(PHOTO) Marcus Mariota in action during Oregon's 51-13 win over Arizona in the Pac-12 Conference Championship game played at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif., on Dec. 5, 2014. (Photo by Rich Kolbell)
Oregon avenged a 31-24 loss to Arizona in October and led from the opening drive. Oregon had all the answers to Arizona’s offense holding the potent Wildcat offense to a total 199 yards and two touchdowns, with final score on the last play of the game.
“Arizona got the better part of us this season and we never looked back from it,” said Oregon’s head coach Mark Helfrich on his team’s win. “It’s a different team this time of year. We have elevated in a bunch of different ways.”
Oregon had 617 yards of total offense, 316 passing and 301 rushing. Marcus Mariota, who was named Most Valuable Player of the game was 25-for-38, 303 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for three scores among his 33 yards of running the ball.
“This is a huge accomplishment for us,” said Mariota on the win and what is in store for the Ducks for the rest of the playoff season. “Now we need to continue to improve and get better to get ready for whoever comes next.”
While Arizona was unable to generate much offense, it initially held the Ducks to a field goal in each of the first two drives. Not until the 7:27 mark of the second quarter was Oregon able to cross the goal line and that was on Mariota’s first rushing TD of seven yards. With 1:34 left in the first half, Mariota again ran the ball into the endzone, this time from 4-yards out. The first half ended with Aidan Schneider booting his third field goal of the game from 31-yards out. In the first quarter he had success from 34 and 22 yards. Oregon led at intermission, 23-0.
Arizona received the opening kickoff of the second half but a stingy Oregon defense caused the Wildcats to punt after six plays and Mariota and company went to work. Mariota finished the drive by hitting Devon Allen for an 4-yard strike and the Ducks were up 30-0.
The Duck defense shined all night, but did make a mistake on the next drive when a mis-communication occurred in the Duck secondary and Arizona quarterback Jesse Scroggins found Cayleb Jones wide open, and Jones went into the endzone on a 69 yard scoring play.
The Ducks quickly responded with an another score when Mariota scrambled out of trouble from a heavy pass rush and threw across his body 11 yards hitting Darren Carrington in the back of the endzone. Following the successful point after, the Ducks were up 37-7. Mariota then ran the ball in from 1-yard out on the ensuing drive for his third rushing touchdown of the night and following the PAT, Oregon was up 44-7 headed into the fourth quarter.
Oregon’s final score of the game came on a 19-yard run by Kenny Bassett and with Schneider doing the point after work, Oregon took a 51-7 lead.
Carrington was the leading receiver with seven grabs for 126 yards and a TD. Nelson had 104 yards on four catches while Allen had five catches for 36 yards. Byron Marshall also had five catches totaling 23 yards.
After the game the inevitable questions to Helfrich and Mariota was about his Heisman chances. While Mariota remained quiet, his coach took the opportunity to make a dramatic observation about his quarterback’s chances.
“If this guy isn't what the Heisman Trophy is all about, then I'm in the wrong profession,” commented Helfrich with conviction. “Just on the field and off the field, our team is made up of a bunch of guys that are in his mold, and a lot of that is due to his leadership. Obviously, that speaks for itself. But if you want your son or daughter to have a role model, pick this guy.”
Then Mariota responded to his coach.
“Thanks, Coach, for all the nice things you said,” said Mariota humbly in response to Helfrich’s compliment. “I wouldn't be in this position without my teammates. There are 11 football players that have to play. You know, without those guys in the locker room, none of this would be possible. Again, I'm just very proud of the guys in the locker room and just thankful that we got the win.”
Defensively, Oregon played tough as the Duck defensive front physically man-handled the Arizona offensive line. Arizona could not get a running game going as Wildcat star back, Nick Wilson had 26 yard on his 13 carries. Jerrard Randall was the leading rusher for Arizona with 74 net yards, but that was all done with the game well decided in the fourth quarter.
“Well, they played well, we didn't,” said Arizona’s Rich Rodrigues of Oregon’s performance. (Oregon) outscored us, outcoached us, outplayed us, did a nice job. We didn't execute well.”
Tony Washington had a sack among his two Tackles for Loss (TFL)
“Our defensive coaching staff really just allowed us to focus on our keys,” admitted Dargan of the defensive effort. Our front seven played pretty good.”
Oregon was penalized 12 times for minus 74 yards though 11 of those flags were thrown in the first half.
Next up for Oregon is most likely the Rose Bowl though that won’t be official until Sunday afternoon when the NCAA announces the final playoff rankings.
Mariota named FCG MVP…
• Oregon QB Marcus Mariota threw for a Pac-12 Championship-record 313 yards and set a championship record with 5 TDs responsible for (2 Pass, 3 Rush). Mariota’s three TDs on the ground tied a championship game record (Tyler Gaffney, STAN, 2013; LaMichael James, ORE, 2011). Mariota threw his 100th career touchdown pass in the third quarter and in so doing extended his streak of games with a touchdown pass to 39 games. He has thrown a TD pass in every game of his college career. The Oregon offense went for 617 total yards a Championship record.
Defense, Defense, Defense…
• For the just the second time this season, Arizona was held scoreless in the first quarter. (9/20 CAL, W, 49-45), while Oregon scored six points. The 6-0 first quarter score was the lowest-scoring first quarter in Pac-12 Football Championship history with at least three TDs being scored in each of the three previous Championships’ first quarters. The game’s first touchdown was scored 22-and-a-half minutes into the game. In all three previous championship games the first touchdown was scored within the game’s first four minutes.
• Arizona was held scoreless in the first half, it was just the second time this season that the Wildcats went a full half without scoring (11/1, L, UCLA, 7-17).
• The all-time Championship game record of 13 penalties was broken in the first half when the two teams combined to commit 15 penalties, in total the teams committed 20 penalties. Oregon broke its own previous single-team Championship-game record of 10 penalties (ORE, 2011) by committing 12 tonight, with 11 coming in the first half.
• Oregon kicker Aidan Schneider set the Pac-12 Championship game record for made field goals (3) and field goal attempts (4)
Wildcats Score Championship’s Longest TD Pass…
• Arizona QB Jesse Scroggins threw a 69-yard touchdown pass to WR Cayleb Jones in the third quarter, the longest passing touchdown in Championship game history, (Previously 65 yards, ASU). The TD was the Wildcats’ first score. Prior to the pass the Wildcats had only gained 50 total yards on offense, crossing into Oregon territory on only one of their first eight offensive possessions and at one point going three-and-out on six straight drives.
New Championship Receiving Record…
• Oregon WR Darren Carrington set a Championship record 126 receiving yards. Carrington and Charles Nelson both tied the Championship record with 7 receptions. (Devin Fuller, UCLA, 2012)
• Oregon ran a season-high 94 plays while Arizona ran a season-low 61 plays.