Marcus Mariota has passed for 1,724 yards and 17 touchdowns and has run for 426 yards and eight TD. (Otto Greule Jr. / Getty Images)
Eugene, Ore. — One of the most notable numbers in Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota’s stat line is 0. That’s the number of interceptions he has thrown in the first half of the season.
The sophomore who has become a top contender for the Heisman Trophy hasn’t had an interception in 233 attempts dating to last year, an ongoing Pac-12 record.
Overall, Mariota has completed 100 passes for 1,724 yards and 17 touchdowns for second-ranked Oregon this season. He also has run for 426 yards and eight more TDs.
Coach Mark Helfrich joked when asked if he remembered the last time Mariota threw a pick.
“Um, I don’t know. I don’t off the top of my head,” he told reporters, then added: “There was one in practice today.”
“Marcus does a great job — good, bad or indifferent — of just kind of moving on and playing the next play,” Helfrich said.
For the record, Mariota’s last interception came in then-No. 1 Oregon’s 17-14 loss to Stanford last Nov. 17 that dashed the Ducks’ hopes for a shot at the BCS title game.
The streak of 233 attempts topped USC’s Brad Otton’s string of 216 in 1994-95.
This season the mobile 6-foot-4 quarterback from Hawaii is averaging 287.3 yards passing a game and 71 yards rushing — for 10.4 yards per carry. He’s ranked sixth nationally with an average of 358.3 yards in total offense a game, and No. 5 in passing efficiency at 182.40.
He has scored at least one touchdown via both the run and the pass in every game this season.
Known for his composure on the field, he also is trying to keep a level head about all the attention that’s been coming his way off it.
“I wouldn’t say I’m unaware, but I do my best not to pay attention. I focus on coming into the facility and just working out and doing the best that I can and getting better every day,” he said.
Entering last season, Mariota was a redshirt freshman who earned the starter’s job over Bryan Bennett after a fall camp competition that was mostly a mystery because the Ducks keep practices closed.
He went on to set the team’s single-season record with 38 touchdowns (32 passing, 5 rushing, 1 receiving). The first freshman selected to the Pac-12’s all-conference first team in 23 years, Mariota completed a school-record 68.5 percent of his passes.
Last weekend completed 24 of 31 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns in Oregon’s 45-24 victory at No. 16 Washington. He also ran 88 yards for a TD, earning Pac-12 Player of the week honors.
He was similarly honored the week before when he set a school record with 42 points in Oregon’s 57-16 win at Colorado. He passed for 355 yards and five touchdowns, while running for 43 yards and two scores. The seven total touchdowns matched the Pac-12 record.
“You have to make great decisions not to turn the ball over and then you have to be really accurate with your throws and real careful with the ball,” Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. “You can be careful and not turn the ball over but then you’re not being productive either. So the combination of productivity and his ability to take care of the football has been impressive.”
The Ducks (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12) are the last undefeated team in the Pac-12 North after Stanford was upset by Utah last weekend. UCLA is the only undefeated team in the Pac-12 South.
Oregon will host Washington State (4-3, 2-2). The Cougars are coming off a 52-24 loss to Oregon State last weekend in Pullman.
This week in a practice the Cougars’ scout team used receiver Drew Loftus in at quarterback, which most assumed was a tactic for simulating Mariota’s mobility.
Helfrich was asked whether he would be involved in an Oregon campaign to push Mariota for the Heisman this season.
“I think the best thing that anybody can do is play well as a team,” Helfrich said. “I think he understands that, and our team understands that. All those accolades and honors come as the result of that. Our best service to him and to our team is to prepare great, and then it allows him to play well.”