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Oregon QB Marcus Mariota comes up short in loss to Stanford

STANFORD, Calif. -- Marcus Mariota has been nothing short of remarkable since taking the starting quarterback position for Oregon as a redshirt freshman last season. The only blemish for Mariota and the Ducks in that span was the 17-14 overtime loss last season to Stanford, as the UO offense was flustered by the Cardinal front seven.

Mariota threw one interception in that game, but has not in the 10 games since, a span of 293 pass attempts.

How is Mariota faring Thursday? Follow along for quarter-by-quarter analysis of the Heisman contender's play live from Stanford Stadium:

First Quarter:The first quarter for Mariota and the Ducks looked eerily similar to last season's loss, with Stanford's pressure keeping Mariota from setting his feet and throwing the ball with real power. However, Mariota has already made one highlight-reel play, drifting to his right on 3rd-and-8 before throwing across his body to the left and finding Keanon Lowe for a 19-yard reception.

"A lot of guys can make that throw, but not a lot will (risk it)," NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "To me, just him seeing (Lowe) was impressive."

Mariota was 5 of 11 for 57 yards and did not have a single rushing attempt, though he did lose nine yards on a sack. With the pressure Stanford is generating from only three or four pass rushers, Mariota will need to be effective in the quick game for UO to get back on track.

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Second Quarter: Mariota did his part, hitting on four of his six pass attempts in the quarter for 58 yards and driving UO into the red zone. But running back De'Anthony Thomas fumbled short of the goal line, and Stanford drove it the other way for a field goal and 17-0 lead going into the locker room.

With the quick-strike nature of the UO offense, this game isn't out of reach by any means. The UO offensive line, however, will have to give Mariota enough time to connect on a deep ball or two. Mariota missed the only long-strike opportunity he had in the first quarter, a play that looms very large right now.

"Feels like he hasn't played in two hours," Jeremiah said of Mariota's second-quarter performance.

Stanford held the ball for 20:53 in the first half, including a whopping 12 minutes in the second quarter.

Third Quarter: Now that was a disaster of epic proportions. Stanford took a 23-0 lead into the fourth quarter that feels like Georgia Tech's famous 222-0 win over Cumberland, and Mariota hurt his knee while losing a fumble to end another drive in Cardinal territory. Mariota was 3 of 9 for 20 yards in the quarter, but it is hard to say where his culpability rests facing relentless pressure from a defense that sensed blood.

The big question now is how much longer UO head coach Mark Helfrich subjects Mariota to such unyielding abuse?

Fourth Quarter: It got really interesting at the end. Two late touchdowns, including a Mariota strike to tight end Pharoah Brown on 4th-and-12, put UO in position for an onside kick that would have given the Ducks a chance to take the lead. Instead, Stanford recovered and three runs ended the game.

Ultimately, Mariota didn't do enough in the first three quarters against the suffocating Stanford defense. In Mariota's defense, there may not be a quarterback in college football that could have fared any better if put in the identical position.

Follow Dan Greenspan on Twitter @DanGreenspan.

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