I had the lovely privilege of attending an absolutely wonderful wedding this weekend in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, because of all the love in the air, I was unable to pay too much attention to the heavily anticipated Tennessee-Florida game.
The location of the wedding was absolutely stunning; a quaint villa that resembled a maze. Luckily for me, while searching through the stairwells and corridors, I stumbled upon a room that was designed just to watch sports. A pool table was in the center, surrounded by a couple of tall stools, facing a flat screen television. I was able to catch a few moments of the Tennessee-Florida game, where I saw the Vols possessing a 27-14 lead with a little over five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
I raised my clinched fist and whispered, “We got this.”
For the first time since 2004, the Vols were going to defeat the Gators.
I was unable to watch much more, as dinner was ready to be served. The rest of the night was stunning, as witnessing two hearts become one was rather pleasant for my twenty-year old, fast-food-filled heart.
The next morning, however, I discovered the ugly truth and had my heart broken. The Volunteers had blown the game, losing to the Gators, 28-27, after a 63-yard touchdown pass on a 4th-and-14.
The drive back was a rather difficult drive as I had to cope with yet another heartbreak from the Vols.
As the Titans game commenced the following day, I began to slowly recover, witnessing the Titans take a 27-14 lead over the rival Indianapolis Colts into the fourth quarter.
“We got this.”
After losing the past seven games to the Colts, the Titans were finally going to get a long-awaited victory. There was no way this 27-14 lead could squander.
Marcus Mariota had been playing so well in the first three quarters, absolutely dissecting the Colts defense. However, what transpired in the fourth quarter reminded me of Mariota’s college career at Oregon.
At Oregon, there were many games where Mariota and the Ducks absolutely lit up the scoreboard and dominated their opponents. Yet at the same time, there were also several crucial games where Mariota played well beneath his standards. Games where the pressure was on Oregon to deliver a victory.
Take Stanford in 2012 and 2013. Both seasons, Oregon had the superior team and were ranked No. 2 in the country heading into those games. Stanford’s defense was elite, but not many felt their offense could score enough to keep up with Mariota and the mighty ducks.
Oregon lost both games. The first one, 17-14, and the second one, 26-21.
In the BCS National Championship game against the Ohio State Buckeyes and third-string quarterback Cardale Jones, Mariota and the Ducks trailed 21-20 late in the third quarter. Despite being depleted at the wide receiver position, Mariota was flawless, completing 20 of his 26 passes for two touchdowns. In the fourth quarter, it was a completely different tune.
Mariota completed only four of his 11 passes as the Ducks were outscored 14-0 in the fourth quarter in the midst of a 42-20 loss. The Heisman-winning quarterback had been outplayed by a third string quarterback making only his third career start.
The college game and the NFL game are vastly different, but old habits die hard.
After the Colts drove 98 yards down the field to make the game 27-21, Mariota promptly threw an interception on the next possession, giving the Colts great field position, which they capitalized on and took a 28-27 lead.
On the very next possession, Mariota quickly threw three straight incompletions, causing the Titans to punt. The Colts again scored, giving them a 35-27 lead.
Yes, Mariota led an impressive drive and nearly tied the game, but the Titans could not convert the two-point conversion and ended up losing, 35-33.
Two 27-14 leads in the fourth quarter for Tennessee teams. Two chances to overtake bitter rivals. Two streaks that could have ended. Two heartbreaking defeats.
Oh, Rocky Top and Marcus Mariota, how you broke our already achy breaky hearts.
Billy Ray Cyrus understands what Titan and Vol fans are going through. For three quarters, everything is going perfect. Everything is Hannah Montana. Remember those days, when Miley Cyrus was Hannah Montana? When she was America’s sweetheart? And Billy Ray Cyrus was American’s coolest father?
That is what the first three quarters were like for the Vols and the Titans.
The fourth quarter was like Bangerz and Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz-era Miley Cyrus. An unwatchable disaster that you keep watching anyway, knowing that a disaster is going to occur. Imagine how Billy Ray Cyrus must feel?
The state of Tennessee already knows the feeling.
For Vols fans, you have known these feelings for a number of years now. However, the people from Eugene, Oregon have experienced heartbreak numerous times from Mariota-led teams. Teams with high expectations that almost reached them, but always came up short when they needed their quarterback to make a play the most.
What happened Sunday against the Colts should be expected of a Mariota-led team. It has happened time and time again.
Tennessee nation, our hearts are aching, they are breaking and Marcus Mariota, I do think you understand.
Edited by Cody McClure
“Mariota Monday” is a Titans opinion column written by Tennessee Journalist sports writer David Bradford. The Tennessee Journalist does not necessarily agree with the viewpoints expressed in this column.