Fiesta Bowl Countdown: Marcus Mariota makes Oregon’s offense go

At the heart of Oregon’s fast-paced, high-powered offense is Marcus Mariota, a redshirt freshman quarterback from Hawaii.

He is a dual-threat athlete who just finished an impressive season with the Ducks. Mariota threw for 2,511 yards and 30 touchdowns while completing 69.9 percent of his passes. The 6-foot-4, 211-pounder also averaged seven yards per carry while rushing for 690 yards and four touchdowns.

If not for sharing the spotlight with sensational running back Kenjon Barner all year, Mariota might have been a Heisman Trophy candidate this season.

For those reasons, some have compared him to Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.

“I feel like if there’s one similarity I feel that it’s we’re both athletic,” Mariota told the Oregonian earlier this week.

Though both players are effective in several different areas and have put up good stats, I’m not sure that’s fair. They both get the job done, sure. But they are different quarterbacks.

Mariota is faster than Klein, and likes to throw quickly into plays and keep Oregon’s offense moving. Klein is a more powerful runner than Mariota, and prefers to let plays develop before throwing downfield or choosing a hole to run through. Mariota reminds me more of West Virginia’s Geno Smith.

Oregon and K-State also use different systems. (You can check out some of Mariota’s plays below) The Ducks use a lot of play-action and read plays. Mariota has the choice to hand the ball off, keep it or fake a handoff and throw on almost every play. He even caught a touchdown pass this season.

Mariota has played well in just about every game, but here are his best two:

As a runner: 135 yards and a touchdown on just 10 carries against Arizona State.

As a passer: 377 yards and six touchdowns against California.

His worst game probably came against Stanford, because he had 16 incomplete passes and that’s the one game Oregon lost. But he also threw two interceptions against Washington State.

It was an encouraging first season for a quarterback who had to follow Darron Thomas and Jeremiah Masoli. But he is hoping for more against K-State in the Fiesta Bowl. In the coming years, he hopes to bulk up so he can run with both power and speed.

“Where I’m at right now is still a little skinny for myself,” he said. “But it’s got to be a happy medium. I’ve got to try to pack on a little bit more weight without losing my speed.”

But he wants to keep showing off his arm for NFL scouts, too.

“I’m a quarterback at heart,” he said. “I like throwing the ball a little more than I do running it.”

Bottom line: He can do both well. K-State’s defense will have its hands full with Mariota in the Fiesta Bowl.
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Next up on the countdown: The uniform-craze that has swept through college football started at Oregon.

Last time on the countdown: Just like last year, K-State’s bowl game is a must-see.

Editor’s Note: On Jan. 3, the Kansas State football team will face Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. With that in mind, I am counting down to the big game at University of Phoenix Stadium by attempting to write 21 blog posts in 21 days. I use the word “attempting” because I can only think of so many blog ideas. I’m confident that I can go 21 for 21, but your help is appreciated. Feel free to send a blog idea (or two) my way at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com or via twitter @KellisRobinett.