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MailTribune.com
  • Mariota stuck around for the end

  • SEATTLE — Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota doesn't get many chances to play in the fourth quarter, so he made this one count.
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  • SEATTLE — Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota doesn't get many chances to play in the fourth quarter, so he made this one count.
    Washington was on the ropes, trailing by 14 in the early stages of the final quarter in their game Saturday, when Oregon took over on its own 24.
    Mariota was dropped for a rare sack on first down, but it was just a temporary setback. On second-and-17, he stepped into the pocket and hit Bradon Addison between the numbers for a first down.
    On the next play, Mariota didn't even bother with his standard sleight-of-hand ball fake, taking off as soon as he caught the snap for a 10-yard scamper. Then, back to pass, he paused an extra beat to give Josh Huff more time to get open on a wheel route to take the Ducks inside the 10.
    Then came the scoring play. Addison broke wide open on his out route and took a pass in stride.
    Mariota wasn't taking any chances, not this time. Relentless and patient, powerful and with finesse, Oregon followed the lead of its sophomore quarterback to ease past the Huskies, 45-24.
    Mariota racked up 454 total yards and four touchdowns, completing 24 of 31 passes for 366 yards and rushing for 88 on 13 carries.
    "He was awesome, just awesome," Ducks coach Mark Helfrich said. —¦ He played really well, really smart, very productive. And a bunch of guys made a bunch of plays."
    The final margin of victory obscures just how tight the bulk of this cross-border rivalry game was.
    Through three quarters, the Huskies mustered a counterpunch every time Oregon looked primed to pull away. And when Bishop Sankey burst off tackle for a 25-yard score to cut the Duck lead to seven late in the third quarter, the 71,833 crammed under the eaves settled in for a dogfight.
    "They were pretty ready for our tempo," Mariota said. "My hats off to them. They came out and played hard."
    Then Mariota scrambled right, looped back left and turned on the burners for a 38-yard broken play. Addison torched his man on a fade for 30 more, and Mariota punched it into the end zone to restore the two-score lead.
    And after the resulting Huskies drive was buried under an avalanche of penalty flags, Mariota put the finishing touches on his brilliant afternoon.
    "The resolve of this team is special," Helfrich said. "The group of people we have on this team is special. If we're up by some number or down by some number, it doesn't matter."
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    PEDAL TO THE FLOOR: Such is the explosiveness of the Oregon attack that even the slightest lapse of concentration can be punished in the blink of an eye. And such is the confidence it instills that the Ducks never panicked, even as the Huskies stood firm for the bulk of the first half.
    "We had to go out there and do our thing, just go out there and execute," Mariota said. "I just told our guys: Relax, we'll be fine. Take it one play at a time and we'll be successful."
    The breakthrough came via a pair of plays Washington failed to finish. A mid-first-quarter bubble screen by the Ducks looked innocent enough as Addison appeared corralled near the sideline. But he spun out of a pair of tackles and broke clean for a 43-yard gain. Later in the drive, the Ducks were stuffed on fourth-and-goal at the Husky 1 — until Byron Marshall's second effort vaulted him over the goal line.
    And the final score of the half might as well be a program trademark: A quick snap that caught the defense on its heels and allowed Marshall to stroll untouched up the seam.
    Switch off for even a second and you get burned.
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    MORE INJURY SCARES: The news broke before kickoff that Oregon's star running back De'Anthony Thomas would miss his fifth straight week with an ankle injury.
    Then wideout Josh Huff had to be helped off the field after a first-quarter collision and Mariota appeared to tweak his knee on the second scoring play.
    So Huff's subsequent return — and 65-yard touchdown catch that stretched the lead to 28-21 — brought a sigh of relief as well as a vital score for the Ducks.
    "I just went out and told them that I felt good just running around," Huff said. "They told me to make some cuts "¦ and I felt good. So they allowed me to go back in."
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    TEN IN A ROW: Washington still leads the all-time series 58-43-5, but the days of UW dominance are well in the past. With the win Saturday, Oregon clinched its 10th straight victory in the series, extending the longest winning streak for either side in the rivalry.
    "It's a great achievement," Helfrich said. "For the fans, for the alumni, it's huge. It's a big deal. By the same token, it was number six. It's the sixth game we had to get through and now we need to rest, recover, rehab and get ready for number seven."
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    EXTRA POINTS: Mariota has accounted for 25 touchdowns this season and has zero turnovers. "¦ He has now gone 223 passing attempts without an interception, extending his school record. "¦ Oregon's six touchdowns were a season low — it had scored at least eight in each of its five previous games. "¦ Marshall recorded his fourth 100-yard game of the season with 106 yards on 19 carries Saturday.
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