The Oregon Ducks' 30-7 trouncing of Texas in the Alamo Bowl tonight was no real surprise, given that Vegas pegged the Longhorns as two-touchdown dogs, and that Marcus Mariota is back, iffy knee and all. Mariota finished 18 of 26 for 253 yards and 133 yards rushing, his best overall game since before UCLA injured him in the Ducks' eighth game.
Oregon lost two of four after that game against the Bruins. After rushing for 493 yards on 49 carries in the first seven games, he closed with 89 yards on 32 carries in the final five games. The head injury in an ugly loss to Arizona was the capper. He went from Heisman favorite to falling out of the top 10 in the vote. A lonely nation turned its eyes toward the icky spectacle of Jameis Winston. Super Mario led his 10th-ranked team into Mack Brown's retirement party in San Antonio with nothing on the line except Duck face.
Two pick-sixes won't get enough credit for the final margin; for all the merits of the perfectly solid Oregon D (24th nationally in points allowed this season) it generally doesn't need to make more than a couple of stops a game if the offense is managing even a B-plus outing. Shutting out the Longhorns in the second half was a feat, but it doesn't bode as well for the Ducks' 2014 as the game Mariota put up. The sophomore rushed for 132 yards in the first half, on 12 carries. With the defense harassing the Longhorns QBs into a 9-for-23 evening, Mariota ran just three times for a yard in the second half.
He said after the game it was nothing more than rust: "I'm out of shape. I haven't been running around like this in a long time. I started to cramp a little bit." In any case, why drive him any harder than absolutely necessary? Mariota has already said he's foregoing the 2014 draft. There's every reason to think the Ducks could've run the table this season if he'd been at full speed the whole year. Alternate-universe Oregon would be getting ready to play Florida State for the national title — and in the first season after Big Balls Chip absconded to sculpt a poor man's Peyton out of something called Nick Foles. With a healthy Mariota, this is still an Oregon world we're all living in.
Texas, meanwhile, finished the season 8-5 and certifiably sucks for playing garbagey football, in addition to sucking by being Texas.
Photo credit of Mariota getting his head nearly beheaded: AP