The hoopla is over. The islander quarterback is in fact a human being. His five interceptions the past four games prove his mortality. Yet, despite Kilimanjaro-sized expectations coming into his premier season, Marcus Mariota has weathered the storm of the first half of his first college football season — and he looked good doing it.
Expected by many Ducks fans to be more explosive than the volcanoes that formed his homeland, Mariota has been good, not great. But on a team with so many weapons and plenty of time to improve his own game, Mariota has a good chance at taking the Ducks to the BCS title game in his first season.
Sound familiar? The last quarterback to complete that feat, was in fact, Mariota’s predecessor, Darron Thomas.
Through Mariota’s first six games, the Honolulu native has thrown for 1,301 yards, 15 scores and tossed five picks. On the ground, he has racked up 221 yards and one touchdown.
In 2010, Darron Thomas’ first season behind center, DT’s stats through six games were almost identical to Mariota’s. Thomas had thrown for 1,231 yards, 14 touchdowns and five interceptions. He rushed for 221 and scored twice. Same amount of rush yards, same total touchdown count and same number of aerial turnovers.
Guess what DT did in the second half of that season? He threw for 1,650 more yards, 16 more touchdowns and only four interceptions. He also added 265 rush yards and three ground scores. Oh yeah, and he led his team to an undefeated regular season finish and came within short reach of a BCS National Championship.
Ranked third in the initial BCS standings this season, the Ducks — and Mariota — are in prime position to duplicate season efforts.
Through his two years as a starter in Eugene, Thomas didn’t win a BCS Championship. If Mariota doesn’t change that during his tenure, it will be a disappointment. Why? Because Mariota has more around him.
Some argue Thomas had the luxury of LaMichael James to ease his load and a cast of bigger, more reliable receivers at his disposal like Jeff Maehl, D.J. Davis and Lavasier Tuinei.
Well, Mariota has Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas in his backfield and has a far more diverse set of receiving options. At the end of the 2010 season the top four in receptions for Oregon were Jeff Maehl, D.J. Davis, Lavasier Tuinei, David Paulson. Together they combined for about 72 percent of the team’s catches.
Six games into 2012 and De’Anthony Thomas, Bralon Addison, Colt Lyerla and Keanon Lowe are the Oregon’s top four pass-grabbers. But they only combine for 48 percent of the Ducks’ receptions.
Midway through the regular season in DT’s rookie campaign, he had thrown 87 completions. At the same time marker, Mariota has completed 114 passes.
In all of 2010, Thomas had only seven pass-catchers who finished the year with five or more grabs. In less than half of that time Mariota has tallied 11 guys who have caught five or more balls.
Okay, we get it! Mariota is throwing the ball more, which means he is finding more guys, making him the better passer. But that doesn’t mean Thomas had fewer weapons, the Ducks just rushed the ball more in 2010 with LaMike — right?
Nope! The Ducks played a total of 13 games in the 2010-2011 season. Over that span, the Ducks carried the ball 629 times. This season, in six games, Oregon has 311 rushes, meaning they are on pace (if they play 13 games) to rack up 674 ground attempts.
This year’s offensive squad has more going for it, both on the ground and through the air.
So if Mariota is the better passer than Thomas, how about their other major responsibility as a quarterback — leadership?
It is hard to measure how great of leader a player is in stats. Thomas and Mariota are both fairly quiet guys, but Mariota is a notoriously even-tempered, soft-spoken young man. While Mariota has been a Duck for a much shorter time than Thomas was, Thomas managed to find himself as passenger in a pulled-over vehicle that had marijuana in it, twice during his career. While it is impossible to know if Mariota will find himself in similar trouble, indications thus far point to an Oregon tenure as a coaches’ favorite.
Yes, we are very, very early in the judging stages for Marcus Mariota, as there is a tougher schedule ahead and fires to be tested in. But when has little experience stopped fans and journalists alike from making lofty or lowly projections? We are talking about a guy who was hailed as a massive talent, when the public had only seen him throw a grand total of 26 passes in a scrimmage.
So if the numbers hold true, which they tend to, Mariota is set to be a centerpiece in a stacked Ducks squad that, on his arm and the shoulders of a bevy of talented teammates, will see great success in years to come.
More success than Darron Thomas and his cohorts did.