With 2013 quickly coming to a close and only one major event remaining on the calendar, (Men’s basketball vs Morgan State doesn’t really count) it’s time to take a look back at some of the greatest impact moments for the Oregon Ducks in 2013.
The Ducks Win Another BCS Bowl Game
Oregon hammered Big 12 champion Kansas State Wildcats, 35-17, to secure a Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Trophy for the first time since Joey Harrington, Sammie Parker, and Maurice Morris trampled Colorado in the 2002 edition.
It was the third BCS win for Oregon in their five appearances, and it followed up a Rose Bowl victory, putting the Ducks on the short list of teams with back-to-back BCS wins. It was their fourth straight BCS appearance, and also would be the last, as a loss to Arizona combined with some late and misplaced love for Oklahoma (they are the largest underdog in BCS bowl history in the Sugar Bowl vs Alabama) ultimately put the Ducks on the outside looking in for the final year of the BCS.
Chip Kelly As A Bird of Another Feather
Almost immediately after the Fiesta Bowl, Coach Chip Kelly got an offer he couldn’t refuse from the Philadelphia Eagles of the NFL. Kelly had elevated Oregon to the elite, and rumors had been swirling for more than a year that he had interest coaching in the professional ranks. Ultimately, he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to prove himself at the highest levels of the game, and Philly was the right fit in location and personnel. A report surfaced a week before indicating that he was staying, which was announced shortly after a song by Eugene native Mat Kearney appeared on YouTube. It appeared the song had worked – until it didn’t.
It took the Oregon Athletic Department almost no time in naming offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich as the new head coach. The jury is still out on Helfrich, but he has done an admirable job in Year One. Growing pains should have been expected, and an 11th win is still on the table against Texas. Looking at the big picture, 11-2, or even 10-3, ain’t too bad.
Altman & E.J. Win the Pac-12 Tournament
It’s safe to say that E.J. Singler, Oregon’s current winningest Duck basketball player, saw a lot during his career.
Recruited by Ernie Kent, E.J. Singler was the last player on the Oregon roster to have played in Mac Court. Starting with that first 16-16 season, even E.J. has to be a little surprised by how his career ended.
Adjusting to new coaches, breaking in a new arena, and adjusting around a revolving door of teammates were considerable obstacles, but E.J. overcame them and consistently played with the heart and grit of a true Oregon Duck through it all.
They fought to a CBI championship in Altman’s first season, and improved to the NIT semi-finals the next. Then they won 28 games and the Pac-12 tournament title before going on a Sweet Sixteen run in the big dance, where they clowned three higher-seeded teams before falling to eventual National Champion Louisville Cardinals.
It is clear that Altman is a fantastic basketball coach. While there were other players on those teams who might have contributed more on the stat sheets at times, a serious argument could be made that nobody put as much into the turn around of the program as E.J. did.
Ducks Dodge Serious Sanctions
The saga of Willie Lyles and “Complete Scouting Services” as a dark cloud looming over the program for three of Kelly’s four seasons, finally received closure. The Ducks were ultimately handed an array of tangible sanctions, but nothing like the severe scholarship losses, bowl bans, and vacated wins that some media, opposing coaches and fanbases had suggested and speculated about for those three years.
The fact that the coaches do not have to address those types of questions in media sessions or inside the living rooms of recruits anymore can only be a good thing.
Ducks Beat Up Washing-ten and Lil’ Bro . . . Again
No matter how you slice it, if you are an Oregon fan, you want to beat the Beavers and Huskies at everything, every season, always. This season on the football field, where it seems to matter the most, your beloved Ducks went to Seattle and choke-slammed Washing-ten for the 10th straight time. This time, the beatdown was in front of a national audience and the ESPN College Gameday crew. In a series dating back more than 100 years, the Ducks now own the longest win streak by either team.
And then there was the Civil War game where the Ducks won for the sixth straight time against the Beavers. Admittedly, it was an ugly game, but it ended with one of the most beautiful game-winning drives inside Autzen Stadium in recent memory. When they absolutely had to, Oregon marched down the field and converted a fourth-down and two third-downs, the latter was the theatric touchdown pass hauled in by senior receiver Josh Huff, securing the one-point victory and the sixth 10-win season.
While the ending will be memorable, most of the rest of that game was forgettable. The Ducks allowed more than 500 yards of offense, and somehow managed to make arguably the worst rushing team in the nation look dominant. How will the team respond? The upcoming Valero Alamo Bowl will be gut check time of epic proportions for this team and its first year head coach. Oregon will need some inspired play in order to beat a Texas team chock full of former 5-star recruits and future NFL talent, that can execute a power run attack as well as anyone.
The Ducks’ defense played at a high level for eight weeks, but the wheels seemed to fall off after the Stanford game. If Oregon can stuff the Longhorns and come away with the win, the bad parts of the season will seem like temporary lapses. If the Ducks get run over in San Antonio, it will raise much larger questions during what would be a long offseason. Either way, Mack Brown and Texas will provide Oregon with another big opportunity to make one final Big Ducking Deal in 2013.
What will they do with it?
Top Photo by Kevin Cline
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