Courtesy: Oregon Sports Information
EUGENE, Ore. – Marcus Mariota’s knee didn’t matter all that much against Utah.
Oregon’s sophomore quarterback threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns and the sixth-ranked Ducks rebounded from last week’s loss to Stanford with a 44-21 victory over Utah on Saturday.
Mariota went into the game with questions about the health of his left knee, which impacted his mobility in the 26-20 loss to the Cardinal.
De’Anthony Thomas caught a touchdown pass and scored on an 86-yard kickoff return for the Ducks (9-1, 6-1 Pac-12). Byron Marshall ran for two additional scores but the Ducks were slowed on the ground by Utah’s defense, rushing for 145 yards after averaging nearly 302 yards a game this season.
Utah (4-6, 1-6) was dealt a blow before the game when starting quarterback Travis Wilson didn’t make the trip to Eugene because of a concussion. Backup Adam Schulz threw for 157 yards and a touchdown and ran for another.
The loss to Stanford in all likelihood ended the Ducks’ shot at a spot in the national championship game.
Depending on how the rest of the season plays out, it may have also cost them a place in the Pac-12 championship game.
Mariota, who wore a brace on his knee against both Stanford and the Utes, insisted this week that his knee wasn’t an issue, but wouldn’t say if he was 100 percent. As a policy, Oregon does not discuss injuries.
Utah’s lone conference win this season came against Stanford. The Utes have lost four straight since then.
Wilson did not travel to Oregon for Saturday’s game. The 6-foot-7 sophomore is averaging 203 yards passing per game this season. He’s thrown 16 touchdowns with 16 interceptions.
Schulz had appeared in just three games for the Utes this season, completing 22 of 45 passes with one touchdown and one interception.
Mariota hit Thomas with an 8-yard touchdown pass and the Ducks added a 31-yard field goal by true freshman Matt Wogan to make it 10-0 in the first quarter.
Wogan took over as Oregon’s kicker for the final three games of the season, replacing Alejandro Maldonado, who missed a 37-yard field goal before halftime of the Ducks’ game against UCLA.
The Utes narrowed the gap on Schulz’s 34-yard pass to Jake Murphy with 2:52 left in the half.
Murphy was making his return after wrist surgery following the Utes’ Oct. 3 loss to UCLA. It was thought that the junior tight end might miss the rest of the regular season.
The Ducks answered the Utes quickly by scoring on Mariota’s 5-yard pass to Josh Huff – concluding a drive that took three plays and just 24 seconds – to make it 17-7 at the half.
After a 4-yard scoring run from Schulz, Oregon again quickly came back with Thomas’ touchdown on the kickoff return to make it 23-14.
The Ducks extended the lead on Mariota’s 14-yard scoring pass to Johnny Mundt, and Marshall’s 17-yard scoring run made it 37-14 with 32 seconds left in the third quarter.
Marshall added a 16-yard touchdown run in the fourth. Soon thereafter, Oregon sat Mariota.
With most of the Ducks’ starters out of the game, Bubba Poole ran for a 10-yard Utah touchdown with 6:01 left.
Still a Heisman candidate despite the questions about his knee, Mariota has thrown for 25 touchdowns this season, and run for nine more. He has not thrown an interception since last season.
Saturday’s game was the first between the teams since Utah joined the conference in 2011. Oregon won the last meeting 31-24 at Autzen Stadium in 2009.