(Here’s the extended version of this morning’s story on Marcus Mariota prep years at Saint Louis. )
The raw numbers for the first-year starting quarterback at Saint Louis were more than sensational.
They were about efficiency, which was no surprise considering Marcus Mariota was a true scholar-athlete.
He finished the 2010 season with 2,597 yards and 32 TDs through the air, completing 165 of 252 attempts with a mere five picks. His passer rating of 189.98 was phenomenal, but factor in 455 rushing yards (8.5 per carry) and seven more TDs, and he was simply impossible to stop.
Mariota never cared about individual numbers. Bringing a state-championship trophy back to Kalaepohaku meant everything.
“It’s indescribable. It feels so good. We worked so hard for this,” he said moments after the Crusaders (11-1) beat Waianae for the state title. “We had to pay attention and do the small things.”
Rewind a bit, and Mariota’s football career was spurred by Pop Warner coaches and teammates at Kahala Field, where he played for the Kalani Falcons.
By middle school, he was finding his way at Saint Louis. By freshman year, he was throwing reps every Sunday in the offseason under the watchful eyes of QB guru Vince Passas at his “Get Better” clinic.
“He was tall and he threw from over the top. Back then, he was about 6-2, 6-3, and the ball was coming out like he’s a 6-5 guy. Now he’s 6-4 and his release (point) is like he’s 6-7,” Passas said. “We worked on shortening his release. It’s a game of inches, so the more inches you save, the better chance you have.”
They tweaked and tinkered, perfecting that 12 o’clock overhand release, closing the front (left) shoulder and armpit, over and over and over.
“Footwork, yeah, he was amazing. We just worked on sliding in and out, keeping the right shoulder back so he can continuously look downfield versus just scrambling,” Passas said.
He put in the work. Mariota was tireless, devoted and never complained about sitting on the bench behind talented, older QBs. It was three years — freshmen are prohibited from playing ILH varsity football — before the patient Mariota started a game.
Head coach Darnell Arceneaux had already guided the program to a state title in his first go-round at his alma mater. He saw a need for some body language adjustment in his QB long before the regular season arrived. Mariota was tutored on body language by his coaches.
“This was in the offseason, preseason, way before the (regular) season. This was a big learning curve. He’d throw a bad pass and there goes the chin straps. We told him, it can be contagious. Now he’s got composure and understands he’s a leader. He knows the camera will be on him,” Arceneaux said. “Those things went away quickly.”
With an offer from Oregon sitting on the table since his sophomore year, Mariota had a head coach in Arceneaux who wanted to see more vocal leadership from his first-time starter, now a 6-3, 190-pound senior.
“Coach Darnell wanted Marcus to be a guy like him, which we know, that’s never going to happen,” Passas said, referring to Arceneaux’s gregarious nature. “But Coach Darnell challenged him. ‘I want you go get in somebody’s face, I want you to yell at him, get all over him. Either that or you’ve got to run 10 gassers after practice.’ So Marcus took the latter of the two and he did the gassers.
Arceneaux, now an assistant coach at Occidental College (Calif.), remembers that day vividly.
“Four or five guys followed him because they thought he was doing some extra work. We had him stop after one or two (gassers). I wanted him to be more assertive and, to his credit, that’s just not the way he was. He was encouraging his teammates, saying, ‘I’ll throw better passes.’ There are different ways for athletes to be pushed and motivated,” Arceneaux said. “Sometimes, Vinny would play the good cop and I’d play the bad cup, but Marcus already pushes himself. He looks in the mirror and asks, ‘What can I do to get better?’ ”
It was a big step forward, one of many during that championship season. Mariota simply had his own way of leadership.
“He’s not going to yell at anybody,” Passas said. “He’ll talk to ’em and coach ’em up and tell ’em what he saw, or ‘This is what coach wants us to do,’ you know, that kind of deal. But he won’t raise his voice at anyone. And he’d be the first guy running sprints, the first guy to finish, first guy on the field, last guy to leave. He was that kind of leader.”
Through it all, he was the unofficial team tutor, often giving up a Sunday at the beach to help teammates with book work. Af the end of his senior year, Mariota was honored by Saint Louis with the Blessed Chaminade Award.
