With all eyes on Oregon-Washington, Mariota looks Heisman-worthy

By Chip Patterson | College Football/Basketball Writer

Marcus Mariota delivered a Heisman-worthy performance at Washington. (USATSI)
Marcus Mariota delivered a Heisman-worthy performance at Washington. (USATSI)

Marcus Mariota's wild numbers are often reported with a clarifying phrase; usually something about the competition, scheme or system. In previous iterations of the dominant Ducks offense, you could argue the quarterback has benefited from the scheme. This year, the relationship is flipped; it's Mariota who might be inflating Oregon numbers. At least it looked that way in Saturday's 45-24 win on the road against a very tough Washington defense.

With De'Anthony Thomas sidelined by an ankle injury, Mariota rolled up 454 yards of total offense, averaging 11.8 yards per attempt passing and 6.8 yards per carry. Mariota's efficiency, which includes a completion percentage of 77.4 and just one sack allowed, was startling to watch just a week after the Huskies held Kevin Hogan and Stanford to just 284 yards of offense.

Delivering that kind of performance on such a big stage has Mariota on track to become the first Heisman Trophy winner in school history.

"I don't have a Heisman vote, but I'd be hard-pressed to say we'll see a better quarterback this year," Washington coach Steve Sarkisian said after the game. "That guy is special. I don't know when he is planning on going to the NFL, but when he does, I think he'll be a top-five draft pick."

For better or worse, the Heisman Trophy race has become a Royal Rumble-style competition. We begin the season with a long list of Heisman hopefuls, and each week candidates are eliminated for failing to meet the mythical standard of a Heisman Trophy winner. Johnny Manziel's win a year ago was a result of both his dominance on the field and the fall of early-season favorites like Geno Smith and Collin Klein. Mariota is currently the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, which means that each possible loss for the Ducks becomes a must-watch for Heisman voters.

By getting to face Washington a week after Stanford, Mariota was not able to just boost his total offense numbers on the season (2,150 yards, 25 touchdowns) but also create some distance between the Ducks and the rest of the Pac-12 North. There was no clarifying phrase on Saturday's win. Washington cut the lead to 31-24 in the final minute of the third quarter, but Mariota responded with a pair of touchdowns to ice the win.

If Mariota only played three quarters a game, he'd probably still be a Heisman finalist based on production alone. When the Ducks quarterback got to play a full game, the performance was worthy of a Heisman Trophy winner.

 
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