Go Ducks! That’s the chant that Oregon’s football team followers will be chanting from now until the newly formatted four-team college football playoffs system gets underway.They may have to add, “Go Heisman!” as well in salute to Heisman Trophy frontrunner Marcus Mariota, who may just be the best college football player in the nation.
The Oregon faithful has every reason in the world to make sure those two statements are heard loud and clear after dispatching the Arizona Wildcats with relative ease in the Pac-12 championship played at Levi Stadium during a rain-soaked contest Friday, Dec. 5. Once again, Mariota, the Ducks star quarterback, was the conductor to Oregon’s symphonic offense that ran circles around another opponent.
The once-defeated Ducks put the hammer down on the Wildcats, basically running Arizona out of the building with a convincing 51-13 win. And it wasn’t that close. If not for some early game missed opportunities in the red zone, Oregon very easily could tacked on a couple of more scores.
If there were any questions about the legitimacy of Oregon’s prowess to be able to play with the Big Boys of college football, that was answered emphatically with the lump-sided thumping of a very good Arizona team that handed the Ducks their only defeat of the regular season on Oct. 2.
The Wildcats also bounced Oregon from competing for the conference title last year with a thunderous whipping. Friday night, it was Arizona who was on the receiving end of the whipping as Oregon (No. 3) made up for those two defeats with a momentous beat down on the No. 7 ranked team in the country.
“We had a lot of motivation going into this game,” said Mariota. ” This was our goal was to be able to win the conference. You know, we didn’t try to put too much emphasis on it, to be honest with you, because that’s going to cause a distraction and not allow you to play to your abilities. For us, we just wanted to go out there and play the best we could. The last couple years we haven’t been able to put that out there against them, and tonight was just a great example of us playing a complete game as a team. We’re very fortunate to be able to come through.”
For a minute, it looked like Mariota and the Ducks could be in for a long night after sputtering on drives in the red zone area of the field. On several occasions, Mariota overthrew open receivers for what should have been easy touchdowns. As a result, what should have been a 21-0 lead wound up being a 13-0 advantage, and the Ducks appearing to be out of sync somewhat as the Wildcats slowed the running game down and stuffed holes in passing attempts.
But while Arizona’s offense bumbled and stumbled all night, Mariota and Oregon re-gained their offensive strut, scoring 38 points in the middle quarters to put away the Wildcats. This wasn’t the same Mariota that the Wildcats saw the first time around. The Ducks racked up 627 yards against Arizona, 313 coming from the right arm of Mariota, who completed two touchdown passes with zero interceptions, thus solidifying his status as the Heisman Trophy favorite.
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich talked a little after the game about his quarterback being mentioned in contention for the Heisman Trophy.
“Well, what I would say is, you know, without getting too involved is if this guy isn’t what the Heisman Trophy is all about, then I’m in the wrong profession,” Helfrich said. “Just on the field and off the field, our team is made up of a bunch of guys that are in his mold, and a lot of that is due to leadership. Obviously, that speaks for itself. But if you want your son or daughter to have a role model, pick this guy.”
For his take on the subject now that the Ducks have completed their season, Mariota took the humble approach about it.
“I wouldn’t be in this position without my teammates,” Mariota said. “There are 11 football players that have to play. You know, without those guys in the locker room, none of this would be possible. Again, I’m just very proud of the guys in the locker room and just thankful that we got the win.”