The Pac-12’s quarterback talent this season is pretty ridiculous and leading the pack could very well be Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. This week we’re taking a look at some of the statistics from the best conference quarterbacks and next on the list is the Ducks signal-caller.
As in 2013, much of Oregon’s 2014 fate will likely rest on Mariota’s shoulders. Now, it’s not completely on him. There’s plenty of talent around him and it’s a very good team. But he has the ability to take the Ducks from good to great, giving them an excellent chance at a berth in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
It was the same talk as last year and as the 2013 season went on, everything looked peachy until Mariota’s knee injury during the Stanford game. The Ducks dropped two of their last four regular-season games before running away with a big win over Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
So, the question was, how much did Mariota’s injury hamper him? How much did it affect the Ducks? The win over Utah was fine, but a one-point win over Oregon State seemed much too close. And the loss to Arizona would’ve seemed unfathomable just a few weeks earlier.
The obvious statistics tell one story that, yes, the knee injury affected Mariota greatly. He hadn’t thrown a pick at all during the 2013 season and then he threw two a piece in the Arizona and Oregon State games. He had accounted for nine rushing touchdowns before the injury. After the injury? He didn’t find the end zone with his feet again.
Those numbers seem quite drastic, making one believe that if those basic statistics were greatly affected that the rest of his statistics probably dropped greatly as well. But the truth is not all of his statistics decreased because of the injury. In fact, many dropped just marginally while others, still, improved.
Certainly, his knee injury affected his mobility. His rushing yards per game dropped by more than 30 yards even though his carries per game only dropped from 7 per game to 6.3. But one would also think that if Mariota’s mobility were greatly affected, he’d also be more of a target in the pocket and get sacked more after the injury than he was before it. But that’s not the case. He was sacked less after the injury as he was before. (This could also mean he was smarter about when he was throwing away the ball, perhaps, but he wasn’t a sitting duck in the pocket because of the injury.)
Since he rushed less after the injury, does that mean the team relied on his arm more? Yes, his pass attempts increased by about six per game, going from 28.1 to almost 34.
To put it in perspective from the team’s level, before the injury the Ducks were running 78.1 plays per game. Of those nearly 78.1 plays, Mariota was either rushing or passing on 35.1 plays (44.9 percent). After the injury, the Ducks were running 74 plays per game and of those 74 plays Mariota rushed or passed 40 times (54 percent), meaning he wasn’t scaled back from a contribution perspective following the injury. In fact, he was actually more involved in the game plan.
The knee doesn’t only affect how one moves in and out of the pocket, it also affects the stance and footwork of a player in the pocket. Though his knee changed how much and how far he rushed, it didn’t seem to affect him as much in the pass game. His completion percentage dropped by less than two percent but he was also passing more in those games, meaning he was completing more passes after the injury than he was before the injury. In third-down passing situations and longer passes, he was only mildly affected. The percentage of his passes gaining a first down or touchdown actually improved after the injury.
This doesn’t mean that the injury didn’t negatively impact the Ducks. It just means that it maybe didn’t impact the Ducks as much as some people want to say it did. Certainly, a healthy QB who can play the full season at 100 percent is what every team wants and it’s what the Ducks will want this season, but for those who want to blame the “failed” season last year on Mariota’s knee, well, you can’t really do that.
Here’s a closer look at the statistics comparing pre-injury Mariota to post-injury Mariota. Stanford statistics aren’t included, neither are the bowl game statistics as Mariota had nearly a month to rehab and don’t represent a true post-injury Mariota.
Touchdowns (passing): 20 -- 2.5 per game
Touchdowns (rushing): 9 – 1.1 per game
Passing yards per game: 285.1
Rushing yards per game: 63.9
Attempts per game: 28.1
Completions per game: 18
Yards per completion: 15.8
Completion percentage: 64.0 percent
Sack percentage: 4.3 percent
Third-down conversion percentage: 37.1 percent
Percentage of passes gaining a first down or TD: 68.1 percent
Percentage of 10-plus yard completions: 62.5 percent
Rush attempts: 56 -- 7 per game
Yards per rush: 9.1
Post-injury (Utah, Arizona, Oregon State):
Touchdowns (passing): 8 -- 2.7 per game
Touchdowns (rushing): 0
Interceptions: 4 -- 1.3 per game
Passing yards per game: 293.7
Rushing yards per game: 29.0
Attempts per game: 33.7
Completions per game: 21
Completion percentage: 62.4 percent
Sack percentage: 2.9 percent
Third-down conversion percentage: 35.3 percent
Percentage of passes gaining a first down or TD: 69.8 percent
Percentage of 10-plus yard completions: 60.3 percent
Rush attempts: 19 -- 6.3 per game
Yards per rush: 4.6