Marcus Mariota has been an instant success since taking over as the starting quarterback for the Oregon Ducks before the 2012 season. He stepped in and immediately made an impact with his arm, his athleticism and his leadership leading the Ducks’ high-octane offense. To date, Mariota is an impressive 20-1 as a starting quarterback with the one loss coming last season against the Stanford Cardinal. As he leads the Ducks onto The Farm this Thursday, can the sophomore sensation find redemption for the one blemish on his record?
Last season’s loss remains Mariota’s worst game as a collegiate by far and it’s no coincidence that it’s also the worst offensive output that Oregon has had with Mariota under center. The Stanford defense brought pressure and created confusion with a multitude of different fronts that Mariota admits made the Ducks “unsure” of what they were seeing. That created confusion, hesitation and ultimately frustration as Oregon’s nation-leading scoring offense in 2012 managed just 14 points in the overtime loss.
The Cardinal did an excellent job of getting Mariota flustered. He finished the game completing just 21 of 37 passes for 207 yards with one touchdown and an interception. Outside of a 77-yard run in the first quarter, Stanford took Mariota out of the running game, limiting him to just 12 yards rushing the rest of the day as he was unable to escape the relentless pressure of the Stanford front seven. Mariota was visibly flustered for the first and only time to date as he just couldn’t solve the Cardinal defense.
This season, Mariota has been even better than his freshman campaign and looks to put that hard lesson he learned against Stanford last season to good use this time around. He leads the Pac 12 is passer rating as he’s completed 64 percent of his passes, averaging 285.1 yards per game with 20 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He hasn’t lost his ability to make plays with his feet, either, rushing for 511 yards and nine touchdowns this season, averaging 9.13 yards per carry.
Mariota hasn’t forgotten that feeling of frustration against Stanford in Autzen Stadium last year. In fact, he’s using to his advantage, bringing a focus to this week’s game-prep that he admits wasn’t there last year. Oregon is on track to play for the BCS National Championship this season but they need to get past Stanford first. If they do, they’ll control their own destiny for the national title and Pac 12 title while getting a satisfying bit of retribution in the process.