Early in preseason of 2010, the first flash of lightning by the elusive Mariota came not on the football field, but off it. He gave Oregon a verbal commitment in late July. Then, a magical season was unveiled. There was a season-opening 48-8 nonconference win at Roosevelt.
Then came a big bump in the road that went through the North Shore. In Saint Louis’ first preseason game, Kahuku rolled to a 49-27 win over the Crusaders. What made that contest intriguing — beyond the matchup of two storied programs — was the way Saint Louis kept Mariota on a fairly short leash.
He broke off a 52-yard touchdown run, virtually untouched on a read-option to the left, early in the game. After that, coach Darnell Arceneaux dialed back on big-play runs for his talented quarterback.
Was it by design? Or was it something else?
“A lot of times, on those decisions, it’s reading the defense,” Passas said. “The defense picks its poison: do they want Marcus running the ball or the running back? If the (defensive) end closes on (the read option), then he’ll give it to the running back. He had talented people around him, and he made the people around him better.”
Arceneaux said it’s true: winning that game against the formidable Red Raiders wasn’t quite as important as testing out schemes. Mariota wound up throwing the ball a season-high 49 times.
“We wanted to work in other formations and show a lot of different formations. Back then, I was a formation guy. You don’t want to lose your guy, but there are also things Kahuku and Reggie (Torres) did that forced us to give the ball to the running back instead of Marcus to the edge,” Arceneaux said.
It was a time of transition. Transfers from Word of Life’s defunct program — offensive lineman Paulay Asiata and defensive end Juda Parker — were finding their footing. Cornerback Chad Duyag suffered a dislocated foot and fracture in the loss to Kahuku.
Along the way, all the apprenticeship began to show for Mariota. Game by game, the Crusaders grew stronger and better, all the way to the state final and a one-sided win over Waianae.
Here’s a look at that season, game by game.
Saint Louis 48, Roosevelt 8, Aug. 13, Ticky Vasconcellos Stadium
Mariota threw the ball just 14 times, but showed the immense efficiency that was the theme of his senior season, going 9-for-14 in the air for 188 yards and three TDs. He also ran four times for 28 yards and another TD.
Post-game: “We prepared all week for this. I was a little bit nervous. You always get butterflies before a game,” he said.
No. 3 Saint Louis 42, No. 8 Waianae 3, Aloha Stadium
It was a true breakout game for Mariota against ranked competition, with four TD passes in another economical effort (14-for-19, 178 yards). His scoring tosses went to four different receivers: Joshua Tupua, Kaeo Aliviado, Jared Tomaszek and Duke Bukoski.
No. 1 Kahuku 49, No. 3 Saint Louis 27, Carleton Weimer Field
Mariota’s long TD run early in the game was an omen of things to come — not necessarily in this matchup. He threw for 277 yards and a late TD, but it was an otherwise disappointing trip to the North Shore for the eventual ILH champs.
No. 3 Saint Louis 41, No. 6 Kamehameha 17, Aloha Stadium
A close game became a runaway against the defending state champions in the second half. Kamehameha’s defense limited the Crusaders to 11i9 rushing yards, and Mariota completed less than half of his pass attempts, but he came through with two TD strikes, both to Joshua Tupua. Saint Louis’ defense scored two TDs (Marcus Rodrigues’ pick-six, Starr Sua-Passi’s fumble return) in a game that was much closer than the final score indicated.
No. 2 Saint Louis 66, Damien 0, Aloha Stadium
Mariota threw for three TDs in an abbreviated start, finishing 6-for-10 for 120 yards.
No. 2 Saint Louis 35, No. 3 Punahou 17, Aloha Stadium
Mariota directed a hyper-speed, hurry-up attack in the second half as the Crusaders used its ground game (225 rushing yards) to rally for the win. He had solid, unspectacular numbers again, but what is tougher to quantify was his ability to control the pace.
“We had to see where their legs were at,” Arceneaux said. “We’ve done a lot of conditioning work, and changing the tempo allowed us to get off the ball quicker.”
“That was smart on their part,” Punahou coach Kale Ane said, “especially with some of our guys going both ways. They made some good adjustments.”
