Mariota stays cool as starting QB for No. 2 Ducks

Mariota stays cool as starting QB for No. 2 Ducks

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Bringing the laid-back vibe of his Hawaiian home to the mainland, Marcus Mariota has kept his cool as the starting quarterback for No. 2 Oregon.

Despite a lack of experience, the 6-foot-4 redshirt freshman has helped guide the Ducks to a 6-0 start. Oregon ranks second nationally with an average of just over 52 points per game, and eighth with nearly 542 yards in total offense.

On a team known much more for its rushing than it's passing, Mariota has thrown for 15 touchdowns, second in the Pac-12 only to USC's Matt Barkley, with only five interceptions. He averages about 218 yards passing a game.

He threw for 198 yards and four touchdowns in Oregon's 52-21 victory over then-No. 23 Washington the weekend before last. After a Saturday off, the Ducks visit Arizona State on Thursday night.

It was Mariota's demeanor, not his arm, that first grabbed the attention of the Ducks, according to coach Chip Kelly.

``Very poised, very mature young man,'' Kelly said. ``He's got a good head on his shoulders, is smart, cerebral. His mental makeup and character are things that as a coach staff were more impressive than his athletic ability, and his athletic ability, we felt, was outstanding. ``

Receiver Josh Huff agreed with Kelly that Mariota brings more to the Ducks than just stats.

``I don't think anything rattles him,'' Huff said. ``We all look up to him.''

On the travel squad last season, Mariota piqued the interest of fans during Oregon's annual spring game when he threw for 202 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for two additional scores.

The performance threw into question the status of Bryan Bennett, a sophomore who was backup to starter Darron Thomas last season. Bennett had more experience, having completed 25 of 46 passes for 369 yards and six touchdowns. He started in a victory over Colorado when Thomas was out with a sprained knee.

The competition between the two went on behind closed doors in fall camp, with Mariota emerging as the first freshman to start in an opener for Oregon since Danny O'Neil in 1991.

Through the first six games of the season, Mariota said there's something that can be gleaned from every game, even if it's a decisive win.

``Every week you can get better. That's probably the biggest thing I've learned. You can come off a really good game and try to focus on a couple of things and get better at it,'' he said. ``The ceiling is so high for our offense, that we've just got to continue to work hard, and things will look good for us.''

Mariota is the product of St. Louis High School in Honolulu. He threw for 32 touchdowns and only five interceptions in leading the Crusaders to an 11-1 record and the state title as a senior. He was widely considered one of the state's best quarterback prospects since Tommy Chang.

But just because he's mellow doesn't mean he doesn't assert himself.

When there was some trash talking with the Northwest rival Huskies, Mariota answered back.

``I'm never the kind of guy that, if you disrespect me or disrespect my teammates, I'm not going to just let that go,'' he said. ``There's situations when you can keep your head, there's situations where you need to say something.''

Mariota is one of several players from Hawaii on the Ducks' roster. The list includes linebacker Isaac Ava, defensive lineman DeForest Buckner, offensive lineman Mana Greig, tight end Koa Ka'ai, and defensive tackle Wade Keliikipi.

Kelly was asked after the Washington win what the players from Hawaii bring to the team, and he quipped: ``First thing? Macadamia nuts. Somehow in our office, macadamia nuts keep showing up all the time. ``

He also joked that it's not bad to make recruiting trips to Hawaii.

Kidding aside, Kelly likes the Hawaiian feel they all bring to the team, not just Mariota.

``They've got a poise to them and a calmness,'' Kelly said. ``But they're also real warriors and they'll compete.''

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Redskins schedule preview: Week 16 vs. Titans

Redskins schedule preview: Week 16 vs. Titans

We’re previewing every game of the 2018 season with a look forward and a look back. Up today, it’s the game against the Titans. 

Week 16 December 22 or 23, Nissan Stadium (the date of the game will be determined no later than Week 8 in early November)

2017 Titans: 9-7, Second in AFC South, lost in the divisional round 

Projected 2018 wins per Westgate SuperBook: 8

Early line: Redskins +5.5

Key additions: CB Malcolm Butler, DT Bennie Logan, RB Dion Lewis

Key losses: DT Sylvester Williams, RB DeMarco Murray

Biggest questions: 

  • QB Marcus Mariota improved from his rookie year and had a solid 2016. But he regressed last season. In which direction is his career headed?
  • After head coach Mike Mularkey took the Titans to the second round of the playoffs he was summarily fired. Will they regret making to switch to Mike Vrabel?

Series history

The all-time series between the two teams is tied a 6-6; the teams split six games when the franchise was the Houston Oilers and they have gong 3-3 since the move to Tennessee. 

Series notables

The first time: October 10, 1971, RFK Stadium—The Redskins offense didn’t score a touchdown but that often didn’t matter when George Allen was the head coach as they still won 22-13. Washington’s scoring came on five Curt Knight field goals and on an 18-yard interception return by defensive end Ron McDole. That touchdown came on one of five takeaways by the Redskins defense. 

The last time: October 19, 2014, FedEx Field—Quarterback Kirk Cousins was struggling in the first half, losing a fumble and throwing a head-scratching interception. With the Redskins trailing the 2-4 Titans 10-6, Jay Gruden decided it was time for a change and Colt McCoy came in to play QB in the second half. 

Things clicked immediately as McCoy threw a short pass to Pierre Garçon, who turned upfield and rolled in for a 70-yard touchdown. It was back and forth in the second half and the Redskins were trailing 17-16 when they got the ball on their own 20 with 3:14 to play. McCoy led a 10-play drive that consumed all of the remaining time and culminated in a 22-yard Kai Forbath field goal to win it 19-17. 

The best time: November 3, 1991, RFK Stadium—To win nine straight NFL games to start out a season, you need solid blocking, accurate passing, hard-hitting tackling, inspired play calling, crisp execution and, as was the case today, a little bit of luck. Chip Lohmiller kicked a 41-yard field goal for Washington to give the Redskins a 16-13 overtime win over Houston. Darrell Green’s interception at the Houston 33 set up the kick. All of that, however, would not have happened if not for Oiler placekicker Ian Howfield. 

After Houston tied the game on a one-yard run by Lorenzo White with 1:42 left in the game, Brian Mitchell fumbled the ensuing kickoff, giving the Oilers prime field position. Howfield came in for a 33-yard field goal attempt with one second left. It appeared that the winning streak would end at eight. “You don’t exactly give up, but you’re not far from it,” said Andre Collins. 

The snap was perfect as was the hold, but Howfield’s kick was wide right. 

On Houston’s second offensive play of overtime, Oiler quarterback Warren Moon got bumped as he threw an out pass and Green picked it off. Three Ernest Byner runs preceded Lohmiller’s game-ending kick. 

The worst time: October 30, 1988, Astrodome—Washington entered the contest riding a three-game winning streak and appeared to be rounding into form to defend their Super Bowl title. Warren Moon threw three touchdown passes to Drew Hill, however, and the Redskins took a 41-17 whipping that wasn’t even as close as the final score would indicate.

Redskins schedule series

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page,  and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS  and on Instagram @RichTandler

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NBA Draft 2018: Maryland basketball's Justin Jackson drafted by Nuggets, traded to Magic

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NBA Draft 2018: Maryland basketball's Justin Jackson drafted by Nuggets, traded to Magic

Maryland basketball had two players drafted in one night for the second time in three years Thursday night when the Denver Nuggets picked Justin Jackson with the No. 43 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Jackson was subsequently traded to the Orlando Magic as part of a deal that brought the No. 41 overall pick, Kentucky's Jarred Vanderbilt, to Denver.

After his freshman season, in which he averaged 10.5 points and six rebounds a game while shooting 43.8 percent from beyond the arc, Jackson declared for the draft without an agent, but elected to return to Maryland for his sophomore season. But he'd play just 11 games before being shutdown for the year with a torn labrum. His draft stock was hurt, but obviously not totally erased.

He had surgery in January and ended up being the first Terp to declare for the 2018 NBA Draft back in March. Though Jackson's recovery kept him out of the NBA Combine, teams were still intrigued by what they'd seen from him in the past to be willing to take a flyer.

A 6-foot-7 forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, Jackson has the skill to play anywhere between the two or the four in the NBA, and the length to guard all kinds of players.

With Kevin Huerter headed to the last-place Atlanta Hawks, Maryland basketball's two draftees are slated to join last season's two worst teams in the Eastern Conference.