Things started out slow for the Oregon Ducks against the Tennessee Volunteers with Marcus Mariota completing just two of his first seven pass attempts. But the sophomore signal caller found his rhythm soon after and turned his slow start into a career passing day as he led the Ducks to a blowout win. His performance helps to answer some questions about his play early this season and catapults him up into the Heisman Trophy conversation.
Heading into the game against Tennessee, Mariota had been struggling a bit with his accuracy in the first two games of the season. Against the Virginia Cavaliers in Week 2, Mariota completed just 50 percent of his passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns. Oregon won in a walk, but it was far from the most impressive performance Mariota had turned in, especially in the passing game.
He found his rhythm during the game against the Vols. In just about three quarters of work, Mariota completed 23 of 33 passes for a career-high 456 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He torched the Tennessee secondary while still engineering a dynamic Oregon running game that racked up over 200 yards rushing with Mariota accounting for 27 yards on six carries with a touchdown.
The performance against Tennessee is indicative of Mariota settling in as the offensive leader of the Ducks as they ramp up into Pac 12 play. He will need to continue his hot play as he acts as the lynch pin for Mark Helfrich’s offensive attack in 2013 and has the talent to get himself to New York City in December for the Heisman presentation and Oregon to Pasadena in January. Whether it’s for the Rose Bowl or the National Championship rests on just how good Mariota becomes as the season gets going.