No. 2 Saint Louis 35, Pac-Five 6, Aloha Stadium
Mariota was on target with Bukoski for three of his four TD passes, playing less than three quarters in another blowout win.
No. 2 Saint Louis 41, No. 6 ‘Iolani 14, Aloha Stadium
Different foe, similar numbers for Mariota, who went 15-for-21 for the second week in a row. He spiraled three TD passes, including two more to the deep threat, Bukoski.
No. 2 Saint Louis 42, No. 5 Punahou 7, Aloha Stadium
It was a career night for Mariota, who threw for 390 yards and two TDs and the Crusaders clinched the ILH title and a state-tournament berth. Again, he went deep to Bukoski, connecting for an 80-yard TD. Again, Mariota was highly efficient with no picks in his 20 pass attempts (14 completions). and he dashed for a 32-yard TD run, his longest since the Kahuku game.
No. 2 Saint Louis 34, No. 8 Kamehameha, Aloha Stadium
Mariota played a little more than one half in a game that had no bearing on the final league standings. He went 10-for-18 against a tough defense, but he thew two of his three TD strikes in the first half to set the tone.
No. 1 Saint Louis 42, Leilehua 28, Aloha Stadium
The Crusaders moved atop the Top 10 rankings after Kahuku was ruled ineligible for the postseason by the OIA. They opened a 28-point lead on the Mules in a matchup of aerial juggernauts. Mariota threw for 349 yards on 17-for-19 passing with TD passes to Bukoski and Jeremy Tabuyo. His counterpart, Kenan Sadanaga, threw for a record 420 yards and four TDs.
“Coach D lets me take it one play at a time, getting the ball out to our receivers and letting them do their work,” Mariota said. “It feels great. We’ve been working so hard for this. It’s been a dream of ours, guys who have been here since seventh grade.”
No. 1 Saint Louis 36, Waianae 1, Aloha Stadium3
In a thoroughly disciplined, explosive and dynamic manner, the Crusaders won again, claiming their first state crown since 2002. Mariota threw for 230 yards (17-for-23) with three TDs and no picks. He spread the wealth, as usual, finding seven different teammates for completions.
For all its Crusader ecstasy, it was an odd night, in some respects. Kahuku, the unbeaten (10-0), dominant team of the OIA, had been ranked No. 1 all season until the administrative issue came up. Had Kahuku played in the state tourney and reached the final, chances are the much-improved Crusaders would’ve put up a much better fight than they did three months earlier on the North Shore.
The turnstile count for the state-title game was just 12,309, the second-lowest in tourney history. Mariota would go on to play before significantly larger audiences in the near future. But scarcely nobody at Aloha Stadium would’ve have assumed he was on track to Heisman Trophy glory. They would’ve expected, though, that the humble, unselfish senior would continue to be a great teammate at Oregon.
Above all, that’s exactly what one of Saint Louis’ finest scholar-athletes was, and continues to be.
Marcus Mariota 2010 senior season
W 48-8 @ ROOS Aug 13 9-14-0-188, 3 TD (30,3,76) rush 4-28, TD (8)
W 42-3 WAIN Aug 21 14-19-1-178, 4 TD (7,25,3,45) rush 1-14
L 27-49 @ KAH Aug 27 25-43-1-277, TD (5) rush 7-82, TD (52)
W 41-17 KS Sept 4 14-29-0-216, 2 TD (6,25) rush 8-17
W 66-0 DMS Sept 11 6-10-0-120, 3 TD (9,37,23) rush 1-23
W 35-17 PUN Sept 17 11-16-1-142, 2 TD (54,14) rush 8-60, TD (1)
W 35-6 P5 Sept 24 15-21-0-160, 5 TD (18,59,37) rush 3-23
W 41-14 IOL Oct 9 15-21-0-193, 3 TD (18,49,7) rush 6-52
W 42-7 PUN Oct 15 14-20-0-390, 2 TD (80,38) rush 7-62, TD (32)
W 34-12 KS Oct 28 10-18-1-162, 3 TD (53,16,4) rush 1-12
W 42-28 LEI Nov 19 17-19-1-349, 2 TD (14,40) rush 0-0
W 36-13 WAIN Nov 27 17-23-0-230, 3 TD (13,79,2) rush 5-43