Oregon vs. Virginia: Ducks' Heisman Candidates Bid to Overcome East Coast Bias

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Oregon vs. Virginia: Ducks' Heisman Candidates Bid to Overcome East Coast Bias
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Marcus Mariota led the Ducks on the ground and through the air as the Ducks flew past the Virgina Cavaliers 59-10 in the first-ever road game as a head coach for Mark Helfrich.

The cross-country trip from Eugene (Ore.) to Charlottesville (Va.) proved to be well worth the time and effort for the second-ranked Oregon Ducks and they rolled to a 59-10 victory over Virginia at Scott Stadium on Saturday afternoon. It could prove to me more important than just another win. It could mean a pair of Ducks will be in the thick of the Heisman Trophy race all season.

The Ducks have one of college football's most dynamic duos in years and they both did their part to help the Ducks roll to a huge win over an ACC foe.

The Ducks' backfield stars, Marcus Mariota and De'Anthony Thomas, announced their candidacy for the Heisman Trophy by playing well during a premium time slot in front of an national audience. Both Mariota and Thomas had memorable touchdown runs that will stick in the minds of the east coast voters as the season wears on.

The problem for the Ducks' tandem is that they will likely have votes split among them by voters that see them often. The east coast voters that go to bed before half of the Ducks' game kick off were able to catch a glimpse of the explosion plays that both Mariota and Thomas are capable of. From here on out, their stats can do all the talking. 

When the Ducks take on a (potentially) highly-ranked Stanford team in a nationally televised, Thursday night game In November, either one of the Ducks' stars could take over the front-runner spot in the race for the Heisman.

Aside from his 71-yard touchdown run on the fifth play of the game, Mariota was solid, but not spectacular. While going just 14-of-28, he did finish with 199 yards through the air. He added two passing touchdowns and ran for another en route to 122 yards on just four carries. His long run was the kind of highlight that catches the eyes of voters. 

The Ducks' all-everything star, De'Anthony Thomas, got off to a slow start on his first couple carries as he was bottled up inside. On his third carry, he scored from one yard out. Give him an inch, he'll take a mile. On his next touch, he took a handoff around the right side and raced up the sideline 40 yards for a breathtaking touchdown after he somehow stayed in bounds. He ended the day with 11 carries for 124 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. He added one catch for 28 yards and may have taken a kickoff the distance if not for being inadvertently blasted by one of his own teammates. 

The Cavaliers came out confident in their ability to stop the Ducks and were letting their feelings be known early on. Thomas told reporters as much in the post-game press conference.

That’s the funny part. For the first couple plays, they’re out there talking, and as the game goes by, guys are just slowing down and you can see by their body language and stuff, and that’s when we know we got ‘em.

With another impressive all-around performance, the Oregon Ducks put the nation on notice that Chip Kelly might be gone, but the culture and the momentum he helped create remain in tact. Virginia having upset BYU at home last week and the long flight for the Ducks, there was some reservation as to whether or not the Ducks would struggle against the Cavaliers. Expecting a slow start under those circumstances is the norm, but Mariota and the Ducks aren't interested in doing anything the way it has always been done.

Thanks to Mariota, the Ducks were up 7-0 before UVA could blink, 21-7 after the first quarter, 28-10 at half, 45-10 after three quarters and ended the game with a resounding 59-10 victory over the Cavaliers. For all the talk of the offense, the defense made sure to make sure people know about them as well. The Ducks held the Wahoos to 298 total yards and just three points after the first quarter. 

After jumping Ohio State last week to reach No. 2 in the Associated Press Top 25, the Ducks proved themselves worthy of their lofty ranking. To walk away from a road game the way they did after making the long trip to Charlottesville, Mark Helfrich should feel very good about his team. They are loaded with talent and haven't lost a step, but Helfrich has plenty of issues to work with his team on as the season moves along.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images
Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich is now 2-0 in his head coaching career after guiding the Ducks to a blowout victory on the road on Saturday afternoon.

There were plenty of penalties again, including personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct calls. Senior linebacker Boseko Lokombo was tagged with a ridiculous personal foul penalty after a by-the-book hit on Cavaliers QB David Watford. Helfrich will let that one go because it was a blown call, but the Ducks need to cut down on their penalties before they directly impact the result of a game.

Senior wide receiver Josh Huff helped both Mariota and Thomas shine as he had three catches for 55 yards, including a spectacular, 31-yard circus catch in the second quarter. Huff also blocked a punt in the first quarter, leading to Thomas' first touchdown. 

With a very limited window to make an impact on the east coast voters that traditionally stick to players from their region, Mariota and Thomas made a statement that won't soon be forgotten.

All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. 

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