The fans chanted his name frantically as he walked off the field at the start of the fourth quarter, and he looked around and couldn’t help but smile as he raised his hand over his head to wave back to the crowd. More than 55,000 screaming Duck fans chanted: “Maaariiiootaahh … Maaariiiootaahh” – the moment was bittersweet.
Oregon’s victory over Colorado on Saturday afternoon wasn’t too surprising. The Ducks dominated on both sides of the football, and their leader, Marcus Mariota, led the way like he’s done so many times before. The Duck’s Heisman Trophy candidate displayed his full repertoire as he threw for 323 yards and three passing touchdowns. He also produced 73 rushing yards, while adding a rushing touchdown as well.
The big question lingers, however, was this Mariota’s last game at Autzen Stadium? Was this the last time he would walk off the home field as Oregon’s quarterback? Nobody knows the answer to that question, not even Mariota.
“If this was my last game at Autzen, it was truly special,” Mariota said after the game. “It’s one of those things I’ll hold close to my heart the rest of my life.”
If Saturday’s victory over Colorado was indeed Mariota’s last game at Autzen Stadium, he made sure to go out the same way he came in, with a bang. The Ducks’ Heisman hopeful became just the sixth player in FBS history to amass at least 9,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards, and he is just the second player to ever accomplish that feat in three years. Mariota’s stats didn’t stop there, however. He finished the game with 42 total touchdowns on the season, which broke the previous Pac-12 record of 41 total touchdowns set by USC’s Matt Barkley in 2011.
While Mariota, a junior, was the star of the day, the Ducks also had contributions from a few freshmen, as well. Speedy receiver Charles Nelson had 3 receptions for 62 yards and two touchdowns, and Oregon’s standout running back Royce Freeman compiled 105 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Freeman became the first true freshmen in Oregon history to produce more than 1,000 rushing yards in a season.
The overall collective effort is an example of how the Ducks have dominated in recent years, but this was Mariota’s day. He stood as he watched from the sideline in the fourth quarter. At times he watched the play on the field, and other times he looked into the stands. He could see yellow; he could see green, and he could see the faces of passionate Ducks fans who adore him. If this was his last game at Autzen Stadium, one thing is certain, Mariota’s name and legacy will forever rest in Oregon football lore.
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck