Oregon Ducks QBs: Grading Bryan Bennett and Marcus Mariota on Spring Game
Even a fan like me who loves defense recognizes that the BIG story that came out of the Oregon Ducks spring game on Saturday was the heated competition developing at the quarterback position following Darron Thomas' departure for the NFL, er, departure.
Bryan Bennett vs. Marcus Mariota for a lot of marbles. Not all the marbles, but a lot of them.
Now, fans, hear me out: One day does not a quarterback make. Haven't you ever had a bad day at the wrong time? Like the day you had a big job interview and you woke up with a huge, blinding zit and not a clean white shirt anywhere to be seen?
Spoiler alert...Bennett had that kind of day yesterday.
It doesn't mean he's suddenly stupid or uncoordinated. It doesn't mean he won't ever be sharp again. It just means he had one bad day, while the guy who might make the corner office before him had a great day.
Following is my analysis of Mariota vs. Bennett ON ONE DAY.
Which Team Won?
Glorified scrimmage or not, it was still a game with referees, a clock, teams and coaches. Sports are about playing the games to see who wins. It's important. Some say it's everything.
Marcus Mariota's team (Mighty Oregon) beat Bryan Bennett's team (Fighting Ducks), 41-14.
Mighty Oregon was coached by defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, and Fighting Ducks was coached by offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich. Maybe that was important; maybe not. Whatever.
Passing the Ball
Marcus Mariota was 18-for-26 for 202 yards with one interception and one touchdown. Mariota's completion percentage was a gaudy 69.2 percent. His longest pass—a breathtaking 35-yard touchdown to wide receiver Daryle Hawkins—is the play I'd like to see as the first play of the game on Sept. 1.
Bryan Bennett was 19-for-32 for 209 yards with two (rather ugly) interceptions and one touchdown. Bennett's completion percentage was 59.4 percent. That, folks, would be good enough to beat our first three opponents.
Mariota was sacked once; Bennett three times.
Both QBs were mostly accurate on their passing, which warms my heart. But Mariota had more finesse on the ball and appeared to connect better with his receivers, particularly Rahsaan Vaughn and Daryle Hawkins.
The thought crossed my mind that Mariota and his receivers are all roommates and they walk around the house throwing and catching the ball to each other. They looked as if they'd been doing it forever. But Bennett was not chopped liver.
Both Mariota and Bennett ran the ball well—outstanding at times. The red jerseys meant no tackling of the family jewels, and I suspect that whoever replaces Nick Perry at USC won't be quite so generous.
Still, both QBs looked quick, nimble and extremely efficient running the ball. Mariota, in particular, appeared to read the defense well.
Mariota rushed five times for a net gain of 99 yards, but 82 of that came on one long, fluid run when he outran the DBs easily.
Bennett rushed 18 times for a net gain of 27 yards, which was not as bad as it sounds because he had a loss of 30 yards on one ill-advised play. His longest run was 12 yards.
This one's easier.
To my eye, Mariota made only one poor decision all day—the pass that was handily picked off by Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Other than that little brain freeze, Mariota oozed confidence and hardly made a misstep. His throws were crisp and clean, he ran when he saw the openings and his handoffs were nearly perfect. He just seemed really smart out there.
Bennett looked good on some plays and really bad on others. I thought he seemed confused at times. He threw the ball on more than one occasion when 45,000 people knew it wasn't a good idea (especially the one that Tyson Coleman intercepted and ran in for a TD).
I also felt that Bennett ran too much. For the most part, he ran well, but it felt more out of desperation because he didn't know what else to do.
Overall Test Score
Remember that one test does not a career make. If only Bryan Bennett had played on Saturday and we hadn't witnessed Marcus Mariota's star-making performance, we would all be perfectly happy with Bennett.
However, we did witness a raucous coming-out party for the young man from Honolulu. For me, it felt like the kind of day one will look back on a few years from now and mark as a turning point.