Oregon vs. Washington: Marcus Mariota Takes Commanding Lead for Heisman

Sean FryeFeatured ColumnistOctober 12, 2013

SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 12:  Quarterback Marcus Mariota #8 of the Oregon Ducks rushes against the Washington Huskies on October 12, 2013 at Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

There were plenty of stars in the Oregon Ducks' 45-24 win over the Washington Huskies, but none moreso than quarterback Marcus Mariota.

He completed 24-of-31 pass attempts for 366 yards, threw three touchdowns and added 88 yards and another score on the ground to lead the Ducks over their toughest opponent of the season to date.

And he also took control of the Heisman Trophy race. 

The Ducks went into the game ranked second in the NCAA in total offense, trailing only the Baylor Bears. But they also hadn't faced any tough defenses. Three of the four teams the Ducks had faced, Tennessee, California and Colorado, rank 79th or lower in total defense

Only the Virginia Cavaliers ranked higher, and going into Saturday they ranked 28th. 

But Washington went into their matchup not only angry after last week's loss to Stanford, but also ranked 10th in the country in total defense. 

That had people thinking that the Ducks may run into serious problems facing a legitimate defensive front. 

But Mariota put all those fears to bed with his performance and proved that he is, for right now at least, the nation's best quarterback. 

While Mariota shined on Saturday against the Huskies, other Heisman candidates struggled throughout the week. Clemson Tigers quarterback Tajh Boyd struggled against a weak Boston College squad, throwing for just one touchdown as the Tigers avoided a huge upset in a 24-14 win. 

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray delivered his worst performance of the year, completing just 25-of-45 passing attempts and throwing two interceptions in a 41-26 loss to the Missouri Tigers that undoubtedly ends the Bulldogs' quest for a national title. 

Teddy Bridgewater and the Louisville Cardinals also struggled to put away Rutgers on Thursday, winning by a score of 24-10. It wasn't until a late touchdown by the Cardinals that the Scarlet Knights were effectively buried, which certainly hurts Bridgewater's Heisman stock. 

As the season moves on, Mariota and the Ducks proved on Saturday that this year's offense under new head coach Mark Helfrich is the real deal, and that Mariota, for the time being, is the nation's best player.