LOS ANGELES-His demeanor during the Rose Bowl media day press conference was pretty much the way he has flicked off defensive strategies geared to stop him and his Oregon teammates all season. He sat at the podium with a steely and business-like manner and brushed off the hard-hitting questions as impressively as looking off a safety and firing off in another direction to an open wide receiver.
Calm, cool, poised and deliberate has been some of the many superlatives hurled quarterback Marcus Mariota’s way throughout the 2014 college football campaign. On paper and on game film, it is easy to see why. The numbers pop out like Cameron Diaz wearing a sparkling red dress: 3, 783 yards, 38 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions.
For good measure, if you add the 669 yards rushing he accumulated, Mariota’s total offensive output would read 4, 452 yards. Those are some pretty shining numbers to highlight. Come Thursday, New Year’s Day, Mariota and the Ducks will have their moment to shine in the Rose Bowl against Jameis Winston and the undefeated Florida State Seminoles.
It should be a special game as it will pit Mariota, this year’s Heisman Trophy winner against Winston, last season’s recipient of the Heisman Trophy. The game also matches up No. 2 Oregon against No. 3 Florida State, the reigning NCAA Division I college football champions, in one of the two semifinal games produced by the College Football Playoff rankings. The winner goes on to play in the national championship game Jan. 12.
It’s been a golden season for Mariota, this year’s college football’s Golden Boy. The Ducks (12-1) has finally cemented their status as a big-time program that will be around for a long time with their entrance into the college football playoff sytem. Mariota, well, he has played the 2014 college football season the way he operated the two years before this one. And if there is one word that describe the play of Mariota is consistency.
In 2012, his first year as a starter, Mariota passed for 2, 677 yards, 32 touchdowns against only six picks. He also rushed for 752 yards in 13 games. In 2013, Mariota kept up his steady hand by throwing for 3, 665 yards, completing 31 passes for touchdowns against only four interceptions. He also added 715 yards rushing to those totals. No dropoff here, folks.
Mariota is pretty much the same quarterback he was in 2012, except he’s improved on fine details of his game, which he explained during the press conference earlier this week.
“It wasn’t much different, you know,” Mariota said. “I really wanted to focus on maybe getting better with my footwork and also, you know, finding ways to get better with these guys, but, you know, my preparation has been always the same and my mindset has been the same since I’ve gotten here and for me it’s been successful so I don’t feel like I need to do change.”
What also hasn’t changed since the Ducks made it all the way to the 2011 BCS National Championship Game where Oregon fell to Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers, Oregon has firmly establish itself as a national power year in and year out. So this year the expectations for the team was to win the Pac-12 Conference and be part of the national championship conversation, Mariota said.
“You know, our goal was to win the Pac 12 (Conference) and be a part of the playoff,” Mariota said. “Now that we’ve done it, you know, we want to continue to improve on it and, you know, as a team to be able to achieve your goals is a lot, and the thing is…and I think I can say this for a lot of these guys, we’re not satisfied with that. We want to continue to get better and hopefully be part of the national championship! That being said it’s awesome to be part of this team and hopefully we can continue our season.”
Mariota has always embody the team concept. Even with winning a prestigious individual award such as the Heisman Trophy, Mariota deflects attention to himself the way he evades tacklers.
“You know, winning the Heisman wasn’t my doing, it was this team’s doing,” Mariota said. “I hope, with that being said, I hope that the team realizes it was a team achievement and hopefully it gives us a better foundation for this week in preparation.”