With the news of Marcus Mariota's decision to return for his junior season still stirring, it's only fitting that Mariota is coming off one of his best moments as an Oregon Duck. After giving the Oregon State Beavers the lead with under two minutes remaining in the game, the recently maligned Oregon offense took the field, in need of a touchdown to win the game. Mariota and company confidently drove the length of the field to win the game.
Let's take a look at the final drive of the 2013 regular season:
The drive all started off with a pass to Daryle Hawkins. The play call itself used a variation of the sail concept. Essentially, one receiver will push the zone coverage into the deeper portions of the field, while the other receiver cuts underneath the coverage across the middle of the field. Mariota and Hawkins were in perfect rhythm and immediately put the Beavers back on their heels.
Next, Oregon went back to another timing play. The outside receivers ran short stop routes, while the inside receivers ran deep curls. Mariota recognized the soft coverage from the Oregon State cornerbacks and immediately whipped the ball out to Bralon Addison, who used a quick hesitation step to get enough space to pick up the first down.
As the Ducks hurried up to the ball, the Beavers kept their same coverage package from the play before. In return, Oregon called a flood concept pass play. With the soft coverage Oregon State was showing, the flood concept would put a long crossing route in open space. However, that longer route requires more time for the play to develop, meaning that Oregon’s offensive line would need to hold the rush out a bit longer. OSU’s three man rush quickly broke into the backfield, forcing Mariota out of the pocket. While Mariota ended up finding Bralon Addison on the sideline, watch how Hawkins break his route into the open space in the middle of the field late in the play.
Addison ended up catching the pass out of bounds for an incomplete pass. If Mariota had just a few more seconds against the conservative rush he would have been able to find Hawkins over the middle.
Following the incompletion, Oregon State decided to bring a little bit of pressure off the left edge. Mariota wisely recognized the blitz and immediately found Johnny Mundt behind the blitz. Mundt then accelerated to the sideline, picked up another first down, and kept the drive moving.
After Mundt’s grab, the Ducks already found themselves in the red zone and dialed up a short passing play. At the top of the image, you’ll see two receivers running curls almost too close together. Something tells me that there was some miscommunication on this play, as the receivers ran virtually the same route, bunching the defense together and forcing Mariota away from that play side. Mariota had to pump fake and scramble to the opposite side of the field. On the bottom half, the receivers are running a Scat play, used to space out zone coverage for easy completions. By the time the receivers had ran their routes for the scat play however, Mariota was already off timing and was scrambling around.
Josh Huff makes a great move to slip in between two defenders in zone coverage for a nice gain on first down. Take a look at Huff’s efforts below:
After a throwaway play on second down, Oregon was faced with a third down and five just inside the 20 yard line. Obviously, this was a critical moment in the drive, seeing as though Oregon State would likely bring pressure for the first time all drive. In response, Oregon pulled its most Chip Kelly-esque move in quite some time:
The Beavers blitzed a linebacker and freshman lineman Cameron Hunt stonewalled him as Thomas Tyner slipped in the open gap for the conversion. This play really felt like the end of the game; there was no way Oregon was going to be held out of the end zone following that conversion, especially with Oregon’s recent struggles on third down.
Right after picking up the first down, Oregon calmly got right back on the ball while Oregon State scrambled to get lined up. After surveying the coverage, Mariota checked down and threw the ball out to Mundt, but threw it just a bit too high for the tight end, bringing up second down.
On Oregon’s second attempt from inside the 15, Josh Huff found his way behind the first level of zone coverage. OSU’s linebacker wasn’t able to disrupt his route at all, so Huff quickly glided in front of the Beaver safety into wide open space in the end zone. Mariota stopped to his side away from the rush and laced the ball to Huff. It might have been a bit behind him, but there was no way that Huff was going to let that chance go to waste as the Ducks capped the drive off with an emphatic touchdown pass over the middle.
In a game that really felt like the continuation of the trip to Tucson, it was quite a relief to see Oregon execute so well in crunch time. The final drive of the 2013 regular season’s circumstances have been a bit surprising, but ultimately, it was a tremendous way to cap off the year with a win over the hated Beavs.