Marcus Mariota and the Oregon football team are 20-2 in two seasons. They have the opportunity to play for a BCS bowl, a fourth straight 12-win season, and a Top Five ranking at the end of the year. The future has to take care of itself. They have plenty to handle in the next three weeks: Utah beat Stanford, and Oregon State lost to them 20-12.
KVAL and ESPN are reporting that the Ducks’ sensational quarterback played last night with a sprained MCL. He’s wearing a brace, and the injury has limited his acceleration and mobility, placing him the unfamiliar role of a pocket passer (Bruce Schwartzman, AP photo).
For next week and perhaps the rest of the season, the third-year sophomore and Scott Frost’s offense has to adjust to this new reality, and formulate a plan that maximizes the offense without Mariota’s customary explosiveness and escapability. The receivers have to run shorter, crisper routes. The offensive line has to protect better. Frost can provide the qb with an outlet receiver, Marshall, Tyner or Thomas out of the backfield, to take advantage of blitzes and/or deep drops by the linebackers. Oregon’s running backs have to help pick up the slack. The Ducks can incorporate the tight end into the passing game with more effectiveness.
In practice, the Ducks have to stress to Marcus that once he’s out of the pocket, throwing the ball away and living to fight another down is always an option, sometimes the best one. Avoiding negative plays, like sacks and fumbles, is even more important in big games.
There is still a lot to love about the Ducks. They’re a tremendously entertaining and successful football team, one of the nation’s best over the last five years. A national title and the ability to compete against big, physical teams in big games has been elusive for them. About 115 teams would trade places, including Washington and Oregon State.
Finishing the year strong becomes the new goal. It’s important the fan base maintains perspective, and remembers what a joy it’s been to participate in the 24-year rise of the Oregon program.