The storyline of the Pac-12 championship game between Oregon and Arizona was all about redemption. Oregon had cured their "Stanford problem" but they still seemed to have an "Arizona problem."
You can cross that one off the list too.
The No. 2 Oregon Ducks completely dominated the much-anticipated rematch with No. 7 Arizona in a 51-13 win, punching their ticket to the first ever College Football Playoff while winning their 11th conference title.
Marcus Mariota was dominant as usual, completing 25-of-38 passes for 313 yards and five total touchdowns, including a career-high three rushing touchdowns. Mariota's performance earned him MVP honors for the night.
Darren Carrington was Mariota's favorite target of the night with seven catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. Charles Nelson also went over the century mark with seven catches for 104 yards.
On the ground, Royce Freeman led the way with 21 carries for 114 yards. Mariota accounted for three of Oregon's four rushing touchdowns.
The Ducks had no trouble moving the ball for most of the first drive. Darren Carrington hauled in a 23-yard catch to put the Ducks within field goal range. Oregon's drive would stall just inside the red zone as the Ducks settled for a field goal to take the early 3-0 lead. I'm always a believer in the whole "points are points" thing early in games. For once, the Ducks actually have a kicker capable of hitting field goals on a consistent basis.
On the ensuing kickoff, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu forced Tyrell Johnson to cough up the ball, giving possession right back to the Ducks already in Arizona territory.
Again, the biggest play of the drive was a pass to Darren Carrington, hauling in an 18-yard reception. However, the drive would stall again when Marcus Mariota couldn't hit Byron Marshall on a short pass that likely would've ended in a touchdown. The Wildcats have struggled on defense in the red zone this year, and early on, the Ducks weren't capitalizing.
Arizona isn't a particularly good red zone defense; opponents score TDs 60 percent of drives inside the 20. Ducks two FGs tonight.— Andrew Greif (@AndrewGreif) December 6, 2014
On Arizona's first drive, Troy Hill nearly came up with an interception that would have easily ended in the end zone. Former Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount was not impressed.
WE JUST DROPPED A FOR SURE PICK 6!!!! YOU GOTTA GRAB THAT BABY!!!!— LeGarrette Blount (@LG_Blount) December 6, 2014
For the rest of the quarter, it was a defensive standoff between the two sides. While Oregon dominated time of possession and only allowed 32 yards of offense during the quarter, they certainly left some points on the board and could have had a larger lead after 15 minutes.
The second quarter began with the same theme as the first quarter as yet another offensive drive stalled both the Ducks and Wildcats. The two sides appeared to be an early stalemate.
Early in the second quarter, the Ducks took advantage of a big penalty when the Wildcats were dealt a penalty for hitting Mariota late. The flag gave the Ducks a new set of downs to work with just outside of the red zone. On 4th down from the 1-yard line, the Ducks tried to get fancy by sending Mariota in motion, but Doug Brenner, the backup center, was hit with the false start penalty.
Did we just try and run the wildcat... against the wildcats? I think I would have preferred a fade route— Matt Daddy (@mattdaddysblog) December 6, 2014
As a result, the Ducks were forced to kick another field goal. This time however, the field goal would sail wide right, there's the Oregon football we're all familiar with!
Thanks to another solid showing from the defense, the Ducks would get the ball right back in no time. Another big penalty would bail the Ducks out, this time a pass interference penalty. Marcus Mariota would capitalize, scoring on a 7-yard touchdown run off the zone read to give the Ducks a 13-0 lead.
And that’s why Oregon is not Stanford. Can’t keep on giving Marcus Mariota red zone trips. Touchdown Ducks.— Pacific Takes (@PacificTakes) December 6, 2014
For those of you who believe in numbers and such, a 13-0 lead was a VERY promising place for the Ducks to be.
Oregon has won 90 straight games in which it held a 13-point lead. Last loss: 2005 vs USC (Oregon led 13-0, then lost 45-13).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 6, 2014
Arizona continued to struggle to move the ball on their next drive as the Ducks forced the fourth straight 3-and-out against the Wildcats. Suddenly, this game looked like it was turning into the 49-0 blowout over Arizona back at Autzen in 2012.
After forcing another 3-and-out, the Ducks had their biggest play of the half as Mariota hit Charles Nelson who took off downfield for a 74-yard gain. Just like that, the ball had moved from the Oregon 15 to the Arizona 11. Marcus Mariota once again capped off the drive with an identical touchdown run to the pylon, giving Oregon a 20-0 lead going into the half. The touchdown was also Mariota's 50th of the year.
Thanks to big runs from Royce Freeman and walk-on Kenny Bassett, the Ducks were able to add three more points at the end of the half, taking a 23-0 lead into the locker room.
Oregon's offense finally got going in the second quarter, but the defense was the true star of the first half, completely shutting down the Wildcats. Seriously, they never even had a chance to get going.
Coming into the night, Arizona was averaging 481.3 yards of offense, 189.8 on the ground. So far here, Cats have 25 yards, minus-9 rushing.— Rob Moseley (@DuckFootball) December 6, 2014
Needing any kind of change, the Wildcats turned to Jesse Scroggins in the second half. While they did manage to finally convert on a 3rd down, Nick Wilson would come up short on 4th an 1.
Oregon pounced on the opportunity as Marcus Mariota hit Devon Allen in the end zone, extending Oregon's lead to 30-0. The touchdown pass was Mariota's 100th of his career.
On Arizona's next drive, the Wildcats took advantage of a mental lapse by Troy Hill as Cayleb Jones blew by Hill, who just stopped in his tracks. Probably not quite like the Ducks drew it up...
Methinks that was a busted coverage ...— Rob Moseley (@DuckFootball) December 6, 2014
On Oregon's ensuing drive, Marcus Mariota made perhaps the throw of the year. As the pocket completely collapsed around him, Mariota somehow escaped and delivered a bomb 46 yards down the field to Darren Carrington. On the next play, Mariota hit Carrington again for the 11-yard touchdown pass, putting Oregon back up by 30.
Note Mariota won the Heisman at 8:40 Pacific Time on 12/5/14...wow.— Paul Swangard (@PaulSwangard) December 6, 2014
As if things couldn't get worse for Arizona, they did. Erick Dargan came up with his sixth interception of the year. 15 yards would be tacked on to the turnover when Steven Gurrola was ejected for fighting.
Oregon capitalized off the turnover as Mariota rushed in for his third rushing touchdown of the night, a new career high. If it was up to Twitter, Mariota would have just been handed the Heisman trophy before he even left the field tonight. By this point, Oregon's domination had reached unheard of levels.
Oregon was even outscoring the team that plays there all season long.
In a cool moment late in the game, Kenny Basset added a 19-yard rushing touchdown. Up until this fall, Basset had been a walk-on.
Mark Helfrich then got the celebratory bath with not just one, but two coolers full of Gatorade.
So what's next for the Ducks? THE FIRST EVER COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF, THAT'S WHAT! Oregon is all but guaranteed a spot in the Rose Bowl. The match-ups will be determined on Sunday, so stay tuned to see where the Ducks will play and who they will face.