We are about at the halfway mark in the long and arduous college football offseason, but fans of the Oregon Ducks were granted the opportunity to whet their appetite Saturday at the annual spring game.
Team Mariasu knocked off Team Twifo 27-7 in a game that was never really in doubt after the first quarter.
Spring games are somewhat strange as a supporter of the program because for every successful play, there is also a corresponding failure on the other side, but it should come as no surprise that quarterback Marcus Mariota was impressive Saturday. He saw limited action, but he had no issues moving the ball down the field with his arm and legs throughout the early going.
One note of interest for any Oregon game, including the spring game, is the uniforms of choice. The Oregon Ducks' official football Twitter account updated fans on the threads for the game and made sure to point out that a number of supporters were filling in before the game started:
Oregon was divided into two teams for the spring game during a draft with captains Mariota and Hroniss Grasu choosing "Team Mariasu" and Tony Washington and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu selecting "Team Twifo." Offensive coordinator Scott Frost was chosen by Team Mariasu, but he promised to keep the game plan fairly vanilla, via Ryan Thorburn of The Register-Guard:
Will Oregon win the Pac-12?
“We’re going to keep it pretty basic. We’ve got a lot of young guys playing in the spring game, so we’re not going to do anything too fancy. But it’s going to be really competitive, so I’m excited to watch those guys in a competitive situation.”
Of course, conservative by Oregon standards is still fairly exciting. Mariota got his team on the board first with a 22-yard touchdown pass to Thomas Tyner, and he also mixed in some flashy plays in the first quarter as well. Assistant athletic director for communications Andy McNamara and Oregon football provided some highlights:
Mariota wasn't done, and he connected with Devon Allen for an impressive 45-yard touchdown pass. He had team Mariasu up 14-0 after the first quarter and appeared in midseason form already. Considering he will be on the short list of Heisman contenders this year, that is welcome news for Ducks fans.
Thorburn was there for the touchdown play, but also echoed probably the most important sentiment of the entire spring game, given Mariota's incredible talent:
Mariota 45 TD pass to Devon Allen— Ryan Thorburn (@rgduckfootball) May 3, 2014
Dear Marcus, please stay healthy. Respectively yours, Oregon Duck fans.— Ryan Thorburn (@rgduckfootball) May 3, 2014
Andrew Greif of The Oregonian provided fans with Mariota's noteworthy final stat line in limited action:
Marcus Mariota's line today: 6-7 passing for 100 yards, 2 TDs; 5 rushes for 23 yards. He passed to four different receivers.— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) May 3, 2014
Team Mariasu also played some solid defense as the second quarter began. Tyree Robinson recorded an impressive interception:
Perhaps the most important thing fans were keeping an eye on in the spring game was the performance of running back Thomas Tyner. De'Anthony Thomas declared for the NFL draft, and the Ducks certainly need depth and production at the position, considering the uptempo offense they run.
The good news along that front was that Tyner looked impressive in the early going. McNamara noted that he was running over defenders on his way down field:
Team Mariasu took a 14-0 lead into intermission and completely dominated the first half. The second half featured a running clock, so there was less action. That still didn't stop quarterback Jeff Lockie from adding to Mariasu's lead early in the third quarter with a 41-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Austin Daich.
It capped of an 80-yard drive in only six plays and kept the fans buzzing after the half:
Lockie drops in a nice deep ball to Daich for the TD http://t.co/bmgJ8LiLp9— Oregon Football (@WinTheDay) May 3, 2014
Team Mariasu had a 21-0 lead after three quarters, and, with a running clock, Team Twifo was in trouble.
They started on the right foot, though, in the fourth quarter, when quarterback Taylor Alie connected with receiver Darren Carrington for a 20-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 21-7:
However, as it had all game, Team Mariasu's defense slammed the door shut on Team Twifo's comeback aspirations. Cornerback Dior Mathis registered an interception to end all realistic hope, and then, in typical Oregon pedal-to-the-metal fashion, Team Mariasu's offense scored on the final play of the game.
It was a 49-yard touchdown pass from Damion Hobbs to Devon Allen. The final score was 27-7.
As previously mentioned, it is difficult to draw too much from a spring game, because any offensive or defensive success means the corresponding unit failed, but Oregon fans should be pleased with Mariota's play. He dealt with injuries at the end of last season that certainly played a factor in late losses to Stanford and Arizona, so a fully healthy quarterback was a sight for sore eyes.
It was also clear during the game that Oregon fans are rearing for football. The announced attendance was more than 37,000 for the intra-squad scrimmage, and they were treated to a number of impressive plays.
Now, if only the season would hurry up and get here.
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