The Marcus Mariota era couldn’t have started any better as the freshmen quarterback was given the reins of the Oregon (1-0, 0-0) offense and guided Oregon to seven straight touchdowns as the Ducks cruised to a 57-34 victory Friday night against Arkansas State (0-1, 0-0).
Marcus Mariota was nearly flawless in his first career start.
Mariota completed his first 17 of 18 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns tp start the game and finished the night going 19-of-23 for 216 yards and three touchdowns before being replaced by sophomore quarterback Bryan Bennett midway through the second quarter.
Oregon head coach Chip Kelly says the calm and collected freshman quarterback did what was expected of him.
“That’s what we’ve seen out of him,” said Kelly post game. “People realized why he’s our starting quarterback.”
Sophomore receiver Keanon Lowe says the Mariota Oregon fans and the public got to see was the typical calm and collected freshmen that teammates and coaches have gotten to know.
“That’s just his demeanor. Every single day,” says Lowe. “It could be a Monday practice or a Friday practice. He’s just a calm, cool, collective guy. You saw that with his performance on the field.”
Mariota guided Oregon’s first drive in seven plays for 73 yards in just 1:38 for Oregon’s first touchdown of the game and was capped off by senior running back Kenjon Barner scoring from four yards out.
After a quick three-and-out by Arkansas State Mariota quickly drove the Oregon offense down the field again. This time the cool and collected freshmen did in in seven plays and 67 yards in 1:43. Bennett hit sophomore De’Anthony Thomas for his first of three touchdowns on a 12-yard pass across the end zone.
“He made some real quick decisions,” Kelly said of Mariota. “That’s the one thing you love about him. I think he’s got a really good command of our offense and he knows where to go with the ball when [the opponent] presents some different looks.”
Chip Kelly brings the Ducks out to start the season.
Kelly commented on Mariota’s ability to stay calm and not rush through his reads but was also quick to point out the Ducks were not a one man operation Saturday night.
“We feel like we are not a one man show here,” said Kelly.
Mariota threw his second touchdown pass to junior receiver Josh Huff for four yards to make it 22-0. Barner added his second rushing touchdown of the night on a 17-yard run and it was 29-0 with 2:27 left in the first quarter.
Mariota connected with Thomas once more for Mariota and Thomas' second touchdown connection on a 12-yard strike. Thomas would make it 43-3 with 10:45 left in the first half with an electrifying 33-yard touchdown run.
Thomas’ sophomore season has already been a big one finishing the game with 125 yards of all-purpose yards and three touchdowns despite touching the ball just seven times.
“Like everyone in this room, when No. 6 touches the ball [I am impressed],” answered Kelly about what he was impressed by. “I think everyone would take him if he was available, but he’s not.”
Freshmen Byron Marshall would score his first career touchdown a few plays later on a fourth and goal from the four.
Sophomore Bryan Bennett entered the game mid-way through the second quarter to a round of standing applause from Oregon fans.
“Appreciative,” Bennett said were the feelings he had at that moment. “It’s nice to know you have so many people having your back.”
De'Anthony Thomas was simply amazing Saturday night scoring three touchdowns.
Oregon led 50-10 going into the half with almost their entire starting lineup on both sides of the ball standing on the sidelines while Oregon’s second and third stringers mopped up.
Oregon’s offense totaled 605 yards of total offense on 96 plays for an amazing 6.3 yards-per-play average. The Oregon run game was once again unstoppable with Oregon having three backs rush for over 60 yards. Freshmen Byron Marshall led all Oregon running backs with 24 carries for 64 yards. Barner led the Ducks with 66 yards on just nine carries. Thomas added 64 yards on just three.
Sophomore Ayele Forde added 48 yards late on 12 carries.
Arkansas State would tack on two more touchdowns in the second on a Aplin pass to David Oku for two yards and a score and the second touchdown pass from Aplin to Jarboe for six.
The Ducks failed the score in the third quarter and entered the fourth quarter up 50-20.
Brian Bennett led Oregon down the field following Jarboe’s touchdown on his own scoring drive finishing with a strike to senior receiver Rahsaan Vaughn for seven yards and a score to make it 57-20 early in the fourth.
Aplin and Carlos McCants would connect for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to make it 57-27 halfway through the final quarter.
Thomas led Oregon in receptions with four catches for 55 yards and two touchdowns. Lowe added four catches for 34 yards. Freshmen B.J. Kelley added two catches for 39 yards.
14 receivers in total caught passes for Oregon.
Arkansas State senior Ryan Aplin threw for 304 yards and three touchdowns on 29-of-44 passing. David Oku added 81 yards on 12 carries while Aplin chipped in 50 yards and a score on 12 carries.
Arkansas State accumulated 530 yards of total offense.