Mariota, Ducks fall flat in national championship game

ARLINGTON, Texas — The only thing missing from the final stat line for Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota was the thing he wanted the most.

The W that comes with winning the national championship.

The Oregon junior was good against Ohio State Monday night at AT&T Stadium but not good enough to guide the Ducks past Ohio State in a 42-20 loss.

"It hurts," Mariota said. "You put so much work, you put so much effort into the year and it’s tough to go out with a loss. Things happen. Ohio State played a great game today, a great program. They outexecuted us for a couple more quarters."

In what was likely his last game with the Ducks, Mariota threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns but was hounded all night by a Buckeye defense that made stopping Mariota priority No. 1.

Mariota came out hot, completing his first five passes with No. 5 going for a 7-yard touchdown that put the Ducks up 7-0 less than three minutes into the game.

But drops of the next two Oregon possessions set an ominous tone as the ball-control Buckeyes jumped out to a 21-7 lead. 

Mariota tried to lead Oregon back in the second half, with his first throw of the third quarter finding a wide open Byron Marshall for a 70-yard pass and catch that cut the Ohio State lead to 21-17. The Ducks closed to 21-20 but three straight Ohio State TDs put the game out of reach.

Mariota was knocked out of the game for a play in the fourth quarter after being hit by All-America Joey Bosa. He returned to the game on the same drive but struggled to get the offense going. His night ended with an interception by Eli Apple on the game’s final play.

It was just the fourth interception of the season thrown by Mariota, who finished with 42 touchdown passes. Monday he was 24 of 37 and he also ran for 39 yards. It was the fifth-consecutive game in which Mariota has thrown for at least 300 yards and the ninth time in 15 games this season.

Monday’s numbers gave him 5,224 yards of total offense, making him the first player in Pac-12 history to crack the 5,000-yard mark. 

"What we were able to accomplish this season nobody will be able to take that from us," Mariota said. "Being the champions of the Pac-12, being the Rose Bowl champions, that says a lot about what we were able to do this year. We fought through a lot of stuff. We just ended up short tonight."

Mariota said he’s going to take the next few days and talk with his family before deciding what he’s going to do. 

He’s likely a high first-round pick and Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich talked about Mariota’s legacy following the loss. He doesn’t think the fact that Mariota didn’t lead the Ducks to a win Monday night will change that.

"On the outside there’s that thing you have to win a national championship to solidify everything," Helfrich said. "I don’t know if that’s necessarily true. I think Dan Marino was a pretty good player and some of those other guys that have legacies and don’t have national championships. The stuff on the field you can certainly argue that was the best, certainly one of the top two or three greatest season in college football history."

Mariota, who has thrown at least one touchdown pass in all 41 of his games, isn’t concerned about his place in history.

"I don’t care about legacies," he said. "That’s other people’s opinions. My main focus was to be a great teammate and that’s all I hoped to accomplish. I don’t really care about legacies."

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