From the moment that Hawaii’s Marcus Mariota came in off the bench last week for the Raiders, many in Hawaii did a double-take at the Week 16 schedule in the National Football League.
This Saturday, Las Vegas plays host to Miami, with the expectation that Mariota will remain as the Raiders signal-caller as Derek Carr recovers from a groin injury suffered in last Thursday’s loss to the Chargers. That would mean the former Saint Louis state champion would face off with fellow Crusaders legend Tua Tagovailoa in an all Hawaii quarterback showdown.
Following Miami’s win over the Patriots this past Sunday, Tagovailoa was asked in the postgame press conference his thoughts on the prospect of facing Mariota in a game that would have major playoff implications in the AFC.
“I think that would be awesome seeing Marcus because me and Kamu (Grugier-Hill), we’re from Hawaii,” Tagovailoa said, speaking about the Kamehameha graduate who is a linebacker for Miami. “Marcus is from Hawaii. Me and Marcus went to the same high school. I think that will be something pretty cool, something special.”
Something special may be a bit of an understatement as Mariota and Tagovailoa are arguably two of the biggest football stars in state history. The two quarterbacks join only Punahou alum Manti Te’o as the only Hawaii high school graduates to be a Heisman Trophy finalist with Teo’ and Tagovailoa both placing second in 2012 and 2018 respectively, while Mariota won the award in 2014.
Recently, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden called Carr’s injury was ‘pretty significant,’ but as of Monday was not ruled out for Saturday’s game. A return to the field that quickly after that injury would be surprising to many, creating the expectations that the Mariota-Tua matchup is a very real possibility.
In Mariota’s 2020 and Raiders debut, he completed 17-of-28 passes for 226 yards with a touchdown and an interception along with a rushing touchdown and 88 yards on nine carries on the ground. Mariota signed a two year free agent contract with Las Vegas this past offseason after spending his first five NFL seasons with the Titans who drafted him second overall in 2015.
Tagovailoa, who was selected fifth overall by Miami in this past April’s draft has made seven starts for the Dolphins, having gone 5-2 in that stretch. He has passed for 1,359 yards, 9 touchdowns with two interceptions having completed 63% of his passes.
Miami, at 9-5 are currently in possession of a wild card spot in the AFC playoff race and are two games ahead of the 7-7 Raiders.
Kickoff on Saturday is scheduled for 3:15pm HST and will be televised on the NFL Network.