Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota reminded everyone what he can do when healthy with a dazzling first half, while the Ducks' defense led the way in a 30-7 win over Texas in the Alamo Bowl on Monday.
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Defensive back Avery Patterson and linebacker Derrick Malone each returned an interception for a touchdown, and an embattled front seven had seven tackles for loss with two sacks to give retiring coordinator Nick Aliotti a memorable sendoff.
All the issues that prompted Texas head coach Mack Brown's retirement, effective at the end of the game, popped back up again: poor quarterback play, an erratic offensive line, questionable play-calling, and a defense that was abused by the spread offense featuring a mobile quarterback.
Mariota was 18-of-26 passing for 253 yards and one touchdown and rushed for 133 yards on 15 carries, showing the acceleration and movement of the dominant force he had been before a knee injury slowed him down during the second half of the season. However, Mariota stiffened up noticeably in the second half, and Oregon began calling plays that did not require him to move.
The game would have been an even bigger rout if not for stops in the red zone, where Mariota must continue to develop touch on his passes and speed up his progressions. But in finishing his second season as the starter, in which he accounted for 40 total touchdowns and just four interceptions, Mariota's unreal skill set and untapped potential mean he could well be jockeying with Florida State redshirt freshman Jameis Winston to be the first quarterback off the board in the 2015 NFL Draft.
Of the top prospects who could selected next May, Texas senior defensive end Jackson Jeffcoat was the most impressive, posting six tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. Oregon junior cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu had six tackles and one tackles for loss, and junior running back De'Anthony Thomas rushed three times for 13 yards and caught two passes for 24 yards.