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Marcus Mariota just about perfect as Oregon escapes with a win

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Dean Hare/Associated Press
Oregon QB Marcus Mariota did nothing to hurt his Heisman Trophy chances in a narrow victory over Washington State.

Marcus Mariota was under siege Saturday night on the Palouse.

His offensive line featured a walk-on due to injuries. He was sacked seven times. There was little to no running game.

And yet, despite all that, Mariota was just about perfect as Oregon escaped with a 38-31 win at Washington State. The Heisman Trophy front-runner was 21-of-25 on the night, with just a single miss in the second half, for 329 yards and five touchdown passes. He also ended up as the Ducks' leading rusher.

The game was close for nearly all the contest because No. 2 Oregon's defense was sleep-walking from the start. Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday once again had an impressive stat line against his Northwest rivals by going 43-of-63 for 436 yards and four touchdowns. Just as importantly, he didn't turn the ball over and was only sacked once.

Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, considered by most to be one of the top cornerbacks in the country, had a rough night defending Mike Leach's Air Raid offense. He was beat a number of times on various routes and seemed to have trouble with receiver River Cracraft, among others. The Ducks typically only rushed three or four defenders most of the night and the clean pocket allowed Halliday to pick apart the opposing zone.

NCAA hurdles champion Devon Allen continued his strong play to emerge as a top receiving threat for Oregon with seven catches for 142 yards and a pair of scores.

The story of the night, though, was the Ducks' defense, or lack thereof. After a solid effort against Michigan State and others, it didn't look anywhere close to a College Football Playoff contender.

But the Ducks survived thanks to Mariota and his magic behind center. He was just about perfect at Martin Stadium, and it was a good thing because that's exactly what his team needed on another wild late night of action in the Pac-12.

You can follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.

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