Way back in January two Heisman trophy winners faced off in the first round of the NCAA playoffs. On that particular night Marcus Mariota made quick work of Jameis Winston and the Florida State Seminoles as Winston lost his first and only game as a quarterback.
Come April and the NFL draft and Winston was chosen first by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Mariota was selected next by the Tennessee Titans.
Sunday’s season opener seems to be a marquee made for TV moment as the Buccaneers and the Titans faced off. It wasn’t much of a game as one of the rookie QBs tied an NFL record and the other…well, looked like a rookie. The final score was 42-14. And I’ll give you a clue. It was just like last January.
Mariota tied a record that was set back in 1961 as he threw for four touchdowns in his first NFL game, tying a record set by Fran Tarkington. It didn’t take the rookie from Oregon that long as he threw four touchdown passes in the first half and coach Ken Whisenhunt invoked the mercy rule and let backup Zach Mettenberger take over midway through the third quarter. “He did a great job of distributing the ball to tight ends, receives and the running backs and controlling the run game also,” said Titans wide receiver Harry Douglas.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better start,” said Titans cornerback Coty Sensabaugh. “The offense was rolling, No. 8 [Mariota) is special, I think everyone has seen it today. The kid is special.”
Mariota threw only 16 passes on the day and had more touchdown passes than he did incomplete passes. “It was good, he did a nice job, he handled himself well, and hopefully we’ll clean up some of the things that stopped us from a couple of those things,” Whisenhunt said about Mariota’s performance. “He ran the offense, we had a lot of guys make play though. Kendall Wright had a great day, he ran the football effectively at time, Delanie Walker made some plays for us; I mean we had a lot of guys make plays and that’s what we’ve been doing in camp.”
Whisenhunt liked what he saw out of the team against Tampa Bay. “I think we had a pretty confident group anyways, just based off what I’ve seen they way they work but it always validates the hard work that you put in it’s a good feeling when you work this hard, especially with all the negativity that’s been going for a while,” he said. “You work this hard and you see good results from that, so it helps.”
“It felt great, I’m proud of the guys in the locker room,” said Mariota of how the eam felt playing the first regular season game. “We worked hard all week. To be able to execute well, to be successful, is a good thing.”
Unlike everyone else Mariota wasn’t as impress by his tying an NFL record and setting a franchise record for touchdown passes. “It means we’re 1-0,” he said. “It’s a good start for us but it’s just the first game. We have to continue to get better. I’m not focused on stats or that sort of thing.”
“He’s a great quarterback,” running back Bishop Sankey said about his rookie quarterback. We all have to keep working, Coach [Ken Whisenhunt] told us to keep our heads down and working for the next week.”
Next week the tour of Heisman trophy winners continues as the Titans travel to take on the Cleveland Brown who will feature the 2012 Heisman winner, Johnny Manzel, who will be getting his first start of the season. Kickoff is 1pm and will be aired on CBS.
– Dave Weinthal
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