Mariota stays cool as starting QB for No. 2 Ducks
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Bringing the laid-back vibe of his Hawaiian home to the mainland, Marcus Mariota has kept his cool as the starting quarterback for No. 2 Oregon.
Despite a lack of experience, the 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman has helped guide the Ducks to a 6-0 start. Oregon ranks second nationally with an average of just over 52 points per game, and eighth with nearly 542 yards in total offense.
On a team known much more for its rushing than it's passing, Mariota has thrown for 15 touchdowns, second in the Pac-12 only to USC's Matt Barkley, with only five interceptions. He averages about 218 yards passing a game.
He threw for 198 yards and four touchdowns in Oregon's 52-21 victory over then-No. 23 Washington the weekend before last. After a Saturday off, the Ducks visit Arizona State on Thursday night.
It was Mariota's demeanor, not his arm, that first grabbed the attention of the Ducks, according to coach Chip Kelly.
"Very poised, very mature young man," Kelly said. "He's got a good head on his shoulders, is smart, cerebral. His mental makeup and character are things that as a coach staff were more impressive than his athletic ability, and his athletic ability, we felt, was outstanding. "
Receiver Josh Huff agreed with Kelly that Mariota brings more to the Ducks than just stats.
"I don't think anything rattles him," Huff said. "We all look up to him."
On the travel squad last season, Mariota piqued the interest of fans during Oregon's annual spring game when he threw for 202 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for two additional scores.
The performance threw into question the status of Bryan Bennett, a sophomore who was backup to starter Darron Thomas last season. Bennett had more experience, having completed 25 of 46 passes for 369 yards and six touchdowns. He started in a victory over Colorado when Thomas was out with a sprained knee.
The competition between the two went on behind closed doors in fall camp, with Mariota emerging as the first freshman to start in an opener for Oregon since Danny O'Neil in 1991.
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