The Sports Daily > Duck Stops Here
The challenge ahead of Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota

Many fans say the Ducks won’t miss Darron Thomas, and they may very well be right. Bennett and Mariota have a world of talent. Each are better athletes than Thomas, faster, better throwers and runners.

But they don’t have 26 career wins and 66 td passes, both Oregon records. Thomas did. Over his last five games as a Duck he tossed 14 tds against just two interceptions with 1212 yards passing while leading the Ducks to their first Rose Bowl win in 94 years.

photo left: Marcus Mariota’s hang loose attitude will help him as he competes for the Oregon starting job and  the chance to lead their drive for a fourth straight conference title (sportingnews.com photo).

Thomas was tough. Many times he took shots to deliver a td pass. He was rarely sacked and seldom hurt the Ducks with interceptions.

Somewhere during the year, the Ducks might miss his toughness, leadership and experience. Maybe not in the first two months, when they enjoy a home-heavy schedule in games they should be favored to win. But it’d be nice to enter the L.A. Coliseum with a quarterback who’d won there before, or faced that big of a game, national TV, ESPN, top five matchup, capacity crowd. It’s a different kind of pressure, and there’s no way to be sure how a young quarterback will handle it until he faces it for the first time.

Chip Kelly always says, “we’ll miss you but we’ll get along without you.” Bennett and Mariota are confident and gifted. Bennett showed poise coming off the bench against Arizona State and Washington State last year, and Mariota looked calm and cool running the offense in the Spring Game. They’ll have some tuneups to get their comfort level and find their rhythm.

The Ducks can’t win another conference championship unless they do.