Oregon coach Mark Helfrich doesn't fret the lack of fourth-quarter play or pressure for sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota.
"I think every time you step on the field is a high-pressure situation. I think first-and-10 at the 20 in the first quarter is a high-pressure situation," said Helfrich, who took over the Ducks Dynasty when Chip Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Behind Mariota, who accounted for a career-best seven touchdowns in Oregon's 57-16 wipeout of Colorado on Saturday night, the second-ranked Ducks (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) have topped 55 points in all five games.
And it's not a list of cupcakes or lower-tier schools, either.
After routing Nicholls State in their opener, the Ducks put up 59 points on both Virginia and Tennessee, 55 on Cal and 57 on Colorado — all with Mariota a sideline spectator well before the teams switched directions for the fourth quarter.
He insists being a part-timer isn't a bother.
"There's three other guys behind me and they practice their tails off all week and I think they deserve to play," Mariota said of backups Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues. "And a lot of us (starters), our goal is to get those guys on the field."
They're not all going to be this easy, though, and the Ducks are heading into the teeth of their schedule starting next weekend at No. 16 Washington (4-1), which lost to fifth-ranked Stanford 31-28 on Saturday. The Ducks visit the Cardinal (5-0) on Nov. 7.
Helfrich doesn't buy the naysayers' notion that the Ducks will wish they had been in some close games when they face the Huskies. He said the Ducks don't need to find themselves in a close game to burnish their abilities to handle pressure.
"I think you can respond to adversity on Tuesday at practice," he said. "Our guys have a lot of things going on with class and all the things that go on, and whatever it is guys have to focus and be dialed in regardless of the conditions. If we can arrange for however many games we're going to pay and they're all like this, we'll take this."
Mariota threw for five TDs and ran for two more against Colorado (2-2, 0-2), which made a game of it until the Ducks struck for two touchdowns in a 58-second span late in the first quarter to take a 29-10 lead.
Mariota is 17-1 as a starter and he's thrown at least one TD pass in all 18 games. He has thrown for and run for a score in seven straight games.
"I think as a unit, we've all gotten better with Marcus," said Bralon Addison, who caught TD passes of 75 and 44 yards against the Buffs. "Last year, we saw a lot of times when we would misconnect or disconnect and I think that during the offseason we worked a lot and we continue to get better each week.
"Marcus does some amazing things with his legs and has the arm to complement those legs. It's almost like he's playing a video game out there."
And then flipping the controller to a buddy after obliterating the high score again.
Mariota is getting a lot of the early Heisman hype even though he has yet to play a full game this season.
No Oregon player has ever won college football's most prestigious award.
"I think it would mean a lot to this team and the university," Mariota said. "For me personally, that is a dream of mine. But I can't think of that. That's something that's outside noise and really, if I just take care of what has to be done on the field, things will take care of itself."
Helfrich, whose team trailed for 6½ minutes in the first quarter, was pumping the brakes by halftime against the school where he served as offensive coordinator from 2006-08.
"We're not in the embarrassment business. We're not in the statistic business and we don't think about individual awards. That's not our deal. We just wanted to get in a rhythm offensively," Helfrich said.
"We're 5-0. That's our best statistic. And we haven't played remotely to what we can in any phase, so that's encouraging. The guys we have on this team are excited to get better, excited to come to work and get better on Monday."
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