Oregon’s Marcus Mariota cooly plants himself atop Heisman race


Each week of the college football season NCAA.com will take a look at the most impressive individual performances. Some weeks it may be one player who stands head and shoulders above everyone else. This week, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota made his case.

How many times can you be amazed by something? How many times can be in awe of the sunset, or a pretty model, or even the taste of pizza before it’s a serviceable dough pie with some cheese and tomato sauce on it? I ask this (wholly unoriginal) question because it seems like it’s slightly happening with Marcus Mariota.

A quick recap of his performance against No. 7 Michigan State: He won (pretty important) while completing 17 of 28 passes for 318 yards, including three passing touchdowns, and rushing for 42 yards. He confounded the Spartans’ defense, a schematic system every bit as complex and intelligent as Oregon’s offense, by connecting with seven different players. He didn’t do anything noteworthy except what he’s been doing for the past two years at Oregon: Remove himself from the equation, transform his variable into a constant, become a mathematical figure his team utilizes as an exponent.

And that’s what so impressive! Without Mariota, Oregon’s offense and team would likely implode. Okay, maybe not. The Ducks are a fine-tuned mechanism designed to shoot yards and points, particularly with all their talent at different position, but at least Mariota is the essential engine that’s delivering previously unknown power to the whole thing.

Mariota pitched a perfect game in a situation where he knew coming in he’d have to do exactly that. He looked unfazed. Cool, almost, if he didn’t play with such an old-school mentality despite his new-school abilities.

At one point, Oregon trailed 27-18 in the second half and it looked as if Michigan State was poised to enact the upset. But, like he’s done before, Mariota kept driving and driving and driving that Oregon offense until he wore down Sparty and the offense exploded accordingly.

He didn’t have the flashy play of the weekend (the credit for that goes to Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah); his biggest play was escaping a sack and flipping a shovel pass for a first down. Egregiously efficient Mariota is like that. He kept playing consistent for Oregon to such a high degree, for such a long time, and that made all the difference. Man, was it amazing to watch.

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