Marcus Mariota doesn’t let the moment get too big for him at Levi’s Stadium
Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich was dishing out the standard postgame comments in regard to Marcus Mariota. After watching his team cruise to a 59-41 victory over Cal, Helfrich called his quarterback a “stud” and continued to ramble on about how unique Mariota is to the rest of the college football world.
But at the end of his statement, Helfrich snuck in a hopeful, blindsiding quip.
“Marcus is such a stud and it’s great that he has another year and a half left,” Helfrich said with a serious demeanor.
The contingent of media personnel in the press conference at Levi’s Stadium let out a collective chuckle.
“What?” Helfrich questioned in response.
The humor in Helfrich’s statement is blatantly obvious. After electing to return to college instead of entering the draft, Mariota has managed to avoid the potential problems associated with returning to Oregon under a Heisman microscope. He’s been consistent, efficient and arguably better than he’s ever been. With scouts representing 12 different NFL organizations in the press box watching him, Mariota’s draft stock might be the highest its ever been.
On Friday night, Mariota stepped onto the field at Levi’s Stadium — The home of the San Francisco 49ers — and turned in another successful performance. Before Mariota could focus on playing, he had to spend some time taking in the stadium and being a photographer. He took plenty of pictures for his father and his brother, both of whom are huge 49ers fans.
After he sent the photos to his family, Mariota switched his mindset and focused on the game.
“You can’t let these moments get too big for you,” Mariota said.
“It’s just another game.”
Mariota turned in another day at the office, completing 18-of-30 passes for 326 yards and five touchdowns.
Shockingly to Helfrich, Mariota also reminded his coach of his human nature: The redshirt junior quarterback made a mistake. Most notably, Mariota was intercepted for the first time this season on a tipped ball from Cal outside linebacker Hamilton Anoa’i that landed in the awaiting hands of safety Stefan McClure.
“It’s almost funny,” Helfrich said. “You just expect him to be perfect.”
Mariota added, “I was upset with myself. I’m definitely going to learn from it. It’s one of those things. During the game obviously it’s kind of frustrating. Coach kind of joked with me and got me to kind of relax a little bit and forget about it.”
Right now, it’s all smiles and laughs for Oregon. The Ducks are averaging 49 points a game in their last three contests. Even with a mistake against the Golden Bears, Mariota and the offense appears to be hitting its fastest stride.
“It’s fun because this entire offense is starting to click,” Mariota said.
Follow Joseph Hoyt on Twitter @JoeJHoyt