BOULDER, Colo. — Marcus Mariota didn’t have a Heisman moment.
A signature play to collect the famous trophy at the Downtown Athletic Club usually occurs in a memorable win against another nationally-relevant team.
Colorado doesn’t qualify right now.
But Mariota certainly gained some more Heisman Trophy momentum with seven more touchdowns (five passing, two rushing) to lead No. 2 Oregon to a 57-16 victory over the Buffaloes on Saturday at Folsom Field.
And the Ducks’ star quarterback still hasn’t played in the fourth quarter this season.
Mariota carved up CU’s much-improved defense for 355 yards passing (22.2 yards per completion) and 43 yards rushing (6.1 yards per carry).
“I didn’t really think about mercy,” coach Mark Helfrich said of pulling Mariota from the game after he threw touchdown passes on Oregon’s first two drives in the third quarter. “That’s a good program, a proud program, and we’re not in the embarrassment business, we’re not in the statistics business and we don’t think about that. We don’t think about individual awards, that’s not our deal. We want to get in a rhythm offensively and get him out.”
The Ducks (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) were a little out of sync in the first quarter. After failing to cover an onside kick to open the game, CU forced a three-and-out and then took a 3-0 with a 33-yard field goal by Will Oliver.
Oregon answered with a nine-play, 75-yard drive capped with a 2-yard touchdown run by Mariota. Tight end Pharaoh Brown took a direct snap and ran a 2-point conversion in to give the visitors an 8-3 advantage.
First-year CU coach Mike MacIntyre and offensive coordinator Brian Lindgren reached into their bag of tricks and treated the home crowd with a 75-yard touchdown on a reverse pass from wide receiver Paul Richardson to D.D. Goodson to give the Buffs their second lead, 10-8.
“I could tell at the start we just weren’t there,” Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti said. “I’m not making excuses, but maybe when you beat a team 45-2 and 70-14 two years in a row … there’s no excuse.”
The Buffs (2-2, 0-2) are a vastly improved team from the Jon Embree-coached bunch Oregon outscored 115-16 during the first two meetings between the programs as conference foes.
But cornerback Terrance Mitchell, who was toasted by the dynamic Richardson early, turned the tide by intercepting CU quarterback Connor Wood twice in the first quarter.
Thomas Tyner cashed the first turnover in with a 2-yard touchdown run. On Oregon’s next possession, Mariota connected with Bralon Addison on a 75-yard touchdown pass.
And after Mitchell jumped a pass route in the backfield for his second pick, Mariota threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Keanon Lowe to give the Ducks a 29-10 lead before the stunned crowd of 44,944 could blink.
“That’s hard to get a pick on a screen, but (Mitchell) listened at least to the game plan and what to do if they did it,” Aliotti said. “He made two nice plays.”
Coming into the game, Oregon trailed for 5 minutes and 26 seconds all season. CU led for 6:29 before reality bit the Buffs.
The Buffs had 231 yards on 23 snaps in the first quarter but allowed Oregon to amass 262 yards on 29 snaps.
Two more promising CU drives in the second quarter ended with Oliver field goals. Mariota added a 1-yard touchdown run and orchestrated a demoralizing 11-play, 92-yard drive capped with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Josh Huff just before halftime.
“From my perspective up there calling plays, it doesn’t have to be a good play call and Marcus finds a way to make it work,” Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. “He created some things tonight that shouldn’t have been there, but he was just able to create. He’s just playing at a really high level.”
Mariota threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Addison and a 26-yard touchdown pass to Huff to extend the Ducks’ lead to 41 points before watching the rest of the game from the sideline. Oregon finished with 755 yards of offense, the program’s second-high total of the season and in its history (772 yards vs. Nicholls in the opener).
And this was without the services of starting running back De’Anthony Thomas and starting tight end Colt Lyerla.
Thomas, who sprained an ankle during the opening kickoff against Cal, wore a walking boot while in uniform during pregame warmups but was unable to play Saturday. Byron Marshall filled in nicely once again with 122 yards on 23 carries with Tyner adding 30 net yards on the ground.
Lyerla, who missed the Tennessee game due to illness, was not on the Oregon travel squad this weekend. Helfrich suspended the talented junior for one game for a violation of team rules.
“In the meeting room, coach (Matt) Lubick and the receivers, we talk about (Mariota) all the time. That guy can do so many amazing things with his legs and he has a great arm to complement those legs,” Addison said after hauling in five receptions for a career-high 158 yards. “He just improvises out there and it’s kind of like he’s playing a video game out there.”
After super Mariota was subbed out, Oregon’s final two drives of the third quarter ended with a Tyner fumble and a Jeff Lockie interception. In the fourth quarter, Jake Rodrigues was intercepted in the end zone.
Oregon had not thrown an interception this season until garbage time in Boulder. Mariota has 14 touchdowns and no picks this season while completing 76 of 134 pass attempts (56.7 percent).
“For me, there’s three other guys behind me who practice their tail off all week. I think they deserve to play,” the selfless Mariota said when asked about not finishing games. “A lot of us, our goal is to get those guys on the field. They put the same time and effort as we do.”
Oregon, despite not scoring a single point in the fourth quarter of its last three games, has won by scores of 59-14 over Tennessee, 55-16 over Cal and now 57-16 over the Buffs.
You think Helfrich, the former CU offensive coordinator, was satisfied after the dominating road win in Boulder?
“Absolutely not,” Helfrich said. “We’re 5-0, and that’s our best statistic. And we haven’t played remotely to what we can in any phase, in any game. That’s encouraging. The guys that we have on this team know that. They’re excited to get better and excited to work and get ready on Monday.”