While fans and writers around the country are labeling this year’s Pac-12 title game as a revenge game for the Ducks, the team is taking a different approach. Redshirt senior Hamani Stevens who has played in place of Hroniss Grasu at center filled us in on the team’s outlook for Friday.
Tyler Robinson of FishDuck.com caught up with Stevens after practice this afternoon at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex.
The October 2nd loss to Arizona is still fresh in all our minds, despite the Ducks’ dominance since the heartbreaking loss two months ago. As for this rematch, Stevens told us, ”We aren’t seeing it as a revenge game … just as another game to help us get to the playoffs.” Indeed a win against Arizona will not only secure the Pac-12 title but a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff and a shot at the national title.
The Ducks have played with confidence all year, battling through injuries and a loss to Arizona for the second year in a row. A conference loss in a revenge game would have taken the wind out of the sails for most teams, but the Ducks used it as a springboard to vault themselves into the national spotlight. Stevens and the team never doubted that they would make it to the title game. “We told ourselves this game is not going to define our season,” he told us. “We are going to learn from this mistake.”
While the SEC is the darling of the national networks, the Pac-12 is quickly becoming one of the toughest conferences in college football. The Ducks have had to face some of the best defensive players in the country in Danny Shelton, Shaq Thompson, Nate Orchard and Scooby Wright. The Ducks remember the damage Wright did in October and Stevens is excited for the challenge of facing him again. “Any competition you can get is going to make you a better player,” Stevens explained. He will be in for quite the challenge, trying to stop Wright who has been a monster this year, totaling 139 tackles and 14 sacks this season.
Stevens and the Ducks might not be calling Friday night’s match-up a revenge game, but it will definitely showcase a team determined to keep its playoff hopes alive. The resilience of this Ducks squad has shown all season and will continue this weekend on the biggest stage thus far. The strategy of taking this season one game at a time has proved successful to this point, so the Ducks will keep looking ahead, always looking forward to the next challenge.
Top Photo by Craig Strobeck