Nobody would give a straight answer as to exactly how much Marcus Mariota’s mobility was limited, but it was clear the Ducks sophomore quarterback wasn’t exactly looking to run.
Mariota officially had four rushes for -18 yards, but three of those carries were sacks for losses of three, 9 and 11 yards. On his one actual carry, Mariota picked up five yards before getting out of bounds.
Some of that had to do with the way the defense was playing, with defensive ends forcing Mariota to hand the ball off on read options, but some of it can also be attributed to a gameplan designed to keep the Heisman hopeful safely in the pocket.
“I think he was a lot healthier going into this game than he was a week ago,” offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. “I think he’s close but we still didn’t want to put him in too many positions where things were designed for him to run.”
But that may not have been entirely different even if Mariota was at 100 percent.
“(Utah) does a great job of accounting for the quarterback in their scheme anyways,” Frost said. “Not a lot of people have had a lot of luck running the quarterback on designed runs.”
For his part, Mariota acknowledged some discomfort but stressed multiple times that he wasn’t about to use his knee as an excuse.
“They’d have to pull me off the field for me not to play,” Mariota said.
The quarterback added three more touchdown passes to his highlight reel and continued his remarkable streak of games without an interception, bringing the number to 353 pass attempts without an interception. Of the top 135 quarterbacks by yardage in the NCAA this season, only Mariota is yet to throw an interception.
“I almost want him to throw one to start a game–just lob it up to the free safety,” Helfrich said. “It’s bizarre…there were a couple tipped balls last week and a couple this week that for whatever reason found the turf–it’s phenomenal. That’s an 11 man deal.”
Mariota completed 19 of his 26 attempts on the night, none bigger than the 57 yard pass to Bralon Addison on the Ducks first play from scrimmage after Utah cut the lead to 10-7.
“The corner bit on a flat route and I was able to stick it behind the corner and let Bralon run on to it,” Mariota said.
Addison finished as the Ducks leading receiver in a very balanced effort offensively. Addison, Josh Huff and De’Anthony Thomas all had four catches each, Daryle Hawkins added three and the tight ends combined for four receptions for 81 yards with Pharaoh Brown making two catches for 42 yards, Evan Baylis getting 25 yards on his only reception and Johnny Mundt finding the endzone for the fifth time this season.
The Ducks travel to Tuscon to take on Arizona next week, and there’s a good chance Mariota’s knee will be strong enough for him to go without the knee brace, but the Ducks will cross that bridge when they come to it.