EDITOR’S NOTE AND PREFACE:
The story below, after the asterisk/divider, comes from Dale Newton of Bloguin’s Oregon site, The Duck Stops Here. Follow Dale and continue to read The Duck Stops Here for more Heisman coverage, leading into coverage of Oregon’s 2015 Rose Bowl battle against Florida State.
A brief preface to Dale’s story:
Remember that longstanding problem about non-USC players from the West Coast failing to get the Heisman Trophy balloting recognition they deserve?
It’s nowhere to be found this week, a testament to a season clearly worthy of the most prestigious individual award in college football.
Marcus Mariota was named a Heisman Trophy Finalist Monday night, along with Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon and Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper.
He’s the third Oregon player to be invited to New York, after Joey Harrington and LaMichael James. This time Oregon’s junior quarterback is the prohibitive favorite to win the first Bronze Doorstop in school history.
The award presentation takes place Saturday, December 13, on ESPN, at 8 p.m. Eastern time, 5 Pacific.
Over the years, ten Ducks have finished in the top ten in balloting. The only winner from the state is Terry Baker of Oregon State in 1962, and the last non-USC player to win from the West Coast was Jim Plunkett in 1970.
Mariota passed for 3783 yards and 38 touchdowns this season, ran for 669 yards and 14 more TDs, also caught a touchdown pass thrown on a halfback option by Royce Freeman. In all he accounted for 53 of the Ducks 77 touchdowns while leading the team to a 12-1 record, a No. 2 ranking, the Pac-12 championship, and the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Rose Bowl versus 13-0 Florida State.
He’s one of six players in college football history to have over 10,000 passing yards and 2000 rushing yards, the school record holder in yardage, total offense, and touchdown passes (101). This season he lead the nation in quarterback rating, passing efficiency, and yards per attempt.
Mariota threw just two interceptions this year while operating behind a patchwork offensive line and with a group of young receivers. His leading targets included four freshmen, two sophomores, and a converted running back. He lost tight end Pharaoh Brown in game ten versus Utah.
Cooper and Gordon have both had exceptional seasons. Gordon led Wisconsin to a 10-3 mark with 2,336 yards rushing, just under 300 yards shy of Barry Sanders’s all-time NCAA season record. Cooper set an SEC receiving record with 115 catches for 1,656 yards and 14 touchdowns for the top-ranked Crimson Tide.
Mariota issued a statement through the Oregon Athletic Department.
“It is an honor to be named as a finalist for this year’s prestigious Heisman Trophy,” he said. “It is humbling to be considered for an award that I have admired for a very long time. I would like to thank my teammates and coaches as I could not have been recognized as a finalist without their help.”
It would be the greatest miscarriage of justice since Sacco and Venzetti if Mariota failed to win. It would take dead sportswriters voting in Tuscaloosa and former Heisman winners abducted by aliens. Mariota had a superb season and plays an exciting, entertaining brand of football. His character and humility would restore some luster to an award that’s been marred by scandal and misbehavior in recent seasons.
Chris Pietsch of the Eugene-Register Guard put together this video package:
Room 21 at the Oxford Academy in Cypress, California submits their fan ballot: