Mariota Lives Up To Hype

Marcus Mariota led the Ducks to a 54-37 win over Arkansas State in his first collegiate start

In Darron Thomas’ opening drive as the Oregon Duck quarterback, he threw an interception. That season ended with a BCS National Championship appearance.

If that’s a measure of how the 2012 season will go, watch out.

The Duck offense ran like a well-oiled machine in Marcus Mariota’s debut as the Duck signal caller. The Hawai’i native led the No. 5 team on a 73-yard touchdown drive to strike first 8-0 over Arkansas State.

There were questions of how Mariota will perform in a game situation, how he would lead the Duck offense and if he could find the play makers on a consistent basis.

All of those questions were answered.

“It was fun,” Mariota said. “I really can’t explain it more than that … I had a blast.”

Mariota was just as fine on the second drive when he threaded the needle to find De’Anthony Thomas in the midst of three Red Wolf defenders for the 15-0 lead. The drive was helped by two personal fouls on Arkansas State that the Ducks took full advantage of.

The game was over with just 9:19 left in the first quarter.

By the time the Red Wolves had their initial first down, Mariota had two touchdown passes and the score was 22-0. Also, Arkansas State isn’t quite the Little Sisters of the Poor. The Red Wolves did go 10-3 last season and won the Sun Belt Conference.

When the first quarter ended, Oregon held a commanding 29-0 lead. Mariota was 12-of-13 for 115 yards and two scores. But Mariota didn’t defeat the Red Wolves by himself. He had plenty of help from senior tailback Kenjon Barner. His first quarter line read eight carries, 55 yards and two scores. The Duck defense also forced a fumble to set up the Ducks’ third score, a four-yard touchdown pass to Josh Huff.

On a weekend that saw Cal, Colorado, Washington State lose and Stanford, Washington and Arizona squeak by smaller schools, Oregon and its redshirt quarterback showed that No. 5 ranking  is legitimate.

Mariota also showed that he can perform whether the team going left to right on your screen or right to left. He started out the second quarter with a perfect touchdown pass to De’Anthony Thomas that saw a Red Wolf defender draped all over Thomas for a 36-3 lead.

His final act of the night was to push Byron Marshall into the end zone for the 50-spot in the first half making the opening act of the Mariota Era a resounding success.