One position of question coming into another season of high expectations for the Oregon Ducks was quarterback and how to fill the hole left by Darron Thomas' decision to leave for the NFL. After winning the starting job, Marcus Mariota used the Ducks' opener against Arkansas State to show that Chip Kelly's high-powered offense is in good hands.
The No. 5-ranked Ducks, behind the play of their new quarterback, opened the season with a 57-34 victory over Arkansas State.
The story, however, was how the redshirt freshman would handle stepping right in to lead a title contender often known for its scoring prowess. As David Piper at Addicted To Quack explained, Mariota did more than show he could handle the starting job:
"In a game in which everyone knew Oregon would win, Mariota was the clear storyline. A redshirt freshman having just won a quarterback battle against a veteran is always going to draw major attention. Mariota showed everybody why he won the job, delivering a performance that will serve as football porn to Duck fans for the next week. In leading the Ducks to touchdowns on all seven of his drives, the freshman connected on 19 of his 23 attempts to eight different receivers for three scores. Every read was right, and even the balls that weren't caught were catchable."
The redshirt freshman threw for 200 yards, just over nine per toss. In addition to that 18-for-22 passing, Mariota carried four times for 24 yards, showing early signs that he has what it takes to be next in the line of play-making Oregon quarterbacks.
In their 57-34 victory over Arkansas State, the Oregon Ducks were scoring touchdowns in the first half against Arkansas State at a faster rate than a senior citizen inserts coins into a slot machine. In an incredible quarter and a half of football, Oregon piled up 50 points, and could've hit triple digits if they'd kept up the pace.
It took them a total of one minute and twenty seconds to get on the scoreboard, as Oregon drove 74 yards in seven TJordan. A quick three and out by Arkansas State set up the second Oregon touchdown off a Marcus Mariota to De'Anthony Thomas connection. That drive took a ponderously slow minute and fifty-five seconds.
The touchdowns piled up from there. A Michael Clay forced fumble set up a three play, 19 second drive that resulted in Mariota finding Huff for a four yard score. Next up came Kenjon Barner on a long-winding three minute drive, scoring on a 17 yard scamper to make it 29-0. After Arkansas State found the scoreboard with a field goal, Mariota went back to the air with four completions on four attempts, finding Thomas for another touchdown. A Jonathan Boyett interception set up the Black Mamba for a 33 yard touchdown rush, and then Byron Marshall capped off the 50 points with a three yard rush.
Here are some of the highlights from the early Duck barrage courtesy of ESPN.
By the end of the first half, University of Oregon's redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota had built a big enough cushion that he and most of his first-team could take the rest of the night off; the score was 50-10, Oregon. At that point, the question on everyone's mind wasn't who was going to win, it was 'by how much'? Arkansas State held Oregon to only seven-points in the second half. The Red Wolves offense would chip away at Oregon's massive lead, but fell short at 57-34
Fans expect a high score when it comes to the Oregon Ducks. In the first quarter they scored 29-points followed up by a 21-point second quarter. Oregon head coach Chip Kelly is a good guy and he abides by the unspoken rule (except for Bill Belechik) to pull your starters out of the game when blowing out the other team. Oregon's second unit, surprisingly, couldn't score, save one touchdown in the fourth quarter. They also couldn't hold back the Red Wolves as they made their surge in the second half. Should Oregon's first string stay healthy, they've got a good shot at taking a run at USC in the Pac-12; if not, they might need to be concerned about their replacements.
Box Score Hero: Oregon redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota went 19-for-23 for 216 yards and 3 TD's - in the first half, the only half he played.
Rankings Ramifications: Arkansas State isn't a powerhouse football school, so it doesn't impact Oregon in the AP polls. Oregon is known for its high scoring games. The fact that they let Arkansas get within 23 won't really matter.
But Did They Cover? Mayweather should have put his $3M on Arkansas State at +37.
Those helmets, especially, look futuristic, with chrome wings on either side. But they're not the best part of those uniforms, believe it or not, because that's not a great picture of the shoulder pads, which have some silver plumage.
In summation, if any 17-year-old wants to look "cool" while playing college football, there's pretty much no reason not to go play for Chip Kelly at Oregon and dress up as a extra for a different lost sequel to Tron each week.