The “Mighty Oregon” tan squad led by redshirt freshman QB Marcus Mariota made it clear Saturday afternoon they weren’t about to lose to their talent laden brethren on the “Fighting Ducks” dark squad. And they didn’t. Mariota led his spring squad to an impressive 41-14 win in front of a spring game record crowd of 44,129 in Autzen Stadium.
For the last month during spring practice, a vail of un-penatrable secrecy surrounded Chip Kelly’s squad
leaving the media and fans wondering what the makeup of this 2012 squad would actually look like come fall camp. And certainly one of the biggest questions surrounded the quarterback position. Today, fans and media alike got a good look at Chip Kelly’s brand new ferrari – and the name on the jersey was Marcus Mariota.
Mariota ran for two touchdowns and threw for another in his Autzen Stadium debut. And while Mariota shined, sophomore quarterback Bryan Bennett seemed to struggle. Bennett threw 2 interceptions and fumbled once on a QB sack ending his spring game 19 of 32 for 209 yards and 1 touchdown. Bennett also carried the ball 18 times for only 27 yards and no scores. Mariota on the other hand was 18 of 26 for 202 yards and 1 score through the air. On the ground, Mariota had just 5 carries for 106 yards The highlight for Mariota though came at the 10:17 mark of the second quarter when Mariota faked an inside handoff and ran 82 yards up the middle for a touchdown. Even more impressive was Mariota’s speed as he out-ran the secondary including CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.
While head coach Chip Kelly downplayed the significant difference in the way his two QB’s performed on Saturday, it was still an impressive debut by Mariota. “I thought Marcus did a really nice job” said Kelly in his post game comments. “I think there was a couple of times when both of those guys forced the ball a little bit. That’s why you have days like this. It’s interesting to see how guys react. I think it’ll be a good learning lesson for both of those guys.”
After the game, Bennett was obviously disappointed in his performance and was a no-show to the Oregon media room, but he did return to answer questions when most of the media had already left. “I feel like I had 14 good practices and picked the wrong day to have a bad day,” Bennett said. “… It wasn’t my day.”
Kelly emphasized this wasn’t a game to determine the fall depth chart including the quarterback position. It was simply the 15th practice of spring drills. And while it was an actual game with referees and full contact, not much can be gleaned in the way of what the roster might actually be come this fall. “We don’t have to make a decision today” said Kelly. “We won’t put a whole lot more of what this is,…this is a different situation because this is a game atmosphere. It won’t be the end all in our decision.”
The scoring began early for the tan squad when they took advantage of a Bryan Bennett fumble at the 9:40 mark of the 1st quarter. Bennett fumbled in the backfield on the tan squads 48 yard line when he was hit trying to run. Defensive End David Kafovalu recovered for the “Mighty Oregon” squad giving them their first scoring opportunity. Mariota led his team on a 10 play – 52 yard drive ending with a 3 yard touchdown run by Ayele Forde. On the day, Forde performed well carrying the ball 11 times for 68 yards and the single score.
Late in the 1st quarter, the tan squad scored again, this time on a 14 yard touchdown run by Mariota to push the lead to 14-0. The one shining moment for Bennett and the “Fighting Ducks” dark squad came in the 2nd quarter when Bennett fired a 28 yard touchdown strike to B.J, Kelly who was open in the flat and put a plant move on the corner allowing him to find the end zone. From there though, it was all Mariota and the tan “Mighty Oregon” team. Mariota found the end zone on his 82 yard run up the middle and also threw a 35 yard touchdown pass to Daryle Hawkins over the middle giving the tan squad a 28-7 lead with 8:50 to play in the 2nd. After that, redshirt sophomore ( LB ) Tyson Coleman intercepted Bennett at the 5:59 mark of the 2nd quarter and ran 38 yards into the end zone giving the tan squad a commanding 35-7 lead going into halftime.
In the 2nd half, both squads scrimmaged to a running clock. The remaining scores came on 3 yard touchdown run by the the dark squads Kenny Bassett and two made field goals by Eric Solis of the tan team.
Moving forward, Kelly says the big questions for the fall is depth at key positions in the defense and at the wide receiver position. ”There’s some big holes” said Kelly. Especially for us at wide receiver trying to find out who’s going to play there….and at tight end. “I feel we have two proven running backs in Kenjon and De’Anthony, but where’s the depth behind them and I think those will be some question marks as we move forward.”
And while most of the fans left Autzen Stadium Saturday afternoon none the wiser as to who the Ducks signal caller might be in the fall, Kelly simply shrugged it off.
“I’m pleased with our quarterbacks,” Kelly said. “It’s not a position I’m worried about.”