It was plain to Duck fans all along, but having Scott Frost come out and say in yesterday's Alamo Bowl press conference how badly Marcus Mariota was hurt in the last month of the season just confirmed 1) Mariota's courage and 2) the injustice of having him dropped from Heisman contention after Oregon's two losses.
Addressing the media Frost revealed that Mariota played the last four games of the year with a partially torn MCL in his left knee, and that the quarterback "could barely jog" two days before the Stanford game.
"If people would have know how bad he was hurt and watched him perform like that, it was a warrior's performance, it really was," Frost said.
The Ducks trailed 26-0 at Palo Alto before Mariota threw two fourth quarter tds to go along with a 67-yard return of blocked field goal by Rodney Hardrick. They got within 26-20, missing on an onside kick recovery at the end of the game with a chance for a miracle comeback. Mariota was 20-34 for 250 yards in the loss. He threw for 308 yards in the loss to Arizona, and led a comeback win over Oregon State with three touchdown passes, including the game-winner on a thrilling drive in the two-minute drill, a 12-yarder to Josh Huff with just 29 seconds to play.
Despite the warrior's effort, Super Mario dropped like kryponite in the Heisman ballot, falling from frontrunner after the 8-0 start to not being in the Top Ten by season's end. Jordan Lynch of Northern Illinois finished #3 in this year's race. His team lost to Bowling Green in the MAC Championship, and got dumped this weekend by Utah State in the Poinsettia Bowl, 21-14.
Asked about the Heisman snub, Mariota told reporters he wasn't concerned about it. "That's out of my control." He's always stood out as a player who cared more about team performance than individual accolades, but one of the great story lines of the Alamo Bowl is that the country will get an opportunity to see how wrong they were about Marcus Mariota. Healthy and playing free of the knee brace, he's likely to put on a show, maybe turn in one of the best performances of the bowl season.
Next season, when the straw polls and pundits starting tabbing him as the Heisman favorite again, Duck fans will just point to the standings and the scoreboard. It's out of their control, and never the measure of their gifted, class-act qb anyway. He spent this week getting ready for Texas, signing FREE autographs for kids, and visited recovering soldiers at the Wounded Warrior rehabilation facility. Awards and hype have never been his focus.