Dec 23, 2014 12:27 PM
Oregon's Marcus Mariota: AP player of year
The Associated Press
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is The Associated Press college football player of the year.
Mariota won the AP vote in the same landslide fashion he won the Heisman Trophy. He received 49 of the 54 votes submitted by the AP Top 25 media panel. Alabama receiver Amari Cooper drew three votes. Wisconsin running back and Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston had one vote each.
Mariota is the first Oregon player to win AP player of the year, which was first awarded in 1998, and the eighth quarterback to win it in the last nine years.
The junior has also won the Maxwell Award and Walter Camp player of the year, and the Davey O'Brien and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which go to the top quarterbacks in the country.
Oregon will face Florida State and last year's Heisman winner and AP player of the years, Jameis Winston, in the College Football Playoff semifinals on Jan. 1 at the Rose Bowl. The winner will face Alabama or Ohio State in the national championship game on Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium in North Texas.
With his combination of speed and a strong arm, Mariota is a play of the day waiting to happen.
He set a Pac-12 record by accounting for 53 touchdowns, including 38 TD passes. The junior is the highest rated passer in the country (186.33) and has thrown for 3,783 yards and just two interceptions.
"He's an absolute competitor, an incredible perfectionist," Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said.
Here are a few of the most memorable Mariota moments from 2014:
In what was perhaps the biggest nonconference game of the season, Michigan State had Oregon in trouble in the second half. It was 27-18 Spartans midway through the third quarter and the Ducks were facing a third-and-10 after having already punted away their first two second-half possessions.
Michigan State collapsed the pocket around Mariota, who eluded three defenders, slipping and stepping around a mess of Spartans around his feet. Mariota stumbled out of the pocket and pushed a pass to Royce Freeman, who went for 17 yards.
That drive ended soon after with a touchdown. And so did the next Oregon drive. And the next one. The Ducks went on to win 46-27.
SCOOP AND SCORE
As good as Mariota is, a little luck helps. Against UCLA, the Ducks were dominating when Mariota was driving them toward another score in the third quarter. He faked a handoff and the ball slipped from his hand and hit the turf. The ball bounced back into Mariota's hands and he secured it on the go like a dribble drive bursting into an untouched sprint to the end zone from 23 yards out.
Oregon's rout of Stanford, Mariota's first win after two losses to the Cardinal, had plenty of flashy plays from the star quarterback. Still, it was an 8-yard run early in the second quarter on a third-and-5 around midfield which said more about Mariota than any of the big gains and great throws. The Stanford losses called into question the Ducks' toughness. On this play it was Mariota busting through a tackle and dragging a Stanford defender for a first down that led to a touchdown. At that point it was obvious Oregon was done being pushed around by the Cardinal. The final: 45-16 Ducks.
From Oregon's first big game of the season to its latest. The Ducks and Mariota had already jumped out to a huge lead against Arizona and Mariota assured there would be no miracle comebacks in the Pac-12 championship. As he did against Michigan State, Mariota escaped a crumbling pocket and rolled to his right with his eyes down field. On the move, he stepped into a long twisting deep throw that hit Darren Carrington in the numbers for a 46-yard gain.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP