Mariota's passing (not running) leads Oregon over Utah 44-21
EUGENE Maybe the most discussed knee injury in college football failed to slow Marcus Mariota's performance against Utah on Saturday.
The Oregon quarterback threw for three touchdown passes, as the Ducks overcame some sluggishness to beat the Utes 44-21 at Autzen Stadium.
Mariota never looked to run the ball, either on a scramble or a zone read play, until the third quarter, and the Ducks struggled to run the ball again.
But Mariota's arm did plenty of damage. He increased his touchdown pass total to 25, still without an interception this season, and likely kept himself in the Heisman Trophy talk.
"I've learned to play with it," Mariota said, adding that he hopes to be 100 percent by Oregon's next game.
The Ducks (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12) will play at Arizona on Saturday, Nov. 23; kickoff is 12:30 p.m. (ABC). The Wildcats lost at home to Washington State, 24-17, and fell to 6-4 overall, 3-4 in Pac-12 play.
The Utes were severely hampered in their quest for an upset, as starting quarterback Travis Wilson missed the game (concussion).
Mariota, on the other hand, completed 19 of 26 passes for 288 yards and three scores before taking a seat in the fourth quarter.
"We game-planned all week for certain looks. We were able to get a lot of looks that we practiced," Mariota said.
The UO-Utah game came before the 95th consecutive Autzen sellout, although the 56,481 in attendance showed little enthusiasm, perhaps stinging from last week's 26-20 loss at Stanford. And it was hardly a rout through 2 1/2 quarters.
The Utes (4-6, 1-6) made it a competitive game for a while against the No. 6 Ducks. They trailed 17-7 at halftime, but drew within 17-14 early in the third quarter.
Oregon then went on a 27-0 run, though, and was never headed.
"Even though there was a little adversity at beginnging of the game, we were able to fight through it," Mariota said. "That says a lot about these guys. I'm proud of these guys. We bounced back from a tough loss. That's all we could do."
Early in the third quarter, Utah still had life. A pass interference penalty on Oregon's Terrance Mitchell on a third-down play helped the Utes get their second touchdown. QB Adam Schulz also made some plays, throwing 14 yards to Dres Anderson, and Lucky Radley ran seven yards for another first down.
Schulz then passed to Dominique Hatfield, whose nifty run-after-catch produced a 48-yard play to the Oregon 4. Schulz scored on a 4-yard TD keeper, getting Utah within three points.
"I thought their quarterback played really well," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said. "We had to try to force him to win the game."
But after Utah made the score 17-14, Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas put some distance between the home team and the visitors again, fielding the kickoff and scampering 86 yards for a touchdown.
Matt Wogan, recently anointed as UO's starting place-kicker, missed the extra-point attempt, leaving the score 23-14 Ducks.
After a defensive stop, the Ducks marched 93 yards to score and take command of the game. Mariota threw 13 yards to Thomas, 21 to Josh Huff and 23 to Daryle Hawkins on the drive, and then connected with Johnny Mundt on a 14-yard TD pass for a 30-14 lead.
The Ducks added another touchdown on Byron Marshall's 17-yard TD run near the end of the third quarter, and it was 37-14.
"I love this team," Helfrich said. "These guys are tough dudes, mentally and physically."
A little later, Bralon Addison had an astounding, highlight-reel punt return for another touchdown called back because of an illegal block penalty.
But Marshall's second TD against the beaten Utes, a 16-yarder early in the fourth quarter, stretched Oregon's edge to 44-14.
"We don't get our heads down if we're not up 48-0 at half," Mariota said. "We play in a tough conference. You're going to get the best game out of each and every game."
Utah got a TD with 6:01 left on Bubba Poole's 10-yard run.
By then, Jeff Lockie and third-stringer Jake Rodrigues were taking turns at quarterback for the Ducks, who had other subs on the field.
Mariota, who hardly looked to run against Stanford as well, didn't even attempt a run in the first half, but he slung the ball around pretty well when not getting sacked.
Oregon led 17-7, thanks to some fine defense and a late touchdown in the second quarter. The plucky Utes played some decent defense, but their offense, without Wilson, only challenged the Ducks on one first-half drive.
Mitchell intercepted Schulz, and the Ducks converted the turnover into points. Mariota threw an 8-yard TD pass to Thomas, and the Ducks led 7-0.
The Ducks moved 68 yards on ther next possession and news flash opted for a field-goal attempt on fourth-and-2. Wogan booted a 31-yard field goal, and it was 10-0.
The Utes -- namely tight end Jake Murphy -- made some plays on a second-quarter possession. His leaping one-handed grab gave Utah a first down at the Oregon 47. Later, Schulz executed a perfect play-action play and found Murphy for a 34-yard touchdown pass.
The Ducks responded quickly. Mariota hit a streaking Addison for 57 yards, then hooked up with Huff on a 5-yard touchdown pass to make the score 17-7.
Oregon had only 190 yards offense in the first half. Mariota, turned into a pocket passer, was 13 of 16 for 180 yards and two scores, but the running game produced only 10 net yards on 15 carries -- and the Utes sacked Mariota three times.
"We have to coach that better," Helfrich said of the Oregon run game. "We were not very good from an execution standpoint, but credit to (Utah)."
SCORE BY QUARTERS
UTAH 0 7 7 7 -- 21
OREGON 10 7 21 6 -- 44
OREGON De'Anthony Thomas 8 pass from Marcus Mariota (Matt Wogan kick), 8:43
OREGON Wogan 31 FG, 2:41
UTAH Jake Murphy 34 pass from Adam Schulz (Andy Phillips kick), 2:52
OREGON Josh Huff 5 pass from Mariota (Wogan kick), 2:07
UTAH Schulz 4 run (Phillips kick), 10:09
OREGON Thomas 86 kickoff return (kick failed), 9:56
OREGON Johnny Mundt 14 pass from Mariota (Wogan kick), 5:42
OREGON Byron Marshall 17 run (Wogan kick), 0:32
OREGON Marshall 16 run (Wogan kick), 12:09
UTAH Bubba Poole 10 run (Phillips kick), 6:01