The stage was set for Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota to deliver a Heisman statement on national television at Stanford, but the Cardinal had other plans as they dominated the Ducks from the opening quarter.
Oregon was shut out in the first half for the first time since 2009 before outscoring UCLA 24-7 in the second half. The nation’s No. 2 scoring offense could not get anything going offensively against the Cardinal defense that routinely dominated the Ducks’ offensive line.
The 26-20 loss by Oregon was not solely on the right arm of Mariota, as the Ducks were figuratively punched in the mouth by Stanford’s physical offensive and defensive lines, but individually, he lost the most.
Mariota was harassed all evening long and easily had his worst statistical performance of the season, and failed to cement his status inside the top two for the Heisman, if not overtake Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston as the leader.
Mariota finished with 250 yards and two touchdowns on 20/34 passing. He also had six rushes for minus 17 yards and with three fumbles in his last two games, showing more issues with ball security. He only lost one fumble, but put the ball on the ground a few times. His first touchdown did not come until 10:11 remained in the fourth quarter with Oregon trailing by 26 at the time.
A trip to the BCS National Championship Game is gone, a Pac 12 title may no longer be an option, and the Heisman trophy was all lost by Mariota in four quarters in Palo Alto.
Looking beyond his career in Eugene, Mariota is considered a top quarterback prospect for the 2014 NFL draft, but his performance tonight will give some teams some pause when evaluating him. Todd McShay ranks the redshirt sophomore as the No. 2 prospect overall, and Mel Kiper ranks the 6-foot-4, 211 pound quarterback as the fifth best prospect.
However, the talent that made him such a highly regarded NFL prospect and potential Heisman front-runner was absent against a Stanford defense that caused him fits. His draft stock will take a hit after tonight’s ineffective showing, but should it be enough for Mariota to think long and hard about returning for his redshirt junior year?
Returning for the 2014 season will not only be best for Oregon in the short-term, but also for Mariota in the long-term. One more year with Oregon and he can have another opportunity to win everything that he lost at Stanford.
Patrick’s a college football writer for Rant Sports and radio host on Sportstownchicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @PatrickASchmidt and Google and email him at SchmidtPatrick@gmail.com for media inquiries.