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Ducks freshman QB quickly, quietly takes team under his wing

A down-to-earth bird
2012-09-21T00:00:00Z 2014-07-08T15:35:58Z Ducks freshman QB quickly, quietly takes team under his wingPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 21, 2012 12:00 am  • 

In high school, Marcus Mariota was forced to run extra laps for refusing to yell at his teammates.

Yeah, he's that quiet.

"Kinda sorta," he said. "I'm not a guy that likes a whole bunch of attention, but I guess it comes with the territory."

That territory - which often spans from the Oregon Ducks' line of scrimmage to the end zone - is the envy of all but a handful of quarterbacks across the sport.

Mariota, who doesn't turn 19 for six weeks, has the keys to the Oregon's "Blur" offense, which Saturday faces the Arizona Wildcats in its first Pac-12 test of the season at Autzen Stadium.

"He's a shy guy, he's a quiet guy," said running back Kenjon Barner, who leads the Ducks with 108 rushing yards per game.

"But he's an absolute man in a guy's body."

The redshirt freshman has been almost unstoppable in his first three career games.

In 31 possessions, Mariota has led the Ducks to 19 touchdowns, a clip of 61.3 percent.

Contrast that to Saturday's counterpart, fifth-year senior Matt Scott. The UA quarterback - who is fourth in the nation in total offense - has led UA to 15 touchdowns in 43 drives, a 34.9 percent clip.

"I can't commend him enough on the job he's done so far," Barner said. "He handles every situation as though he's a veteran.

"He's far mature beyond what his age says."

The Honolulu native was a bit of a surprise starter this season. Unlike fellow quarterback Bryan Bennett, Mariota had not appeared in a college game before this season. And because Ducks practices are closed, no one outside the program had seen the 6-foot-4-inch, 211-pounder lead the scout team.

"He's a very accurate thrower," coach Chip Kelly said. "He makes a lot of quick decisions. He gets the ball out of his hand fast."

Mariota said he was thrilled when he was named the starter Aug. 24 - "Anyone would be," he said - but then he called his parents. His dad, Toa, was born in Samoa and met Mariota's mom, Alana, an Alaskan, at Chaminade University in Honolulu.

"The first thing my dad said was, 'OK, now what?'" Mariota said. "That humbled me. That's the kind of people my parents are.

"When I got it, for me, it was go time."

Mariota left his debut game after leading the Ducks to 50 points in less than 24 minutes. His team scored touchdowns in his first nine career drives.

He's completed 58 of 77 passes for 674 yards, throwing eight touchdowns and only one interception.

Mariota has rushed for 108 yards, too, and leads the Pac-12 with a passing efficiency rating of 180.54.

Fourteen of the Ducks' 23 scores have come on drives lasting two minutes or less. Seven have lasted one minute or less.

He's been so good that Barner said the offense "doesn't feel too different" from last season, when it was run by Darron Thomas, the program's all-time touchdown passes leader.

Mariota's only difficulties, it seems, come from the attention.

As much as he loves UO fans, he's bewildered when he is recognized around Eugene.

"This attention, it's something that I feel - I really don't know," he said.

On the field, though, he's loud enough to be assertive.

"That's the nature of playing the position," he said. "It's brought me out of my shell and brought me out of my comfort zone.

"To be uncomfortable is a good place to be."

UP next

• Who: No. 22 UA at No. 3 Oregon

• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

• TV; radio: ESPN; 1290-AM, 107.5-FM

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Pac-12 South football standings

Team W L T PCT
Arizona 5 1 0 0.833
Utah 5 1 0 0.833
USC 5 2 0 0.714
ASU 5 1 0 0.833
UCLA 5 2 0 0.714
Colorado 3 4 0 0.429

Pac-12 North football standings

Team W L T PCT
Oregon 7 1 0 0.875
Oregon State 4 2 0 0.667
Stanford 4 3 0 0.571
Washington 5 2 0 0.714
Washington State 2 5 0 0.286
Cal 4 4 0 0.500
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