Day four of the Mariota love fest is upon us. This is probably the hardest day to go through - but it's interesting too. I knew that Mariota was injured, but watching these clips makes it really abundantly clear how limited he was comparatively to what he had been earlier in the season. So try and bear through the pain to appreciate just how good Mariota is at 100%.
Thanks to madmike for his videos and compilations - including this massive 30 minute compilation of all Mariota, all the time.
Washington State 2013 - the pinkening
Oh that lateral move. Skating past the leading tackler in the PAC-12 to that point and the ref. Arm tackle Mariota at your peril, earth humans.
Similar to the Tennessee how on earth did he juke that / jedi mind trick, somehow Mariota convinces the Washington State player that if he crosses the 25 yard line, he dies. It's not even a super big move. It's basically a shoulder dip. This looks a lot like flag football and the 5 count rule, and is as equally unfair as it would be if Mariota was playing on said flag football team.
Really? You get pressure from two guys who follow you on the naked bootleg, cross back to where the play isn't and throw to a sneaked out Byron Marshall on 4th and 7? And you make the throw on the run and 20 yards to exactly where it needs to be?
Also kudos to Byron Marshall on this, who is absurdly in-tune with Mariota's improv routine here. It looks like it's meant to be a backside screen potential but that's blown up early, so as soon as he sees Mariota running for his life he goes to where he needs to so he can get the first down.
I have to say if someone did this to my team it'd make me kind of cry.
Naturally the last highlight goes to Josh Huff. Mariota's showing off his patience here, waiting for the CB to commit to either guarding Huff or converging on Mariota while Addison clears out his assignment and gives Huff space. The CB wrongly commits to Addison going into the end zone as well, and Mariota's patience pays off.
Assignment football is really, really hard.
UCLA 2013 - the beginning of the end
This was the first week where I was starting to think Mariota might be injured, and looking at the film there's a huge difference in how Mariota is used. There were no roll outs and almost no Mariota runs. Part of that is likely due to UCLA's plan (using Anthony Barr as a spy) and their ability to get penetration, but watching Mariota stand as still as a statue in the pocket looks downright odd compared to the previous week.
This is another Mariota going through his progressions. What's great about this is the throw to the flare that allows Marshall to be at almost full acceleration as he catches the pass. It's exceptional ball placement, and Brent Musberger happily talks about it for like 15 seconds here.
I used the angle without Mariota in it to show the uncanny ball placement here. It's a very catchable ball that again, there's no chance of anything bad happening. Heck, it's almost certain not to be tipped due to how low it is. Herbstreit in the telecast was just thrilled by this play.
Stanford 2013 - 80% of Mariota is still awesome
Here you can see the lack of speed and quickness Mariota has as well as a significantly changed running gait. And even then, he's still fast enough to bootleg out and aware enough to look downfield and get De'Anthony Thomas.
Man, watching the vids like this it makes it so clear that something was up. But he was still amazing, as you'll see.
This is about as good as Mariota ever gets. Stays in the pocket for a while, breaks out after the first couple of options were gone, directs traffic as he rolls right and throws a great pass to his left to get a first down on 3rd and 8.
I just...yeah. Wow. Wow.
This game was just brutal to watch again. Oy.
And this is a great pass, splitting the triple coverage while rolling out and getting exactly what he needed. Some really great plays in a really, really crappy game.
Utah 2013 - Russell Wilson, is that you?
Today Grantland did an article on something they call a 'junk' pass - a pass that comes out of nowhere, requires absurd improvisation and just a crazy play that you shake your head about. This looks just like one of them. Mariota does this quick escape that looks like almost every Russell Wilson play I've seen in the last 4 weeks, does his patented jump pass and then hits Pharaoh Brown on the sidelines on a 30 yard in the air strike. I mean, look at Wilson here:
Same thing, right?
The subtle step up into the pocket to avoid the pressure and hit Evan Bayliss right out of his break is just great here. It's not a lot of motion at all but it's enough for him to step through his throw and make a great shot downfield.
A combination of great eye discipline, looking off the safety and then hitting Josh Huff in stride and on target for the TD. Look how #18 in the center of the field is entirely fooled by the combination of Mariota's eyes and Mundt sneaking out the side, clearing the middle of the field for a nice slant.
