NFL next year.

It's also about something larger, about the good of the game, about making the first year of the College Football Playoff represent an expansion of the sport rather than a contraction, which most would argue the CFP ultimately will be. It's about the 121 FBS teams who are not participating, 84 of whom, like Oregon, have never won a football national championship.

Dismiss the Ducks as nouveau riche, but Oregon represents the present and future upstarts in its semifinal game, and upstarts are a fairly rare thing in college football. There has not been a first-time national champion since Florida won in 1996, and it's difficult to view the Gators as anything other than a so-called "have" program, particularly after they won two more BCS titles in the last decade. The biggest outlier program to win a national title under the BCS system from 1998 to 2013 was, what, Auburn?

The other three teams in the semifinals are college football blue bloods. Alabama claims 15 national titles. Ohio State claims seven. Florida State picked up its third last year. Each of their sitting coaches already owns a national title. They dominate recruiting rankings and play in front of 80,000-plus fans on Saturdays. Oregon's Autzen Stadium, though one of the loudest and most hostile environments in the sport, seats only 54,000. No BCS champion plays in a smaller stadium.

Further, it's about expanding the sport's national map. The SEC has won eight of the past nine national titles and nine total during the BCS era. If you include Florida State and Miami in the mix, then 12 of the 16 BCS national titles ended up in the Southeast, and Texas and Oklahoma add a 13th and 14th below the Mason-Dixon Line (at least an extended one).

The Pac-12/10 hasn't won a national title since USC in 2004, and no Pac-10 team other than USC has won a national title since Washington in 1991. Before that, if then-Big 8 member Colorado's 1990 title doesn't count, it's UCLA in 1954.

 

Mariota finally shows his soft side

The Oregon quarterback accepts the Heisman Trophy in memorable style
Dec. 13, 2014 / Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Marcus Mariota wrote it all down, every word of his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech. It was a good thing, too, because getting through it might have been tougher than sprinting away from a linebacker or tossing a long touchdown pass for Oregon.

The Ducks’ understated star won the Heisman on Saturday night going away, capping a three-year climb to college football’s most prestigious individual award.

“I’m humbled to be standing here today,’’ Mariota said moments after he was announced as the winner.

Mariota isn’t a big talker, but he steadily worked through his speech, thanking his teammates, teachers, friends and his home state of Hawaii. He finally hit a snag when it came time to thank his mother and father. He needed to take two deep breaths and still got choked up.

“I had to give thanks to so many people because where I am today, it’s all due to all those people,” Mariota said later. “It’s hard not to get emotional. It’s been a long journey. My emotions got the best of me.’’

A pinpoint passer with wide receiver speed, Mariota came into his junior season as the favorite to win the 80th Heisman and delivered a performance that turned the presentation ceremony at a theater in Times Square into a foregone conclusion.

Mariota received twice as many points as second-place finisher Melvin Gordon, the record-breaking running back out of Wisconsin. The other finalist, Alabama receiver Amari Cooper, was third.

Mariota received the second-highest percentage of possible points (90.92) in Heisman history, behind only Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith, who had 91.63 in 2006. Southern California tailback Reggie Bush received 91.77 percent of possible points in 2005, but his victory was later vacated for violating NCAA rules.

Mariota, the first Hawaii native to win the Heisman, has accounted for a Pac-12-record 53 touchdowns (38 passing, 14 rushing and one receiving) while directing the Ducks’ warp-speed spread offense.

“In Hawaii, if one person is successful, the entire state is successful,’’ he said, draped in leis at his news conference.

In the inaugural College Football Playoff, Mariota and the No. 2 Ducks will take on 2013 Heisman winner Jameis Winston and No. 3 Florida State in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual on Jan. 1, at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN. It will be the fourth meeting between players who already had won Heismans and first since Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford in the 2009 BCS Championship Game.

Winston, who quarterbacks the undefeated Seminoles, finished sixth in this year’s voting. That’s the lowest finish by a returning winner who didn’t miss a game with injury since 1950.

Gordon is the first Heisman runner-up in Wisconsin history and is the highest finisher the school has had since Ron Dayne won the award in 1999. Cooper’s finish breaks a long drought for wide receivers, as he is the position’s first top-three Heisman finisher since 2003.

Mariota has been making a whirlwind tour up the East Coast collecting trophies. First stop, Orlando, Florida, on Thursday, to pick up an armful of hardware. Next stop, Baltimore for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. He took a train to New York on Saturday morning. It was his first time on a train and his first time in the Big Apple.

