PASADENA, Calif. >> Marcus Mariota started out a little slow, but by the end of the third quarter the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner from Honolulu and the rest of the Oregon Ducks had erased any doubts, routing Florida State in the Rose Bowl 59-20 on Thursday to advance to the first college football playoff national championship game.
Mariota passed for two touchdowns and rushed for another, but it was the Ducks’ defense that took control of the game in the third quarter, sending the Seminoles to their first loss since the 2012 season, a total of 29 games. That included last year’s BCS national championship game, also played at the Rose Bowl.
Oregon (13-1) advances to play Ohio State in the Jan. 12 title game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The Seminoles (13-1) lost four of their five turnovers in a third quarter in which Oregon outscored Florida State 27-7. Tony Washington’s 58-yard return of 2013 Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston’s fumble encapsulated the game and gave the Ducks a 45-20 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Mariota scored on a 23-yard run early in the final period and Thomas Tyner added his second rushing TD to make it 59-20.
Defensive end DeForest Buckner of Waianae and Punahou School deflected Winston’s pass to facilitate an interception by Erick Dargan that started the drive leading to Mariota’s rushing touchdown.
Mariota, a 2011 graduate of Saint Louis School and landslide winner of the Heisman last month, completed 26 passes in 36 attempts for 338 yards; he did not play the last 10 minutes. He was intercepted once (for just the third time this season), near the end of a first half after which the Ducks led 18-13.
Oregon went three-and-out after taking the opening kickoff, but the Ducks’ defense and Florida State miscues on offense had the Seminoles settling for two short Roberto Aguayo field goals, while Mariota and the Ducks settled down and put together two efficient touchdown drives of 73 and 65 yards.
Winston left the game with about 6 minutes left. He finished with 29 completions in 45 attempts for 348 yards with a touchdown and an interception.