"Next man in." It's a mentality that got the Ducks to where they are today. When a key player goes down with an injury, someone else is always ready to step up. When another player struggles, another is ready to come in and pick up the slack.
Before the game, if I had told you that Marcus Mariota wouldn't be the top performer of the day (although he did win offensive MVP), you probably wouldn't believe me. If I had told you that the key players would be Thomas Tyner, Darren Carrington and Evan Baylis, you probably wouldn't believe me. But that was exactly what happened.
On the ground, many anticipated Royce Freeman to carry the workload for the Ducks, and while Freeman did contribute a pair of short-yardage touchdowns in the first half, it was Thomas Tyner who shone brightest on the ground for Oregon. Earlier in the week, Tyner had spoken on wanting to prove a point in the Rose Bowl now that he was healthy again. He did just that, carrying the ball 13 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns, including a 21-yard touchdown run in the 4th quarter to put the final exclamation point on the win.
Through the air, Devon Allen was expected to play a key role. Unfortunately, Allen went down with a knee injury and will miss the national title game. The "next man in" for Oregon was Darren Carrington, who had seven catches for 165 yards and two touchdowns, both which came at critical times in the 3rd quarter. His two touchdowns in the Rose Bowl matched his total from the entire season. Carrington had a big game in the Pac-12 championship against Arizona, and stepped up again on an even bigger stage in Pasadena.
In post-season football, Darren Carrington has 14 catches for 291 yards & 3 TDs. #GoDucks— Craig Pintens (@UOPintens) January 2, 2015
Also worth mentioning was the play of Evan Baylis, who was stepping in at tight end for the injured Pharaoh Brown, a gap that raised a lot of questions heading into this game. Baylis rarely saw the field this year and had made four catches for 45 yards and a touchdown all season. Against the Seminoles, Baylis made six catches for 73 yards, including a 30-yard reception that helped set up a touchdown run by Royce Freeman to put the Ducks up 25-13 in the 3rd quarter. On that play, Baylis was initially hit at the 25-yard line. He then powered his way all the way down to the 11-yard line, showing incredible strength.
This is exactly what makes Oregon so dangerous. They may not have superstar wide receivers, but they have a superstar quarterback who makes those around him better players. It will be interesting to see who will step up in the national championship game against Ohio State to be the latest unsung hero.