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Huge relief for Marcus Mariota

Oregon seniors, meanwhile, prepare to leave bonds they've formed as Ducks


EUGENE — Oregon Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota reiterates that deciding to stay at the school for another year has been "a huge relief" for him.

"Huge relief for my family as well," he says. "Just to be able to get that off my chest allows me to just play football. It's what I love to do. To learn from that experience of making a decision and living with it ... it's been a process."

Has there been second thoughts, even as he submitted his name for NFL craft evaluation?

"No, not at all," Mariota adds. "There's family members that will question the decision, just based on the financial side. But, this is the best decision for my family, best decision for me. We're standing firm, and we support that decision all the way."by: COURTESY OF MICHAEL WORKMAN - Marcus Mariota, Oregon Ducks quarterback, says he's glad to have made a quick decision to stick with college football.

• Bonds have been formed among the University of Oregon seniors.

Avery Patterson remembers living with fellow defensive back Brian Jackson in his first year, and Jackson showing Patterson the MTV show "Two-A-Days," about Hoover High football in Alabama. Jackson appeared in some "Two-A-Days" clips.

Now, Patterson lives with offensive linemen Everett Benyard and Mana Greig.

"But, we're all good friends," Patterson says. "Even (graduated) Michael Clay, we still talk to him." Clay signed in 2009, but played right away and departed after four years with the Ducks.

"Taylor Hart ... Brian Teague ... we all have a special bond."

Huff calls redshirt junior center Hroniss Grasu his "right-hand man." The two signed together in 2010.

"But, I pretty much got a close bond with all of the seniors," he says.

Wide receiver Daryle Hawkins says it has been a joy to play with players who gave their all.

"I knew coming to a program like this you had an opportunity to win and win big," he says. "Just being here, I was going to play my heart out. What was awesome was I was surrounded by so many people who were willing to play their hearts out. When you have such a commitment to a cause like we have, then you have a lot of success."

Still, who knows how the seniors' story ends?

Says Hawkins: "Whenever you go into any bowl game, there's a lot of crazy things that can happen. That's why it's one of the more exciting times of the year. You usually get a team's best shot. You've been preparing for this game for weeks on end, coaches have been watching film, there are a bunch of gadget plays that go in, you really are going to get the best against the best. It's been a full year of everybody training and working hard, and guys who are banged up have time to recover. It's like a heavyweight title fight."

Adds receiver Josh Huff: "We've just got to go out with a bang, leave it all on the field."

But, life will go on after the game, as seniors go their separate ways. Some might encounter another in an NFL camp or exhibition game, or some might keep in touch. Literally, players will disperse after Monday's Alamo Bowl against Texas in San Antonio's Alamodome, many of them not returning to Eugene.

"I'm just really looking forward to the next chapter," linebacker Boseko Lokombo says.

Says Jackson: "It's nothing that's going to overwhelm me. It's my last game. It's part of my life. I've got to keep living after this. I'm not going to fall over dead afterward. I got a lot to live for."

• This and that: The Big 12 team has won the past five Alamo Bowl games. Texas has won eight of its past nine bowl games under departing coach Mack Brown. ...

The Longhorns are 4-1 against Oregon, the lone loss in the 2000 Holiday Bowl (35-30). ...

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich has a higher win percentage (10-2, .833) than Brown (158-47, .771) at their current schools. ...

Oregon offensive coordinator Scott Frost quarterbacked Nebraska to a 54-14 win against Texas A&M in the 1997 Big 12 championship game at the Alamodome; Frost and the Cornhuskers then beat Tennessee (and Peyton Manning) 42-17 for the national championship. ...

Seven players from the state of Texas are on the UO roster; no state of Oregon players are on the Longhorns' roster. ...

Texas has 120 players on its roster — all but 12 from the Lone Star State. "They get whatever recruits they want from the state of Texas, so obviously they have a lot of talent on their team," Frost says. ...

More than 6.75 million TV viewers watched the 2012 Alamo Bowl between Texas and Oregon State. ...

Organizers have announced that Monday's 3:45 p.m. PT Texas-Oregon game will be a sellout; one would assume the vast majority would be Longhorns' fans. It's expected to be a top-five all-time Alamo Bowl crowd; the bowl record of 66,166 was for Penn State-Texas A&M in 2007.