Marcus Mariota needed to have another big game in order to keep up in the 2013 Heisman race, but a loss to Stanford has officially taken him out of the hunt, at least for now.
The Oregon Ducks fell 26-20 against the Stanford Cardinal on Thursday night. It wasn't as close as the score indicated, as the Ducks were down 26-0 until 10 minutes left in the game.
Mariota threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns, but he struggled holding on to the ball and was pressured frequently. Late in the game, he was sailing some throws and was failing to get the ball moving until the very end of the game.
In the third quarter, Mariota went down with what appeared to be a knee injury. Daniel Jeremiah from NFL.com tweeted out that he was limping off of the field:
Mariota limping off the field…nightmare evening for the Ducks. Mariota should've thrown that away long before taking that hit.— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) November 8, 2013
Shortly after, Oregon came out again on offense and Mariota was with them, according to Jason Quick from the Oregonian:
Mariota comes out for the Ducks. They are down 23-0 with 1:31 left in the 3rd— Jason Quick (@jwquick) November 8, 2013
The knee didn't seem to bother him for the rest of the game, as he was able to come back and throw those two touchdowns.
Before the game against Stanford, Mariota had thrown for 2,281 yards, 20 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He had also run for 511 yards and another nine touchdowns.
The lack of production takes Mariota out of the front of the Heisman race, especially with the way Jameis Winston and Johnny Manziel have played recently.
Winston is most likely the clear top candidate now with Mariota's tough game, as he's thrown for 2,502 yards, 24 touchdowns and six interceptions while leading the Florida State Seminoles to an unblemished record, blowing out almost all of their opponents. Meanwhile, Manziel is surging back to the front of the Heisman race after scoring 15 total touchdowns in his last three games.
Who is the front-runner for the Heisman race after this game?
The big numbers had always helped Mariota's Heisman case, but he also needed to prove that he could win a big game against a top-tier opponent. The Ducks did have wins over Washington and UCLA, but this game against Stanford was so important after what he did against them in 2012.
Last season, Mariota struggled in the team's one loss, which came against Stanford. He completed just 21 of his 37 passes for 207 yards, a touchdown and an interception as Oregon lost in overtime 17-14.
Instead of showing that they could get their revenge this season, the Ducks couldn't really do anything offensively and lost their first game of the year with Mariota struggling once again.
We always talk about players having those moments that define a season, but there are also those moments that can kill a player's Heisman stock. Unfortunately for Mariota, this was an example of the latter, but he's not out of the race until either Winston or Manziel has a bad game of his own.