By Rob Moseley
With No. 3 Oregon opening against an FCS opponent Saturday, the Ducks’ 2013 opener didn’t figure to be a Heisman Trophy showcase moment for UO quarterback Marcus Mariota, and that it wasn’t.
Oregon’s sophomore kicked off his second season as the Ducks’ starter by going 12-of-21 through the air for 234 yards and a touchdown, and running five times for 113 yards and two scores in a 66-3 win over Nicholls. Accounting for 347 yards and three scores would be a great day for most players, but Mariota didn’t seem particularly sharp, a testament to the standard he set as Pac-12 offensive freshman of the year last fall.
“I started the game off kind of juiced a little bit, missed a couple throws high,” Mariota said. “Once the game started flowing, I felt I did a little better.”
Mariota was 4-of-9 passing in the first quarter, 3-of-7 in the second and then 5-of-5 for 88 yards in the third quarter, before he exited the game. Mariota last possession was the five-play, 87-yard scoring drive late in the third quarter that ended with Byron Marshall’s 49-yard touchdown run.
“The last series before halftime we got stopped on fourth down, and a lot of the first-team guys didn’t want to finish that way,” Mariota said. “And then to start off the second half we got stopped on fourth down. It leaves a little sour taste in your mouth, and I’m glad coach Helfrich left us in. We were able to iron it out and ended up finishing with a touchdown.”
Early on, Mariota did most of his damage on the ground, running for touchdowns of 12 and 46 yards in the second quarter. He was one of three Ducks on the day to run for more than 100 yards.
Helfrich said Mariota suffered from “a couple lazy-feet throws” in the early going, but Mariota's third-quarter numbers illustrated the way he improved his fundamentals as the game wore on.
The Ducks provided some fodder for speculation they may throw deep more often under Helfrich. Mariota had a 46-yard completion to Josh Huff in the first quarter, and overthrew an open Daryle Hawkins on a deep ball one possession earlier.
Overall, though, it was the offense fans have seen from the Ducks since the Chip Kelly era.
“I thought overall the pace was pretty similar,” Mariota said. “Offensively, aside from a few miscues, I thought we played pretty well today. We’re going to clean those up and get ready for next week.”