Oregon Football: Why the Cal Game Should Give Mariota Heisman Recognition

Nathan LoweryCorrespondent INovember 11, 2012

BERKELEY, CA - NOVEMBER 10:  Quarterback Marcus Mariota #8 of the Oregon Ducks scrambles with the ball against the California Golden Bears in the second quarter of an NCAA College football game at California Memorial Stadium on November 10, 2012 in Berkeley, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

There were more than a few moments on Saturday night at which I'm sure Oregon Ducks fans started to cringe a bit.

Avery Patterson going down with a gruesome knee injury.

Kenjon Barner going to the locker room with a a hand injury.

Marcus Mariota frantically tapping his helmet while his left arm hung limp at his side.

Yet despite injuries ravaging the Ducks on all levels of the game—Oregon ended up playing a defensive line made up entirely of freshmen at one point—Chip Kelly and company found a way to pull away with a 59-17 win over Cal at Memorial Stadium.

And why?

Because of Marcus Mariota.

While Oregon's run game was struggling to pick up yards—the Ducks averaged an abysmal season-low 3.8 yards per carry, including a 20-carry, 65-yard performance from the Ducks' top Heisman contender, Kenjon Barner—Mariota quietly threw for 377 yards and six touchdowns.

The six touchdowns tied the school record set by Joey Harrington in 2001 against Arizona State.

Did we mention that he's only a redshirt freshman?

In the past, if you could shut down the Oregon run game, you could beat the Ducks, yet somehow, Mariota was able to find away to absolutely explode in the second half and score 28 unanswered points in leading the Ducks to an "ugly" 59-17 victory on the road.

While Johnny "Football" Manziel is taking the SEC by storm and has moved to No. 2 in B/R's Heisman power rankings, Mariota has been putting together a season just as impressive.

Mariota currently leads the nation in passer rating, at 177.0, and has completed 71.7 percent of his passes.

His completion percentage is currently an NCAA record with only two games left in the regular season, and he is within stepping distance of Michael Vick's freshman passer rating of 180.4.

At the beginning of the season, West Virginia's Geno Smith jumped to a huge Heisman lead for one major reason: He threw more touchdowns than incompletions.

Through the first two weeks of the season, Smith was 66-of-75 for 734 yards and nine touchdowns. Nine touchdowns, nine incompletions.

Through the previous two weeks of the season, Mariota has gone 47-of-57 for 681 yards and 10 touchdowns. Ten touchdowns, 10 incompletions.

Don't forget that these stats come from on the road at USC and Cal. Smith's first two opponents were against Marshall and James Madison in the confines of Mountaineer Field.

I hope you're still remembering that Mariota is only a freshman.

You can pin the wins on Kenjon Barner or Chip Kelly, but Mariota has done just as much—if not more—than those two to lead the Ducks to 10-0 thus far in the season.

He's thrown for 28 touchdowns to only five interceptions and has gained an additional 516 yards and three touchdowns on the ground.

Not only has Mariota blown up the stat sheets, but he has done so when Oregon needs him to. Overcoming the injuries his team faced against Cal to throw for six touchdowns to pull away when many thought Oregon was in danger of being upset, now that is Heisman-worthy. 

Even if it's just buzzworthy.