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Marcus Mariota’s march to the Heisman: Remembering his time at Oregon, 2012 Part 1

Celebrating Heisman week, we look at some of the best plays through Marcus Mariota's career. First up: 2012.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Despite my pessimism earlier after Melvin Gordon's historic day, Marcus Mariota is going to win the Heisman this year.

I can say it with 100% certainty. The two players that had any buzz about them - Melvin Gordon and Amari Cooper - did not explode in their final game. Mariota, meanwhile, had one of the best games of his career on one of the biggest stages of his career - and he was already a 10-1 favorite. We don't need to make a case for Mariota's Heisman. We don't need to show the haters who believe that he is simply a system QB or is throwing short passes how they're wrong. We don't need to do that.

Instead, we're going to celebrate Mariota's utterly brilliant career. We're going to show exactly how good Mariota has been in his 3 years. We're going to show precisely why Marcus Mariota is the best player in the history of the Oregon football program. We're going to show why he will win the Heisman in a blowout.

Many of the highlights come from Madmike's great videos. Thanks, Mad mike!

2012: the emergent superstar

Arkansas State - this is his first game

Mariota throwing through 3 defenders into tight coverage? On his first start of his career? Oh yes, please. This wasn't a laser throw like we'll see later, but it's a perfectly placed throw into very good coverage, where even if it's slightly off is going to be an interception. Instead, it's the first TD pass of his career.

This is one of the things I love about Mariota's play. Much like Russell Wilson, Mariota is constantly looking to make plays downfield. He could have likely run for good yards on first down without a problem, but instead he gets 15 yards because he's looking for the bigger play. He's directing traffic, telling his receiver to not block for him and release down field.

Again, this is is first game of his career.

Okay, who does this? This is a 25 yard throw on the run throwing his guy open and hitting him in stride. Really? How do you deal with this as a defense? This sort of thing makes defenses cry.

Fresno State - man he's fast

Mariota should have been sacked. Or thrown this away. Or gotten a couple yards and had to punt. Instead, he gets a  first down on 3rd and 7 because he can extend the play like mad. Again, look how he's always looking for that extra yard, that play that can keep the drive alive.

Blitz? Blitz? Good luck with that. Much like Dennis Dixon, Mariota has deceptive speed and his stride just eats up yards like no one's business. Unlike the play where he was looking downfield, he knew he didn't have time - so he commits to the run straight away and just goes. Great decision making here - and great on being decisive.

Tennessee Tech - I hear you like arm strength


Want arm strength? This is probably still bruising Mundt's torso.

This is Mariota's third game, and clearly he's improved his game significantly. Look how he effortlessly moves in the pocket and sidesteps the pressure. He doesn't move up in the pocket, he moves laterally and keeps his eyes downfield. He then throws a perfect  20 yard corner in stride.

Ho hum. Just roll out of the pocket, throw 30 yards on the run and hitting your receiver on stride for another 10 yards. Mariota could have easily run for the first here too.

Arizona 2012 - an Arizona problem?

Zip into tight coverage for a 16 yard strike? No problem. When people say that Mariota doesn't have arm strength or he only is throwing to wide open guys, I laugh a bit - and this is a good gif to keep in that back pocket and pull out if you need to show otherwise.

If you remember the Byron Marshall play from OSU two weeks ago this should look familiar. Mariota looks off the safety, fakes the out and then throws a perfect pass in stride to Bralon Addison Man that looks good.

Avoid 3 guys in the backfield, roll out and then hit the receiver on a 3rd and 20? Sure. No prob.

Washington State 2012 - the Magician

How on earth does he do this? How does he stay inbounds and avoid the tackler and get into the end zone from the 15? This is another magician moment. Note that he doesn't throw across his body to get the crossing receiver because that's too ugly of a throw. He just takes it on himself. Wow.

Washington 2012 - not this year

I love how he just casually dodges the UW rusher like he barely notices his presence. It's like  zen quarterbacking. He doesn't ever take his eyes off the end zone. And then fires into double coverage in the tiny window that exists for half a second.

This one is as much a highlight for Josh Huff as it is Mariota. His pocket presence here is great. He does a good job of reading his first and second reads, waiting, then moving easily into the open spot and giving Huff a nice pass that lets him use his strength to the end zone.

What I love about this one (other than Mariota's superior arm strength) is the ball placement.  Colt Lyerla is covered well here. Mariota throws it to a spot where either Lyerla makes a good play on the ball or the ball is going to be out of bounds and incomplete. Those are the only two possibilities essentially. Mariota's historically good TD-INT ratio (over 8) isn't an accident - it's because he makes choices like this, where either something good is going to happen or nothing bad will happen.