ARLINGTON, Texas - For three seasons, nobody truly contained Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota, who was a runaway Heisman Trophy winner this season. With Mariota at the controls of the Ducks' warp-speed attack, they scored at least 38 points in each of their 13 wins coming into the College Football Playoff championship game Monday night at AT&T Stadium.
But a physical Ohio State defense put Mariota's lightning in a bottle in a 42-20 victory over Oregon. Mariota still had impressive numbers, passing for 333 yards and two touchdowns before throwing his fourth interception of the season (against 42 TD passes) on the final play of the game.
The Ducks started fast, scoring on the opening drive, but by the end, their offensive linemen were the ones with their tongues hanging out.
"We tried our best to keep him contained, and we did a really good job against the tempo," Buckeyes defensive tackle Adolphus Washington said. "We could tell their offensive line was getting worn down. Our plan was to be physical with them because all they want to do is run [quick plays].''
The loss might take a little luster off a season by Mariota that was phenomenal by any measure. A junior in terms of eligibility, he is expected to declare for the NFL draft, but he said he will take time to discuss it with his family.
Asked if the loss might impact that decision, Mariota said, "Obviously, it hurts. I'm sure it will play in a little bit. There's a lot of things to consider -- grad school, another year to improve. There's lots of things that could bring me back, not specifically this loss."
Mariota's pain was obvious, but he will hold on to everything about this season except the final game.
"What we were able to accomplish, nobody can take away from us," Mariota said. "We won the Pac-12 championship and the Rose Bowl championship. We fought through a lot of stuff and came up short tonight."
When someone asked about his legacy at Oregon, Mariota made it clear that is the least of his priorities. "I don't care about legacies," he said. "That's other people's opinion. My main focus was to be a great teammate."
The opinions of his teammates and coaches, no doubt, are the most important to him, and they have his back.
As Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said, "On the outside, there's that thing that you have to win a national title to solidify everything . . . but you could argue this was one of the top two or three greatest seasons in college football history. And if you add in the person, there's none better. None. I love this guy, and I will forever.
"Around our neck of the woods, it's like Madonna or Cher. It's 'Marcus.' His name is an adjective. His contribution on the field is significant, and off the field it's even bigger."