Cole Elsasser-USA TODAY Sports

Beavers hoping McMaryion has big game

Sophomore quarterback Marcus McMaryion will have his second career start when the Beaver face the Huskies in Seattle on Saturday. Will this be a Cinderella story for the gunslinger?

Saturday's loss to Utah in a torrential downpour was much closer than the majority of viewers expected but ended up as a costly game for the Beavers offense. Starting quarterback Darell Garretson has a broken ankle and is finished for the season. Backup Conor Blount is out for Saturday, and possibly longer, with a knee injury. Next up is Marcus McMaryion, who gets his first start of the season against a Washington team that destroyed Oregon 70-21. Not a recipe for a success for the young player, but not all hope is lost.

McMaryion has been the forgotten quarterback at Oregon State after being relegated to third string to start the season. However, the sophomore possesses the ever-critical starting experience that could give him an advantage heading into Saturday’s action. A redshirt freshman in 2015, McMaryion played in seven games and was named the starter for the Civil War.

During this surprisingly exciting game, McMaryion and the Beavers offense mixed up picture-perfect drives with some bad stretches, recovering from a 31-7 deficit at halftime. Seth Collins alternated quarterback snaps with McMaryion and scored three rushing touchdowns, but nothing was more impressive than a key drive after the Beavs stopped the Ducks on fourth-and-goal. McMaryion led a 98-yard drive and hit big throws to Ryan Nall and Noah Togiai. The best play came when he threw a 26-yard completion up the seam to the big tight end for a critical first down. Collins capped off the drive with a spectacular rushing/leaping touchdown to put the Beavers within 10 points.

Look, I should mention that this drive was made possible by Nall’s ridiculous runs, but McMaryion was the one making accurate throws to the receivers. He and Nall formed a perfect duo against the Ducks.

Sure, leading a 98-yard scoring drive doesn’t seem that impressive on the surface, but there are plenty of college quarterbacks who can’t make the plays in big moments.

Tools to Work With

Like all of Gary Andersen’s quarterbacks, McMaryion has some wiggle and can scramble if needed, which he proved with a read-option rushing touchdown against Oregon. While McMaryion isn’t a burner like Seth Collins, he can still move the chains with well-timed runs and toughness.

As a passer, he has a live arm and appears to favor Jordan Villamin as the main receiver. During the Civil War, McMaryion and Villamin hooked up four times on crossing and hook routes for a total of 72 yards. Of course, the first-time starter wasn’t focused only on Villamin as he also mixed in passes to Ryan Nall, Noah Togiai, and Victor Bolden. Even Hunter Jarmon got in on the action.

That’s all well and good, but what does one performance in the Civil War mean for this season? As McMaryion showed on Saturday, his experience in limited action as a freshman was a big factor as he came into a game late against a heavily-favored opponent and went 5-9 for 76 yards and one touchdown to bring OSU within five points. This was a big time drive under terrible circumstances.

Possible Downfalls

Being a freshman in his first career start, McMaryion was obviously tentative against Oregon. The quarterback missed some wide open targets with throws into the dirt and even threw an interception on a deep pass. McMaryion was definitely streaky at times, and his accuracy issues ended a few promising drives. This issue does seem fixable seeing how McMaryion’s accuracy improved as he grew more comfortable in the offense. Unfortunately, he does have a ways to go to improve upon a 40% career completion rating. 

The other possible downfall is McMaryion’s tendency to slightly panic as his time in the pocket increases. The Beavs ran a fairly simple offense during the Civil War that really only required McMaryion to find his primary target and fire an accurate pass as quickly as possible. Most of the problems came when this first read was covered and McMaryion needed to scramble around and find a second option. The majority of these extended plays ended with a pass in the dirt or McMaryion on his back.

Has the playbook expanded over the summer, or will the sophomore quarterback still run a limited offense?

What’s the Likely Outcome?

Let’s be honest, a road trip to Seattle isn’t exactly the perfect backdrop for McMaryion’s Cinderalla story, and the Beavs will most likely lose to the Huskies. However, the new starter could provide some much-needed momentum for the passing offense and struggling receiver Jordan Villamin. The Beavers are currently ranked 117th in the nation in passing offense, something that Coach Andersen calls “not good”. What an understatement. The duo of McMaryion and Villamin could help change this ranking with a strong performance against the Huskies.

It will be very interesting to see how the Beavers attack changes with McMaryion as the quarterback and freshman running back Artavis Pierce in the backfield. Ryan Nall is doubtful for Saturday’s game with a foot injury, so the young guns will be in charge. I would expect a much smaller playbook as Coach Andersen tries to get McMaryion in an early rhythm and possibly uses Collins in the Wildcat.

Of course, this is all speculation until the Beavers and Huskies kick off this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. Tune into the PAC-12 network to see how the action plays out. 

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