Marcus Mariota and the No. 6 Oregon Ducks have won five straight games against the California Golden Bears. Oregon will look to make it six straight tonight.
After underperforming against the Arizona Wildcats in week 6, the Ducks quickly found themselves in a state of flurry. Many questioned Oregon’s playoff chances, and Mariota’s Heismen candidacy took a hit as well. Fast forward three weeks and that seems like a century ago. After two outstanding victories against UCLA and Washington, the Ducks have jumped right back into the playoff conversation and Mariota has re-established himself as a serious Heisman Trophy candidate.
Whether it’s been the Ducks’ outstanding run game, Mariota’s ability to keep plays alive and remain poised under pressure, or the resurgence of Oregon’s offensive line, the Ducks have found a plethora of ways to dominate these past two weeks and they look like a team that is putting it all together at exactly the right time.
Oregon’s offensive attack has looked more explosive than ever these past few weeks and it starts with the offensive line. The return of left tackle Jake Fisher has proved to be the difference maker. Prior to Fisher’s return, the Ducks’ offensive line allowed Mariota to get sacked 12 times during a two week stretch. Ever since Fisher was reinstated into the starting lineup, Oregon’s offensive line has been outstanding, which has given Mariota the time to extend plays and to look for the best option down the field.
Over the past two weeks the Ducks’ Heisman candidate has compiled 546 passing yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also has two rushing touchdowns during that span. California coach Sonny Dykes reiterated how tough it is to prepare for Mariota in an interview with USA Today earlier this week. “You just don’t see many guys who are 6-4, 220 that can run like he can run,” he said. “He makes good decisions, takes care of the ball. He’s one of those guys that he doesn’t run a lot but when he picks his spots he’s very effective. People have a hard time getting him to the ground.”
All season long Mariota has proven why he’s potentially the best player in the country. But he doesn’t do much of the talking — his game takes care of that for him. He has thrown for nearly 2,000 yards this season, and his 10.41 yards per passing attempt is the highest mark of his career and the second highest in the nation. Also, Mariota only needs 45 more yards to become Oregon’s all time passing leader, a feat he will undoubtedly accomplish tonight.
Although Mariota’s demeanor is cool and laid back, don’t let that fool you. His work ethic, drive, passion and humility have separated him from the pack. “I’ve said it before and I believe it, I think Mariota is the best player in college football,” Dykes said. “I really do. I don’t think there’s anybody that means more to their team than he does. He’s a pretty unique talent.”
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck