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Healthy Marcus Mariota has everyone chasing Ducks by seestyle seestyle
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  • EUGENE, Ore. The easy way out is much more fun, mockingly pointing at the Big Ten and saying I told you so.The easy way out is to look at the Big Tens best hope for the College Football Playoff wait, for resuscitating a conference that has just about flat-lined of late in big non-conference games and shake your head in disgust.But that simplistic observation overshadows this one critical point: when Marcus Mariota is healthy, theres no better player in the game.MORE: | | | BENDER: And when Mariotas healthy, theres no better team than Oregon.Sometimes, Mariota says, I cant explain the way some of the plays happen.Maybe its best to explain it like this: Michigan Rick Porcello Jersey State hadnt given up more than 28 points in 29 straight games going into Saturdays playoff-feel game. Oregon, behind the arm and legs and moxie of Mariota, scored the last 28 points of a 46-27 statement.The bar has now been set. Everyone is chasing Oregon.Too many big plays, too much speed, said Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio. But thats Oregon, we understood that coming in.But Fred Lynn Jersey these arent the same Ducks from last November, the team that limped into the Stanford game and couldnt score for three quarters; that two weeks later got blown out by Arizona, and a week later barely escaped a win over rival Oregon State.That team played with Mariota limping and limited from a sprained knee, and by the time November ended, the Ducks had gone from BCS title favorite and Mariota as the Heisman Trophy favorite to playing in a meaningle s bowl game. This was Mariota Saturday night: poised, polished and rea suming his spot as the best player in the game.Forget what you know about the Big Ten, about that 5-11 record in BCS bowls since the 2006 season and all of those big non-conference meltdowns in the regular season (hello, Michigan and Ohio State on this very weekend). Michigan State is one of the best teams in the nation, with one of the best defenses in the nation.MORE: | | Then Mariota happened, and a 9-point deficit in the third quarter somehow became another rout in this zoo of a stadium.I should have to pay to watch him play, said Oregon coach Mark Helfrich.This was vintage Mariota with a twist. The days of tucking and running after the first or second read breaks down are long gone. Now, the hotter the moment, the longer the patience.He worked all offseason with noted quarterback guru George Whitfield on pocket presence, something he still hadnt completely grasped despite the succe s of his first two seasons in Eugene. And wouldnt you know it, earlier this week during game preparations, the Oregon staff told Jimmie Foxx Jersey Mariota he was going to get hurried, he was going to take hits.The Michigan State defense is that good and that gutsy, playing e sentially one- or zero-man coverage in the secondary and using a variety of blitz packages to force quarterbacks into quick decisions. In other words, the game is on you, Marcus.So with his parents and grandparents in the stands after flying six hours from Honolulu, Mariota played considering the circumstances and the opponent the best game of his career. Hara sed and hit almost every play, he threw for 300-plus yards (again) and three touchdowns (again) and made play after play when things broke down because of pre sure.The very thing he couldnt Luis Tiant Jersey do in the last month of last season, when it all fell apart and when someone else played for the national championship and someone else won the Heisman Trophy.Like scrambling on third and long and while falling down, flipping a shovel pa s to tailback Royce Freeman for a critical first down on one of the four second half touchdowns. Like scrambling away from the rush on third and long and picking up a first down.Like any number of throws where he stayed in the pocket, moved his feet and squared his shoulders and threw accurately to make key plays. The touchdown pa s to Devon Allen when he froze the coverage with a pump fake; the touchdown pa s to Keanon Lowe when he stood in the face of the rush and made the perfect throw.The more pre sure Michigan State brought, the better Mariota played. What Marcus does on the field amazes me every day, said Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost. He makes so many plays, its hard for me to remember them all.He also makes Oregon the team to beat in the race for the College Football Playoff. Were two weeks into the season, but this cant be understated: a healthy Mariota makes Oregon the toughest out in the field.We werent the same team last year (when Mariota was hurt), I Tyler Thornburg Jersey think that was obvious, Lowe said. When hes on, were on.And when the Ducks are on, everyone else is chasing.

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