EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Marcus Mariota keeps piling up records at Oregon. What he’d really like to collect is wins.
After Oregon’s 46-27 victory Saturday over then-No. 7 Michigan State, the Ducks are an early favorite for one of the spots in college football’s first playoff. As a result of the victory, Oregon climbed a spot in the AP Top 25 to No. 2 – and earned 16 first-place votes from the media panel.
”For us, we’re 2-0. It doesn’t change our mentality at all,” Mariota said. ”We want to build upon this win for the rest of the year, but we didn’t put any more emphasis into this game than any other we’ve played. We’re 2-0 right now and we’re looking forward to next week.”
Mariota threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Ducks to four straight touchdowns in the second half. He also solidified himself as a Heisman Trophy front-runner.
The three scoring passes gave him 69 for his career at Oregon, surpassing Darron Thomas (66) on the school list. His 341 yards of total offense gave him an Oregon-record 8,479 yards, ahead of Bill Musgrave (8,140).
His passing yards moved him ahead of Joey Harrington for fourth on the Ducks’ career list.
”I should have to pay to watch that guy play,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich joked.
Mariota has thrown at least one touchdown pass in all 28 games he’s played at Oregon. He’s thrown at least two in 20 of those games.
The junior from Hawaii averaged nearly 282 yards passing a game last season, throwing for 31 touchdowns with only four interceptions. He also rushed for 715 yards and nine scores. His 4,380 yards of total offense set a school record.
Oregon went 11-2 last season, losing to Stanford and Arizona. The Ducks had climbed to No. 2 in the rankings and appeared poised for a national championship bid, but Mariota tore the medial collateral ligament in his left knee, limiting him in the two losses.
Stanford would go on to win the Pac-12 championship and face Michigan State in the Rose Bowl. Oregon downed Texas in the Alamo Bowl.
While he’s had a stellar run with the Ducks, Mariota has never led Oregon to the Pac-12 title; Thomas was the quarterback when Oregon last won it in 2011.
There was a lot of speculation this past winter that Mariota might bolt for the NFL. But he decided to stay in school, and this winter he’ll graduate with a degree in science. Because he completed all his coursework in three and a half years, he’s taking yoga and golf this semester – giving him more time to focus on football.
So far it’s showed. Collectively this season he has thrown for 585 yards, 292.5 yards a game, and six touchdowns with no interceptions. He has run for 85 yards and another score. Oregon opened with a 62-13 victory over South Dakota.
On Saturday, Mariota made a game-changing play midway through the third quarter. Trailing the Spartans 27-10 and facing a third-and 10, the pocket collapsed around him.
He escaped and looked as if he may take off running, but instead he flipped the ball to true freshman Royce Freeman for a 17-yard reception and a first down.
The Ducks scored on that series, and added three more touchdowns for the win.
”I’m happy he’s my teammate,” cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu said. ”I wouldn’t want to go against a quarterback like that.”
Afterward both his own teammates and even the Spartans pointed to the play as the instant when the momentum shifted Oregon’s way. A day later, many are saying that the play may go down as Mariota’s Heisman moment.
”The guy’s just special. He’s awesome.” Helfrich said following the game. ”He’s in there talking about what he could’ve done differently and better.”