- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota is off to a pretty good start. He ranks among the Pac-12’s best quarterbacks in efficiency, and he’s helped the Ducks to a 4-0 start and a No. 2 national ranking. The redshirt freshman took a few minutes to chat with the Pac-12 blog for our Friday Q&A.
What’s the deal with Colt Lyerla? Is that guy just going to keep stealing touchdowns from quarterbacks? Is that his thing?
Marcus Mariota: [Laughs.] I don’t know. If that puts points on the board, then I’m totally fine with it.
Could you have imagined a better start to your college career?
MM: Not at all. To go through those first games and then play the first conference game and how things turned out, I couldn’t have imagined anything better than this. It’s been fun, and I’m looking forward to getting back out there.
According to my very quick Internet research, two years ago this week you were playing against Pac-Five High School [in Hawaii]. Now you’re quarterbacking the No. 2 team in the country. Has that set in yet, what you’ve accomplished in such a short time?
MM: It really hasn’t. I don’t know if it ever will. My parents have always said, "Now that you are the starter, what are you going to do? Are you going to continue to get better? Or are you going to be satisfied with where you are at?" I don’t ever want it to set in. I want to keep getting better and keep making this team better. And when it’s all over, that’s when I’ll let it sink in.
Given the national attention of the Oregon quarterback competition, did you feel any additional pressure? That you had to perform right away to validate that you were the right guy for the job?
MM: That’s kind of a hard question. At first, you have the pressure of playing your first college game. But I never felt the pressure to play well. The coaches did a good job of preparing both Bryan [Bennett] and I for the situation. For me, whatever happens, happens. All I can really control is what I put out there on the field. All in all, I was more nervous for my first start than really having pressure to do well.
You actually have to leave the state this week. Any nerves about starting your first game on the road?
MM: There’s some uncertainty that I think will bring about some nerves. But I always get nervous before games. I think that’s my human nature. When people say they aren’t nervous, I think they are lying about it. If you are human and you love the game, before any competition you still get those same butterflies in the stomach. I’m looking forward to this first challenge away from home, and I’m excited to see how the offense handles being away.
How do you settle those nerves? What’s your pregame ritual?
MM: I’ve got to listen to local music -- Hawaiian music. If I don’t listen to that kind of stuff, sometimes I feel a little too amped. That local flavor relaxes me a little bit and brings me back to being at home and the slow-paced lifestyle.
Are we talking Don Ho and Tiny Bubbles?
MM: [Laughs for about 10 seconds.] No, there’s a couple of bands like The Green, and there [are a few] good guys to listen to.
What’s been the toughest transition as a starting quarterback?
MM: Probably the tempo. When I first came in here a year ago, my head was spinning at how fast we were going. I still don’t think I’m as fast as how our coaches want us to go. That’s something that’s been a little hard for me, and I’m looking to get better at it each week.
Last question, is De’Anthony Thomas the best player in college football?
MM: I believe so. He’s a threat to score every time he touches the ball. I was talking to my dad about this. When he’s in the stands -- he can see in the stands that when he gets the ball or takes a handoff, everyone is on the edge of their seat because they don’t know what he’s going to do. He’s such an exciting player, and he’s really fun to play with.