Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is off to a great start this season.
Through three games — all Duck blowouts — the sophomore has 889 passing yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. He has also rushed for 262 yards and four scores and is averaging 17.5 yards per carry.
All very good numbers to be sure, but perhaps the most impressive aspect is that Mariota is producing them while missing large chunks of games due to the margin of his team’s victories.
In No. 2 Oregon’s 59-14 rout of Tennessee on Saturday, Mariota threw for a career-high 456 yards while running and passing for a combined five touchdowns in about two-and-a-half quarters. He missed the entire fourth quarter the week before as Oregon crushed Virginia 59-10. Mariota had 199 passing yards and 122 rushing yards and three total touchdowns in that one. He also missed the fourth quarter against Nicholls State in the opener while passing for 234 and rushing for 113.
Totaled up, that’s four-and-a-half quarters that Mariota has spent on the bench this season.
In fact, Mariota has finished only four of the 16 games he has played in his career, which makes you wonder how his overall numbers would look with a full work load. Of course, many great players in college football have this same kind of statistical handicap, but given Oregon’s propensity for huge margins of victory, Mariota seems to be uniquely affected.
Even with his limited snaps, Mariota is on pace to have 3,848 passing yards with 30 touchdown passes, plus 1,131 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns — and that’s not counting a potential bowl game. That comes to 4,979 yards of total offense and 47 touchdowns, which just happens to be about what the last five Heisman-winning quarterbacks produced in their Heisman seasons.
These numbers combined with Oregon’s lofty poll position are the main reasons why Mariota is the current favorite to win the Heisman trophy.