Something I've not shown a lot of yet is Mariota's ability to defeat the blitz. Usually blitzes get him scrambling, but with his injury that's not happening. Instead, he looks right, sees the pressure and throws an easy lob to the open player that leaves the area that the safety is blitzing from. He makes a simple pass because he doesn't need to do anything more and can let Mundt adjust as needed; all he needs is something in the area. The reason this works is Mariota's vision and knowledge of how the play works; when he sees the safety pressure he knows he'll have something open on his left, and it'll either be the receiver or the TE. He can see where the CB is covering and knows Mundt will be wide open.
It's another example of Mariota doing everything right so that it looks easy.
Arizona 2013 - the terrible, no good, very bad day
This might be what critics think about when they say that Mariota and Oregon are a one-read team. Not that that's exactly true here; he's looking at two reads before running it. The lateral and the awareness of Thomas Tyner to stick with the play in that alignment is kind of nuts.
And this was about it. There were a couple of pretty passes to Huff and Hawkins, but I don't want to subject you to any more thoughts about this game.
Civil War 2013 - the final Josh Huff love letter
Can resist Mariota trying to block someone. And this time he does it actually kind of effectively, though man is it an ugly block. He just kind of leans on the guy with his shoulder and falls down while his arms and legs flail about like rag doll physics. It's endearing to me to see Mariota's brilliance but know that there are a few things that he just isn't that great at.
He still tries, though.
Look at this compared to yesterday's throw to Huff against Washington. Mariota is clearly not able to plant as well with the injury and his arm strength suffers; Huff has to wait for the ball instead of getting it in stride (though the OSU CB tackling Huff before the ball gets there doesn't help things either). And it's still almost a 50 yard pass in the air with enough air on it to allow Huff to adjust to it.
It's also clear he's feeling a bit better than before in this game, as he does a designed roll out and makes the pass before Huff makes his break to the middle. And what a pass. 30 yard strike down the field to a spot between the coverage, throwing to the spot instead of the man and exactly on time.
This is a similar route concept and play to the TD to Addison against UCLA earlier this year, and it shows a similar understanding of where the ball needs to be and how to beat the coverage. Notice how well Mariota throws and how he's throwing even before Huff makes his break. The ball placement isn't as important as it was against Addison because it's on 4th down; if it gets tipped and intercepted, so what? But it's still a great, catchable pass that is almost impossible to defend unless you anticipate the route heavily.
And this is also a similar concept to an earlier play against Utah - the look left and then throw to a slanting Huff. The slant is a bit deeper (due to them being on the 15 instead of the 8). The safeties start right more, and the motion isn't to the left, it's to the right - which causes them to move out a bit to the right and give Huff a small window. Mariota's eye discipline keeps the right safety/LB (it's hard to tell what they are, but chances are they're an LB) on the left side of the field and out of the window for the pass. What I love is the WR at the top of the screen celebrating right away, knowing that Mariota has the TD even before Huff gets it.
Texas - Mariota is a running QB
Sorry for the poor quality of this one; the videos I'm going off here are...um...imprecise.
If you had only watched one Oregon game for the last two years and it happened to be this one, I can see why you might think Oregon is a 1-read run the ball kind of team - because man, is that what it looked like here. There were a ton more option plays, designed QB runs (like this play) and Mariota reading his first man and if it wasn't there, throwing the ball. Much like determining what Oregon's offense looked like all year based on the 2010 National Championship, this game looks, well, peculiar. It's probably due to Texas' superior secondary and safety play.
In any case, Mariota can run. He's not nearly as fast as he was earlier in the year (or even earlier in this article; go look at the WSU clips above) but he's still quite good. And very tough.
FSU fans reading this just puckered a bit at watching a triple option play executed so well. Mariota shows some wheels here too. #23 for Texas is in position to make a play on Mariota but doesn't commit and thinks he'll be able to quickly correct; he is very, very wrong.
Like I said, this game is all about short passes and run plays and plays we haven't seen for a while - like a shovel pass taken almost directly from the 2010 NCG. Mariota sells this nicely, doing the same kind of rollout that he normally does and looking downfield before turning quickly to the easy Huff pass. And then it's yet another Huff highlight.
I'm starting to see why people were so worried this season after losing both Huff and Addison, because Josh Huff was just a machine last year.
What a great play to end 2013 on. Mariota avoids the A gap pressure, keeps his eyes downfield, sets and throws a great shot right to the sidelines and gets the first down on a long down. Wow.