Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota back on his game in Alamo victory

Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota back on his game in Alamo victory
December 30, 2013, 11:15 pm
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Mariota on health of knee, Alamo performance

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) runs past Texas Longhorns defensive tackle Desmond Jackson (99) during the first half of the Alamo Bowl.

(Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports)

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota walked gingerly to the podium for his post-game press conference following Oregon's 30-7 win over Texas in Monday's Alamo Bowl.

The left knee that bothered him for two months was not the issue.

"I'm okay," he said. "Just out of shape. Got some cramps in the second half."

[RELATED: Mariota on health of knee, Alamo Bowl performance]

Blame the fact that Mariota went off Monday. He rushed for 133 yards on 15 carries and completed 18-of-26 passes for 253 yards and one touchdown. Essentially he carried what remains an offense that is a shell of its former self. But at least he was close to 100 percent and in position to deliver against a defense that all-but dared him to do so.

Texas routinely took away the running back on Oregon's inside zone read leaving Mariota to run wide on several carries. On passing plays that broke down, Mariota didn't hesitate to take off for big yardage. It was a stark departure from his performances against Stanford and Utah following injuring his knee that produced a combined minus-34 yards rushing.  He had 105 combined yards on 15 carries against Arizona and Oregon State as he knee began to heal.

But on Monday, wow!

"When you look at how Texas has played a mobile quarterback...there are some things there for the quarterbacks to make some hay," Helfrich said. "He's still not 100 percent, which is scary. But the guys is special."

Mariota might have fulfilled offensive coordinator Scott Frost's prediction of 200 rushing yards had the third-year sophomore  not cramped up. Frost blamed himself.

“I told him before the game he was going to rush for 200 yards tonight," Frost said. "It’s my fault ‘cause if I had had him in shape he would have. He had a 130-some at halftime. He was a shoe-in to have 200 but he started cramping. Next year I’m going to run him more.”

Frost pointed out that some of Mariota's poor rushing numbers late in the season were the result of teams choosing to take away the quarterback who just happened to be hurt. Texas did the opposite and took away Oregon's trio of running backs, Byron Marshall, De'Anthony Thomas and Thomas Tyner, who combined for 78 yards rushing on 22 carries.

“Most teams that we played, particularly late when he was hurt, sit and make him give it,” Frost said. “This team was a little more aggressive and took the ball out of our backs’ hands. When Marcus is healthy that’s a dangerous thing to do.”

Mariota said he felt fully comfortable about his knee.

"I just wanted to go out there and play and instinctively play," he said. "I was able to do that today."

[WATCH: Ducks Alamo Bowl victory celebration]

Until the cramps came. Then he stopped running as much. The offense bogged down. But by then the game was pretty much over. But not Mariota's career at Oregon. Despite being projected to be a first-round pick, Mariota is returning for the 2001 season when the key for success will be to keep him healthy. He said he will do what he can to make that happen. Even if it's simply avoiding leg cramps.

"I should have been running after practice," Mariota said. "It's been a while since I've been running like that. it's been a couple of months. That's totally on me. I have six months to get back into shape."

Pac-12 beware.