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Oregon's Marcus Mariota finds form late in win over Oregon State

The Civil War was supposed to provide some sort of clarity on whether Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is ready to declare for the 2014 NFL Draft.

So much for that.

Mariota played as poorly as he had all season for long stretches of Friday's game before finding his form with 29 seconds remaining, hitting senior wide receiver Josh Huff coming across the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown pass that gave the Ducks a 36-35 win over in-state rival Oregon State.

Mariota finished up 17-of-34 passing for 285 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, adding 53 yards on seven carries. But those raw statistics do not indicate how hit-or-miss Mariota really was in what might have been his last game at Autzen Stadium.

Mariota completed his first six pass attempts as Oregon built a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but he then missed on his next six to close the half, throwing two interceptions that allowed the Beavers to tie the score at 17-17. Mariota then completed his first four passes to open the second half, including a 28-yard touchdown strike to Josh Huff that allowed Oregon to retake the lead midway through the third quarter.

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Both sides of the Mariota-to-NFL debate added arguments to help their case. For Mariota skeptics, there were extended bouts of inaccuracy and a shaky pocket presence, neither of which bode well for a potential franchise quarterback. For Mariota backers, there were some unreal displays of arm strength and athleticism that, if refined, could make the 6-foot-4, 211-pounder a game-changing weapon.

If Mariota declares for the draft, he could be still be the first player to come off the board. If Mariota returns to school, Oregon could be in position to return to the top of the Pac-12 North. In short, it could be the decision that shapes football next season.

But for Oregon, which secured its sixth consecutive season with at least 10 wins, it will certainly have to replace Huff and might have to replace junior cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.

Despite jamming his shoulder in the first half, Ekpre-Olomu had a team-high 12 tackles, intercepted one pass and nearly came away with two others. And while Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks had 10 receptions for 110 yards, Ekpre-Olomu kept Cooks from taking over the game.

That distinction instead went to Huff, who had nine receptions for 186 yards and caught all three of Mariota's touchdown passes. Huff (5-11, 202) won't be a No. 1 receiver at the next level, but he is effective working out of the slot, a fine blocker in the run game, and has a knack for finding the seams in a defense.

Huff solidified those credentials in his final home game at Oregon.

Did Mariota do the same? Well, it depends on which Mariota you were watching.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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