With Oregon on the verge of what could be the greatest season in the history of the program, I’d like to take you back to the biggest game that the Ducks have ever played in. Let’s go back to that 2010 season. The Ducks smashed and destroyed everyone in their path, going 12-0. Oregon led the nation in scoring at 47 points per game and racked up an average of 530 yards of offense per game in the process.
You’re all well aware of what happened in the BCS Championship Game against Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers. But it really should’ve gone Oregon’s way.
The Ducks should have won that game, plain and simple. I know every “homer” rants and raves about how his team should have won it. But I’m not that guy. I know what I’m talking about, and Oregon seriously should have won that game. No lie. There were THREE plays that completely swung the outcome of that game.
Now before we start I’d like everyone to take note that the score was 0-0 at the end of the first quarter. It wasn’t exactly the shootout that everyone had anticipated. The almighty Cam Newton had a total of -1 yards (12 passing and -13 rushing) to go along with one pick. At the end of the first quarter Darron Thomas completed a 12-yard pass to bring the Ducks inside Auburn’s 3 yard line. Oregon faced a short 3rd and 2. This is where we’ll start:
1) Darron Thomas kept the ball on 3rd and 2 instead of handing it off to LaMichael James, who would have strolled in for a touchdown. Thomas was tackled for a loss of six. Oregon kicked a field goal.
Oregon 3, Auburn 0 (Time 14:13 2nd quarter).
2) With 12:09 left in the second quarter, Cam Newton was picked off by Cliff Harris for the second time that day. But the play was challenged and the ruling was overturned. Incomplete pass. I don’t know how the officiating crew missed that one. Harris caught that ball, and there was no doubt about it. On the very next play Newton threw a bomb to Kody Burns for a 35 yard touchdown. That’s a game changer, folks.
Oregon 3, Auburn 7 (Time: 12:00 2nd quarter).
3) Oregon was down 19-11 in the 3rd quarter with a little under three minutes to play. Oregon faced a 4th and goal on the Auburn 1 yard line. Kelly went for it, of course he did. He always went for it. Unfortunately, Oregon running back Kenjon Barner was stuffed at the goal line, and the Ducks came away with nothing. That makes two trips inside the Auburn 5 with just 3 points to show for it. I know I didn’t think it at the time, but we should have just kicked the field goal. You’ve always got to take the points in big games.
Oregon 11, Auburn 19 (Time: 2:26 3rd quarter).
Those three plays should have buried the Ducks. You can’t leave that many points on the board and expect to win. It hurt even more that Auburn was handed a freebie (the second bullet point above). With all that being said, Auburn was only up one score heading into the fourth. Oregon 11, Auburn 19.
Auburn and Oregon traded punts on the next four possessions. Cam Newton took over on his own 29 with 5:05 left and an eight point lead. It didn’t look very promising; we were going to need a miracle to get back into this one. And then we got one. On 2nd and 9 Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews came up from behind Newton and punched the ball out, forcing a fumble. Oregon’s big play defensive back Cliff Harris fell on it. The Ducks took over on their own 45 with 4:54 left on the clock. We had a chance.
(At this point I feel that I am a member of the Oregon Ducks, so I will continue to refer to the Ducks as “we” when I speak of them. I reserve the right; I have a piece of paper framed on my bedroom wall that says I graduated from college there. Plus, the Alumni Association is always calling me trying to get me to donate; so you know I’m super official.) But listen here, Oregon Alumni Association, there are a couple things you should know: A) I just gave the University a ton of money a couple years when I was going to our wonderful school. B) You know all that money I gave you when I was in school? Well, that money was loaned to me and now I have to pay that back. C) I don’t have any money for you. D) Call Uncle Phil.
Darron Thomas completed a ten yard pass to Jeff Maehl to move the sticks and get Oregon into Auburn territory. Thomas was nearly intercepted on his next attempt and the Ducks were facing 4th and 5 before you blinked. We had to go for it. With Auburn bringing the entire house Darron Thomas stood poised in the pocket, and found D.J. Davis coming across the middle and hit him for what ended up being a 29 yard gain that brought Oregon to Auburn’s 11. Thomas hit tight end David Paulson on the next play and we were inside the five. Auburn All American tackle Nick Fairley jumped offside and now we’re perched up right on the goal line.
We run LaMichael James up the middle, and he gets stuffed. Chip burns a timeout; it’s the second one. (We burned the first with 5 minutes left in the fourth.) We’ve been stuffed at the goal line three times now. Auburn was way too big for us up front. We weren’t going to be able to pound it in; we needed to try something different. On the next play Chip Kelly called for a shuffle pass to LaMichael James and he scored. Oregon 16, Auburn 18.
Now we had to get the two point conversion. Talk about being on the edge of your seat. Do sports get any better than this? I think not. This is the reason that we all watch sports; it’s to see battles like this one. Anyway, I’ll get back to the game… The play looked bad from the start. The snap was awful, it was way up and off to the right, and it pulled Thomas to that side of the field. It’s a miracle that Thomas even caught it. So Thomas was rolling right hard, and that’s when he saw Jeff Maehl streaking the opposite way uncovered. Thomas threw the ball off his back foot and across his body hitting Maehl in the middle of the end zone to tie the game. Thomas played out of his mind on that drive. Eat your heart out, Cam Newton. Oregon 19, Auburn 19. We’re heading to overtime…
Cam Newton took over on his own 25 with 2:27 left to play. Newton completed a 15 yard pass to Emory Blake to open up the drive. First down Tigers. What happened next was tragic. You know that one play that crushed your spirit and broke your heart? You do. Well, the next play on Auburn’s drive was mine and yours. You’d be hard pressed to find a more soul crushing play than the one that I’m about to make you relive.
It was like any other play. Newton handed the ball off to Michael Dyer and he picked up about seven yards before being brought down by Eddie Pleasant… Dyer was on the ground (I guess he’s on top of Eddie Pleasant) with two Ducks players right next to him (Eddie Pleasant had him wrapped up and Sam Kamp was standing over them.) and everybody else on the field was walking. For real, everyone was just walking around. Then Dyer rolled off Pleasant really slow while he got back up on his feet.
When Dyer first got to his feet he flinched quickly and acted like he was going to run. Then everyone started to move again for a split second. I mean a split second, and then Dyer stopped. You could see his whole body relax. He looked over to the umpire as if he was getting ready to toss him the ball because he thought the play was over. When Dyer did this, everybody else on the field relaxed too. Oregon defensive lineman Sam Kamp was actually going after Dyer when he first got up off of Pleasant, but he stopped when Dyer relaxed.
In the meantime, every player on the Auburn sideline was freaking out. They were all jumping up and down screaming at Michael Dyer. Apparently Dyer’s knee never hit the ground when Pleasant tackled him, and every player on the Auburn sideline was fully aware of it. That’s when Dyer took off in a dead sprint down the field. I swear he picked up ten yards before anyone else on the field even started moving again. Nobody knew what was going on; it was terrible. Dyer was finally run down at the Oregon 23; he ended up gaining 37 yards on the most “expletive” play of all time. There’s no way we were going to lose the Natty like that. Not like that.
They sent the play to the booth. I’ve only seen the play a handful of times since it happened; it’s just something I’d rather not relive. It’d be like Sox fans watching highlights from the ’86 Series. (Sox fans everywhere are bummed out by the reference to the ’86 Series, and I didn’t even have to say why.) Well, I just watched the “Michael Dyer Play” several times over, and it crushed me.
It crushed me because that play was totally by the book… Dyer wasn’t down. Nope. His knee never hit the ground. It came close, but Eddie Pleasant’s body stopped it before it touched a blade of grass. The whistle never blew. It didn’t blow when Dyer’s forward progress had been stopped back at the Auburn 46. He was never down, and there’s nobody to blame for it. It was just one of those “fluky” plays that happen in sports. Only this fluke play was the most costly “fluke” play that has ever happened in a championship game. It was going to cost Oregon the National Championship. Auburn ended up winding the clock the down and kicked the game winner from the Oregon two yard line as time expired. Auburn 22, Oregon 19. We went punch for punch with the baddest team to come out of the SEC in the past eight seasons.
This year’s Oregon squad is perhaps the best team that the Ducks have ever assembled. Hopefully this will be the year that Oregon can get over the hump and bring home a National Championship.
Top Photo by Kevin Cline