Oregon’s offense went three and out on their first possession and before long the visiting Volunteers had a 7-0 lead and were thinking upset.
“That’s gonna happen,” head coach Mark Helfrich said. “Whether it’s a dropped ball or a penalty or a missed assignment, we’re gonna make a few mistakes. And it’s how you respond to those mistakes that defines you in the long term.”
The Ducks responded to the adversity by scoring the next 59 points with quarterback Marcus Mariota establish a new career high, finishing the day 23-of-33 for 456 yards and four touchdowns.
After an Alejandro Maldonado miss on the Ducks second possession Matt Wogan made it 7-3 and the Ducks defense quickly forced a three and out.
Oregon then quickly drove 37 yards in four plays to score their first touchdown of the day after Bralon Addison’s 40 yard punt return gave the Ducks great field position.
On the play, Mariota rolled out to his left, stopped on a dime to freeze a Tennessee defender, took a few more steps and fired to freshman Johnny Mundt who was able to walk into the endzone for the score.
Mariota also picked up 44 yards on the ground on four carries–though his rushing numbers took a hit because of the two sacks Mariota took on the day–and a touchdown.
In praising the Ducks overall offensive performance-687 total yards- Helfrich acknowledged he hadn’t looked at the stat sheet yet, took one look at the box score and said “we’ll take that.”
The sophomore from Honolulu has now tossed seven scores through the air in 2013 without throwing the ball to the other team. The win propels him into the Heisman Trophy conversation, but Mariota stresses he–and nobody else on the Ducks–are concerned with individual accolades.
Two of today’s touchdown passes went to Mundt, starting in place of Colt Lyerla, who missed the game because of what head coach Mark Helfrich somewhat cryptically called “circumstances.” Whatever the circumstances were, Mundt knew on Friday that he’d be getting the start on Saturday. The true freshman from Modesto, California said he was nervous yesterday, even though he didn’t want to admit it to anyone.
By gametime though, he was ready to go.
“The nerves kind of went away overnight,” Mundt said. “I knew my assignments, I just had to execute.”
And that he did, catching five balls for 121 yards and two scores–no catch more impressive than a 57 yard reception to end the first quarter that surprised even his teammates.
“You see those types of things in practice,” Mariota said. “But to see them in a game is another thing.”
Mundt was a favorite target on Saturday, as was Josh Huff, who finished with 125 yards on six catches, but the Duck offense proved again it doesn’t matter who has the ball, they’re going to make things happen.
“(Oregon’s receivers) have the ability to turn any five yard out into a 60 yard touchdown,” Mariota said. “That’s the awesome part of playing in this offense… We have all sorts of playmakers, we just have to get them the ball.”