Marcus Mariota has completed arguably the finest regular season ever put together by an Oregon quarterback, or any offensive player for that matter. With 39 total touchdowns and 3,994 yards of total offense, the Flyin’ Hawaiian has cemented himself among the college football elite.
Since Mariota was named the starter in Eugene at the beginning of the 2012 season, the school record books have been shaken up quite a bit. Those 3,994 yards of total offense are a single-season school record. His 202 consecutive pass attempts without an interception marked another school record (a number he eventually got up to 343).
And now, with one game remaining in 2013, he has the chance to become Oregon’s single-season passing leader. Akili Smith currently holds that title, with 3,763 yards through the air in 1998. With 3,412 yards this season, Mariota would need 351 yards against Texas to match that number, a mark that he has eclipsed three times already this year.
Mariota also has only four interceptions this year to Smith’s eight in 1998, and three more total touchdowns.
The Ducks’ signal-caller has also announced that he will return for the 2014 season, giving him a great opportunity to become the school’s all-time passing leader as well. In fact, he needs only 2,254 yards to reach Bill Musgrave’s record of 8,343 yards, set between 1987-1990.
On top of all of the accolades Mariota is racking up on a school level, he has been near the top of the national leader boards in most of these categories as well. He sits at No. 6 in the nation in passer rating, remains one of only two quarterbacks to throw for 30 touchdowns with fewer than five interceptions (the other being Bryce Petty of Baylor), and is the only passer from an AQ conference to throw 30 passing touchdowns in each of the past two seasons.
Mariota rapidly fell off of the national radar after his production dipped, largely due to a nagging knee injury, eight games into the season. He threw four interceptions in two games, and the Ducks lost to both Stanford and Arizona.
However, while he was not quite playing at the same level during those final four games, he was still extremely impressive. In that span, he completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,131 yards, 10 touchdowns, and those four interceptions.
Aside from the completion percentage, those numbers are actually still comparable to Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston if extrapolated through an entire season. Considering the fact that those four games marked Mariota’s weakest stretch, this is very impressive.
So, why did Marcus Mariota fall off of the face of the earth as far as the Heisman Trophy was concerned? It may have been his dip in rushing production during those four games due to his knee injury. However, he still was among the nation’s quarterback rushing leaders with nine scores on the ground.
It may have been because of those two losses. Yet, Johnny Manziel and Andre Williams represented teams that had a combined nine losses, and Jordan Lynch struggled in Northern Illinois’ loss to Bowling Green. Even A.J. McCarron failed to win every game this season.
Therefore, it doesn’t seem that two losses should have kept Mariota from traveling to New York, especially considering his still solid performances during those games. And with an unusually high total of six players invited to the ceremony, it seems odd that the young man who was the frontrunner for most of the season was not among them.
This is not to argue that the voters are wrong or that the system is somehow flawed. It is not to argue that Mariota should have won the Heisman Trophy. On the contrary, Jameis Winston certainly deserved that award after his phenomenal 2013 campaign.
However, I would argue that Marcus Mariota failed to receive an invitation to the ceremony not because he failed to live up to the national standard of elite quarterbacks, but because he failed to live up to his own exceptional standard that he had set to begin the season in those final four games.
To support this argument, let’s take a look at the numbers. Mariota had far more total yards (3,994) than A.J. McCarron (2,697) with only one more loss. While Jordan Lynch and Johnny Manziel edge him out him in total yardage and total touchdowns, Mariota eclipsed both of them in yards per play with 9.06. That number puts him at third in the nation behind only Winston and Petty.
Again, this is not to make excuses for the Mariota and the Ducks or to claim that they somehow were unjustly excluded from the postseason awards. It is to spread optimism for Oregon fans heading into the 2014 season after a rough finish to 2013. Keep in mind that the last time we saw our beloved quarterback, he was marching the Ducks downfield with ease to beat Oregon State in the game’s final minutes.
Duck fans have a lot to be excited about. Mariota may not have been a Heisman finalist, but he was still elite in every aspect of the game, despite playing four games on a bad knee. With the Flyin’ Hawaiian coming back for another season, huge portions of the school record books will likely be rewritten after the 2014 season is finished.