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Mariota Insists He'll Play With Ailing Knee

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Marcus Mariota will play Saturday against Utah, he told reporters after practicing early this week.

Multiple sources reported that Mariota sprained his MCL against UCLA on Oct. 26, and last Thursday's game at Stanford was by far his worst performance of the year from a statistical and eye test perspective. The slippery playmaker seemed more confined to the pocket and hesitant to use his legs, though it's unclear how much of that was due to playing one of the nation's best defenses.

The Oregonian reported Mariota aggravated the injury during the third quarter against Stanford.

Mariota insists he "for sure" will be ready against the Utes. Oregon is one of the most guarded teams when it comes to injury information.

Based on multiple media reports, an exchange with reporters Monday went something like this:

Is your knee an issue?

"Not at all."

Are you 100 percent?

"That's something I can't talk about."

You could've said yes to that question.

"Yeah, I know," Mariota answered with a smile.

The quarterback practiced with a knee brace Monday. It's clear the knee is affecting him, but he's healthy enough to play. Though Mariota allowed he'd consider the pros and cons of playing if he can't run effectively, a key part of the Oregon offense, he also stressed not showing weakness as a priority.

Oregon (8-1) should be able to handle Utah and Arizona, barring a major upset, even with a limited Mariota. The Ducks need an effective Mariota against Oregon State and for the postseason.

Coach Mark Helfrich and Mariota never would acknowledge this, but his Heisman Trophy hopes may play a role in keeping him on the field as well if it's a gray area. Mariota took a hit according to all the major Heisman trackers, but still has an honest chance to claim the award with a strong finish to the rest of the season.

Mariota has thrown for 2,531 yards, rushed for 495 and combined for 31 touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Jeff Lockie, the backup, took all his repetitions with the second team in Monday's practice, according to The Oregonian.