As Oregon struggled offensively early, perhaps the lone bright spot in the first half was quarterback Marcus Mariota who, despite missing parts of a series due to injury, threw for 222 yards and a pair of touchdown passes in the first half.
Then as the Ducks pulled away in the second half it was Mariota throwing the ball all over the place for 155 more yards and four more scores to finish with career highs in passing yards with 377 and touchdown passes with six. Mariota’s sixth touchdown of the game tied him for the Oregon record for scores through the air, equaling Darron Thomas’s six-touchdown game against Nevada last season.
It was the second-straight career night for the redshirt freshman from Hawaii, who has thrown for 685 yards and ten touchdowns in the last two weeks without turning the ball over.
“He just continues to prove me right,” Kenjon Barner said. “His future is extremely bright. The way he carries himself and the way he plays. He plays his game like he’s been playing for years; he plays like a true veteran.”
Three of Mariota’s touchdowns were to Josh Huff, who finished as the Ducks’ leading receiver with 109 yards on five catches, but he wasn’t the only Duck wideout making big plays. De’Anthony Thomas was kept out of the endzone but still finished with 101 yards receiving on eight catches. Tight end Colt Lyerla caught four passes for 64 yards.
And on a night when Oregon’s workhorse back was held to just 65 yards rushing, Oregon needed every bit of that production.
“At the end of the day, we still had a good game,” Barner said. ”I’m not the type of (person) that has to be ‘the guy.’ Josh Huff deserved everything that came his way tonight. Marcus continues to impress, guys just continue to step up and do their job. As far as me having a tough game, I’m not worried about it. We came out with a win.”
It wasn’t the first time one of the Ducks’ playmakers have been slowed. Early in the Ducks’ Pac-12 schedule teams seemed to key on Thomas, which only opened the door for Barner to shine. On Saturday the Bears tried — successfully — to plug up the run game, but that opened doors for the Ducks’ receivers.
“They did some things today,” head coach Chip Kelly said, “where we felt like they were going to take away the run game and try to play some zone coverage on us, and he’s got to do a good job of figuring out what they’re in and making great reads and making great decisions. He just keeps on getting better and better each week.”
Mariota read the defense well, finding Huff for several long gains while the Bears were in cover-two, including a 39-yard pass that was the longest play of the game.
“We just took a shot and we got it,” Huff said.