The Oregon Ducks have found great success under Chip Kelly by utilizing a relentless running attack in his vaunted blur offense. This season, that rushing attack has been handled quite well by Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas who have spear-headed the third best rushing game in the country, averaging 325 yards per game.
But this season, the Ducks have a new dimension to their offense that has raised the bar for Kelly’s blur offense to new heights. Redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota is best pure passer that Chip Kelly has ever had in his system, and the results can’t be denied.
Mariota won the starter’s job in August and has done nothing but win football games since. He leads the nation in passing efficiency and has thrown 28 touchdown passes to just five interceptions. He’s only been getting better as the season goes along, throwing 17 touchdowns and just one interception in his last five games.
He carried the Ducks in their last game as they traveled to Berkeley to take on Jeff Tedford and the Cal Bears. As has been the case in recent years, Cal played Oregon tough and contained the Oregon rushing attack to just 180 yards on the day and sat within striking distance, trailing 24-17 early in the third quarter. Then Mariota took over and turned it into the worst loss in Tedford’s 11-year stint as head coach of the Bears.
Mariota finished the day completing 27-of-34 passes for 377 yards with six touchdown passes and no interceptions. His performance opened a lot of eyes and made Mariota more than a few new fans. Chief among them: Jeff Tedford.
“I think he is as composed and has as full a package as any quarterback I’ve seen, especially a redshirt freshman. He’s quick with decision-making. He doesn’t force balls, doesn’t turn it over. He’s big. He’s very fast. He makes good decisions. Very accurate throwing the ball. … We did a pretty decent job against the run game the other night but he killed us.”
Plenty more coaches will be saying the same thing in the next few years as they try and prepare for an Oregon offense that now has a passing attack to go along with their relentless running game.
People have always wondered what would happen if Kelly was ever able insert a quarterback into his system with a chance to play in the NFL. Now we know, as Mariota has shown a greater ability to throw the ball, in addition to his athleticism and ability to run, have the Ducks humming as efficiently as ever.
In 2010, the Ducks rushed their way to a national title game appearance. This season, Oregon is averaging one more touchdown and 32 more yards of offense per game. They are averaging 39 more yards rushing per game and have been far more efficient throwing the football.
Derron Thomas set the Oregon record for touchdown passes, throwing 66 in his two seasons as the starter. Mariota is nearly halfway to that mark already and has probably already thrown more “wow” passes that Thomas ever did. And he’s only 10 games in.
The future is bright for the Oregon Ducks because of the unending potential of their young signal caller Marcus Mariota. How far will he go? How high will his game rise? Only time will tell, and we all get to enjoy the ride.