“It’s breathtaking, really,” he said of the city hours before being announced as the winner. “I’ve never been around so many skyscrapers and lights and people. It’s definitely been a different feel, but it’s cool.”

Mariota is the ninth QB to win the Maxwell, Davey O’Brien and Heisman Trophy awards in same season, and first since Cam Newton in 2010.

“I’m just looking forward to getting back on the field and playing again,” Mariota said. “We do have a team goal.’’

No cooking like home cooking

Tue, 12/09/2014 - 9:19am
Cliff Pfenning
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The College Football Playoffs seem to be the University of Oregon's to win, or Oregon's to lose depending on how you look at them.

The Ducks are in the semifinals, ranked only behind Alabama and playing defending champion Florida State in the Rose Bowl, Jan. 1.

So, with a win over Florida State, then a win over either Alabama or Ohio State in the title game 11 days later, the Ducks will be national champion in one of the major televised sports for the first time since 1939.

And, America expects they'll win, too.

In voting conducted on espn.com, Oregon beat Alabama, FSU and OSU to the answer - "Which team will win the College Football Playoff?" With more than 780,000 votes tallied Tuesday morning, the Ducks were at 39 percent, to 35 percent for Alabama. Ohio State was third with 14 percent and Florida State fourth with 12 percent.

Some interesting points from the voting - FSU didn't own Florida, and only Ohio voted decisively for Ohio State. Oregon owned the West and Northeast, and no state voted as emphatically for one school than Oregon did: 78 percent for the Ducks. Alabama, in contrast, voted 63 percent for the Crimson Tide, while Ohio voted 61 percent for OSU. Florida gave the nod to 'Bama with 36 percent to 30 percent for the Seminoles. Oregon had 25 percent in that state amongst more than 30,000 votes.

Alabama still owns bettors, though. The Crimson Tide sit at almost even money to win - 11/10, while the Ducks are second at 17/10 at oddshark.com.

 

Oregon finishes off Arizona

Ducks' offense, defense overwhelm Wildcats 51-13 in Pac-12 title game
Dec. 5, 2014 / Associated Press

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Marcus Mariota made a strong final impression in his bid for the Heisman Trophy, and No. 2 Oregon left no doubt about whether the Pac-12 champion will get a chance to play for the national title.

About the only question now is who the Ducks will face next.

Mariota threw for 313 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a career-high three scores, and Oregon all but assured itself a spot in the first College Football Playoff by overwhelming seventh-ranked Arizona 51-13 in the Pac-12 title game Friday night.

“There are a bunch of big smiles, and I’m proud of that,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said.

The Ducks (12-1, No. 3 AP) entered the week second in the CFP rankings and are expected to land in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual semifinal.

Alabama (11-1) is No. 1 and TCU (10-1) is third, followed by Florida State (12-0), Ohio State (11-1), Baylor (10-1) and Arizona (10-3, No. 8 AP), which now is just hoping to make a Jan. 1 bowl.

Even that is no longer certain.

On a rainy night in Silicon Valley, Oregon wiped out the Wildcats in front of a sparse but rowdy pro-Ducks crowd - announced as 45,618 - that sprinkled the red seats at the $1.3 billion Levi’s Stadium bright yellow and green. Mariota also boosted his credentials for college football’s most prestigious award as the Ducks turned the patchy field into their personal playground.

Oregon outgained Arizona 640 to 224 yards. The Ducks ran for 324 yards and held the Wildcats to 111 on the ground.

“This is a huge accomplishment for us,” Mariota said. “Now we need to continue to improve and get better for whoever comes next.”

The victory avenged Oregon’s only loss this season -- a 31-24 setback to Arizona on Oct. 2 in Eugene -- and a 42-16 loss in Tucson last year that kept the Ducks out of the conference championship game.

Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez benched quarterback Anu Solomon - and later backup Jesse Scroggins - in the second half trying to find a spark. By then it was too late, and Rodriguez’s scrunched face on the sideline exemplified his team’s frustrations.

It was quite a turnaround from the previous meeting between these teams, when Arizona held the Ducks to a season-low 144 yards rushing. The Wildcats also sacked Mariota five times and forced two fumbles in that game.

This time, Mariota completed 25 of 38 passes and ran for 33 yards on 10 carries. He extended his conference record to 53 touchdowns this season -- 38 passing, 14 rushing and one receiving.

“If this guy isn’t what the Heisman Trophy is all about, then I’m in the wrong profession,” Helfrich said.

Mariota leads Oregon through Colorado

The junior quarterback set the Pac-12 scoring record in 44-10 home win
Nov. 22, 2014 / Oregon SID, staff report

EUGENE - Marcus Mariota said he wasn’t sure whether Oregon’s 44-10 victory Saturday over Colorado had been his final game at Autzen Stadium, but if the junior does decide to enter the 2015 NFL draft, he made sure his last home appearance of 2014 was a memorable one, both for himself and his fans.

Mariota accounted for four touchdowns to break the Pac-12 single-season record, freshman running back Royce Freeman surpassed 1,000 yards for the year and the Ducks beat Colorado 44-10 Saturday.

With three passing touchdowns and one on the ground, Mariota reached 42 total TDs for the year, breaking the Pac-12 record previously held by former USC quarterback Matt Barkley.

On Oregon’s opening possession of the fourth quarter, Mariota took the first snap, handed off and was replaced by backup Jeff Lockie, with cheers cascading from the crowd as he jogged off the Autzen turf, perhaps for the last time.

“If this was my last game at Autzen, it was truly special, one of those things I’ll hold close to my heart the rest of my life,” Mariota told reporters, while maintaining he was “not too sure yet” what he’ll decide for 2015.

Mariota has two, and possibly four more games to add to his total, beginning Saturday at Oregon State. The Ducks play the following week in the Pac-12 Conference title game, and with victories in both games are almost assured a spot in the College Football Playoffs, which could result in as many as two more games.

Mariota handed off to Freeman for Oregon’s first touchdown, then raced through the Colorado defense for a 46-yard rushing touchdown of his own later in the first quarter. Mariota would add two touchdown passes to Charles Nelson and a third to Evan Baylis.

The second touchdown to Nelson provided the final points of the afternoon, and vaulted Mariota past Barkley for the Pac-12 record. Mariota also became just the sixth player in major college history with 9,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards.

“I couldn’t have done it without all those guys in the locker room,” Mariota said. “The guys up front, the receivers making plays … to me it’s one of those things for our entire offense. It says a lot about our offense, not just me.”

The guys up front on Saturday included Hamani Stevens at center with Doug Brenner starting at left guard, in the absence of senior center Hroniss Grasu. Jake Pisarcik played extensively at left guard as well, but Stevens played nearly the whole way at center.

“I felt like it went well,” said Stevens, a center back in high school. “(Offensive line coach Steve Greatwood) complimented us on how fast we were going, the tempo, so as far as communicating, we were getting all the calls in to make big plays.”

Saturday also featured the return to the rotation of tackle Andre Yruretagoyena, for the first time since September. “I had a couple minor mistakes, but everything else went really well,” Yruretagoyena said. “I thought the tempo was great. They seemed to have a lot of issues setting up when we were going fast. We moved the ball great overall.”

Those linemen helped clear the way for the latest 100-yard rushing performance by Royce Freeman, who ran 17 times for 105 yards and two touchdowns to extend his own UO true freshman rushing record and surpass 1,000 yards.

“I didn’t really think about anything,” Freeman said when asked about his expectations for this season. “I was just trying to come out and do my best. When I see how far I’ve come, I just want to get more.”

On the sideline in the fourth quarter, Mariota had a chance to reflect on how far he’s come with the Ducks. He said he was taking “mental pictures” at the urging of his family and coaches, appreciating perhaps for the last time things like the passion of the fans, and traditions like the playing of “Shout” prior to the fourth quarter.

When replaced on that last possession, Mariota said, “I told Lockie, you’ve got to enjoy every one of these. It’s so unique, such an incredible place to play – just enjoy it and never take it for granted. We have such passionate fans that care about this team, and it’s always special.”

 

Time for a statement victory

Tue, 10/28/2014 - 9:13am
Cliff Pfenning
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In the wake of the disastrous loss to Arizona, the University of Oregon football team righted itself and moved directly back into the national title hunt thanks to what you might call ... routine victories.

UCLA, Washington, California. The offense scored nearly 49 points per game, and the defense showed itself to be good enough to hold opponents long enough to allow the offense to get separation on the scoreboard.

The games weren't all that special, other than some big stats being put up by quarterback Marcus Mariota and freshman tailback Royce Freeman. And, the return of Jake Fisher on the offensive line, which got the nation buzzing.

Those were routine wins - solid wins that were in doubt only for short moments. The Ducks only have to repeat that over and over through the Pac-12 Title Game. But, they could use what you might call a "Statement Win." A win that shows off they're where they were for the 46-27 win over Michigan State in Week 2, when the offense took over the second half at the same time the defense absolutely shut down the Spartans.

There's no better team to make this kind of statement against than Stanford, which played its way through the Ducks and into the Pac-12 Title Game the past two seasons, each time dropping Oregon out of the National Championship picture.

Offense on track. Defense on track - especially throughout the second half. Statement.

It certainly doesn't need to be 59-0, or 82-27, but a solid win that shows off to the nation the Ducks still own the Pac-12. Forget about the last two years with the Cardinal, and now Arizona, Oregon's in charge.

There's no Oregon fans who will complain for one second about a one-point win - the result only has to go into the win column. But, a Michigan State-level win is what the rabid UO faithful want, followed by another series of routine wins over Utah, Colorado and Oregon State. Then, another statement win over Arizona in the league title game. That should put some major flavor into the playoff semifinals, keep season tickets in high demand - and keep the recruits for coming seasons looking at Eugene as much as Tuscaloosa.

 

Ducks button up Bears, 59-41

Mariota passes for five TDs in routine road victory
Oct. 24, 2014 / Associated Press

SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Marcus Mariota matched his season high with five touchdown passes, and broke the Oregon record for career passing yards in a 59-41 Pac-12 Conference victory over California on Friday night in the first college game at Levi’s Stadium.

Mariota completed 18 of 30 passes for 326 yards, and ran for 36 yards. He also threw his first interception of the season, ending his streak of passes without an interception at 253.

Royce Freeman ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns to overcome a critical early turnover, and Charles Nelson scored on a 58-yard punt return to help Oregon (7-1, 4-1 Pac-12) win its sixth straight against Cal.

Jared Goff passed for 360 yards and two touchdowns for Cal (4-4, 2-4), which led 14-7 in the first quarter.

Oregon plays at home Nov. 1 against Stanford at 4:30 p.m.


Mariota pushed his career total to 8,625 yards, breaking Bill Musgrave’s record of 8,343 on the Ducks’ opening possession with the first of two touchdown throws to Dwayne Stanford. The junior quarterback has at least one TD pass all 34 of his career games.

“You might want to go buy a lottery ticket, Marcus made a couple of mistakes,” Helfrich said. “I’m actually glad, I think, that that happened to get him off the schneid.”

Royce Freeman ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns to overcome an early turnover, and Charles Nelson scored on a 58-yard punt return to help Oregon (7-1, 4-1 Pac-12) win its sixth straight against Cal.

Jared Goff passed for 360 yards and two touchdowns for Cal (4-4, 2-4), but the Bears couldn’t overcome multiple breakdowns and lost their third straight.

Mariota had scoring throws of 22, 9 and 24 yards in the first half alone. That made it easy to overlook his interception.

“It’s almost funny, you just expect him to be perfect,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. “Marcus is such a stud. It’s great that he has another 1 1/2 years left.”

The game drew an announced crowd of 55,575 at Levi’s Stadium, home of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. Large sections of Oregon fans attended the game, negating any home-field advantage Cal might have had.

Mariota and Co. didn’t disappoint the faithful and moved Oregon one step closer to playing for the Pac-12 championship in December. That game also will be played at Levi’s Stadium.

Dwayne Stanford caught six passes for 103 yards and two touchdowns, and Byron Marshall added four catches for 133 yards and a touchdown.

The Ducks got a lift from their defense, too.

Oregon forced a fumble by Goff deep in Cal territory to set up Aidan Schneider’s 24-yard field goal in the first half. Oregon also stopped the Bears on fourth-and-1 near midfield, and Mariota capitalized with a 9-yard touchdown pass Pharaoh Brown.

Nelson’s 58-yard punt return made it 31-14. He took off down the Oregon sideline before cutting back near the 25 and outracing a trio of Bears.

Cal cut it to 31-28 late in the second quarter before the Ducks pulled away.

“We made too many mistakes in the ballgame to beat a team as good as Oregon,” Bears coach Sonny Dykes said. “We’ve just got to get more disciplined. Guys are trying to make some plays and sometimes are trying to do too much.”

Mariota threw a 54-yard touchdown pass to Marshall in the third quarter and a 21-yarder to Brown in the fourth. Freeman added a 2-yard touchdown run.

The Bears stayed close early behind their ground game.

Backup quarterback Luke Rubenzer scored on a 12-yard keeper up the middle, then freshman Vic Enwere added a 19-yard touchdown run after he bounced off a pair of defenders at the 5, spun and stumbled into the end zone to give Cal a 14-7 lead.

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