The career of Marcus Mariota has been a spectacular one with the Oregon Ducks as the sophomore quarterback has been a dynamic force of nature under center in leading on of the best offenses in the country. But the one thing that Mariota had not proven he was capable of was winning a close, physical game late in the fourth quarter. Against the Oregon State Beavers in the Civil War, however, Mariota finally showed he can win a game late as he rallied the Ducks to a win on Saturday.
Coming into the game, Mariota had lost just three games in two seasons as the starter. None of his wins, however, had come in games decided by less than 10 points as the Ducks were routinely blowing teams off the field with their high-powered attack led by Mariota. The Beavers stepped up and challenged Oregon in Autzen Stadium, rallying from an early 14-0 Oregon lead to tie the game 17-17 at halftime. The Beavers would take control of the game late, scoring a touchdown with 1:38 to play in the fourth quarter to lead 35-30.
But that was when Mariota stepped up his game and led the Ducks to a huge win. He rallied the Oregon offense and drove them down the field quickly, hitting Josh Huff for the third time on the day in the endzone to re-take the lead 36-35 with :29 to play in the game. Still limited by a knee brace on his injured left leg, Mariota finished the day completing 17-of-34 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns as he overcame another pair of interceptions in the first half.
While it was a great milestone for Mariota, personally, it will likely be the death-nail to his Heisman Trophy hopes for 2013. Lacking that ability to run the football with the injured knee, Mariota needed to pick up the slack with his arm and needed a huge day to make up for the disastrous trip to Tucson last week. While he got the touchdown late that mattered for the game, completing just 50-percent of his passes on the day with four interceptions in the last two weeks isn’t going to win Mariota a lot of votes.
The win rallied Oregon after their deflating blowout loss from a week ago that cost the Ducks the chance to play for the Pac-12 title and likely ended their chances of a fifth-straight BCS bowl game appearance. But the Ducks dug deep and won their 10th game of the season for the sixth straight year. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t the signature performance that we have come to expect from Mariota and the Ducks but they finally won against adversity and secured bragging rights over their rivals for another year.