Marcus Mariota was 6-for-7 passing for 100 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter to lead Olive to a 27-7 victory over Gray in Oregon's spring game Saturday in front of 37,129 fans at Autzen Stadium.
In defense of Tony Washington, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and the other defenders playing opposite the program's star, the quarterbacks were wearing red jerseys to signal they were not to be tackled.
Mariota made the intra-squad scrimmage look easy while his backups struggled for the most part. The fourth-year junior, who would have been a first-round pick in Thursday's NFL draft had he left after the 2013 season, credits offensive coordinator Scott Frost for improving his footwork.
"Through this whole process with Coach Frost the one takeaway is you throw the ball with your feet," said Mariota, who also ran the ball five times for 23 yards. "A lot of the bad throws I had were because of my feet not being in the right place or not being set in the right way."
The other four Oregon signal-callers currently on the roster were unable to improve their footing in the competition for the No. 2 position behind Mariota.
Jake Rodrigues showed off a strong arm and quick feet in the first quarter, but the redshirt sophomore finished 7-for-18 passing for 66 yards with one interception. The officials also blew the whistle to rule the Gray starter down for three sacks.
The other co-backup from the 2013 season, fellow redshirt sophomore Jeff Lockie, threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Austin Daich on a flea-flicker play in the third quarter to finish 7-for-12 with 121 yards.
"Meh," is how coach Mark Helfrich described the performances of the reserve quarterbacks. "I thought a couple times a couple of them absolutely forced it. That's human nature trying to win the job with one throw. And that's the quickest, fastest way to lose it.
"We'll go back to the drawing board a little but just from a mentality standpoint. Those guys are good players and they did a lot of good things during spring and they wanted to go out and make it happen. Sometimes that isn't how it works."
Taylor Alie, a redshirt freshman walk-on coaches praised throughout the 14 spring practices, threw a touchdown pass to Darren Carrington to get Gray on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter. The Sheldon High graduate was 3-for-8 for 18 yards and also had an interception.
"I think I could have done better, I should have done better," Alie said. "That's why there are two midterms. I've got to study and come back for the next one."
Damion Hobbs was 5-for-9 for 71 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown throw to Devon Allen on the final snap of the game as the running lock expired.
"I think those guys really wanted to win the job on one throw when they really didn't need to," Mariota said. "After a couple drives those guys settled down a little bit. I thought Jeff and Taylor and Jake made some good decisions, and Damion had an awesome last drive."
Allen was the offensive star of the day, scoring touchdowns on both of his receptions for a total of 94 yards.
"Marcus is a great athlete, so he can kind of make everybody look good," said Allen, a track standout who caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from Mariota. "He can throw the ball with anybody, he can run the ball with anybody, he's one of the fastest guys on the team. It's fun being out there with him."
First-year defensive coordinator Don Pellum said there is plenty of depth and talent on his side of the ball. It showed with 12 different players making a tackle for loss, six different players recording a sack, three different players recovering a fumble and two different players grabbing an interception.
Junior defensive lineman DeForest Buckner was particularly disruptive for Olive with 2 1/2 tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
"The spring game, I feel, is for the fans. We try to put on a show for them," defensive lineman Arik Armstead said after tallying the lone sack of Mariota for the Gray. "It was a good cap on our spring. We can take that into the summer, our workouts, and try to get better."
Helfrich, who was Chip Kelly's offensive coordinator before his promotion, sees the six total turnovers differently.
"A little bit sluggish today. I think there were about 37,000 people that left today going, 'I don't know.' And they're probably right," he said. "Overall, we got a lot better. Through 14 practices, I'm really pleased with where we are. Now it's a matter of building on that and not maintaining during the summer. ...
"We have to get better."
Follow Ryan on Twitter @rgduckfootball. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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|Title Annotation:||Oregon Football; Mariota cruises, backups finish with mixed results, and the waiting for the start of fall camp begins|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||May 4, 2014|
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