Stadiums of 50,000-100,000 people are regularly jam-packed. Giant parades are thrown for the team that wins it all. Is there anything like sports? Can you think of any other event that can bring a whole city or state together? You can’t. For whatever reason, sports hold a special place in the hearts of so many different people. When we put on our colors it’s as if we’re a part of the team, and anyone else donning those colors is one of our teammates. Sports can make our wildest dreams come true… And they can also break our hearts.
(You’ll have to excuse me if I refer to the Ducks as “us,” “we,” or “our” going forward. Let’s be honest, I feel a part of this team, and so do you, so we might as well embrace it.)
We’ve had our hearts broken too many times.
Go back to 2007. Nine games into the season Oregon was 8-1, the No. 4 team in the country, and had serious national championship aspirations. Dennis Dixon was shredding the PAC-10 and was a top candidate for the Heisman Trophy… But it was all for naught. Dixon ripped up his knee against Arizona, and just like that it was over. I couldn’t tell you what happened the rest of that season as I’ve blocked it out of my memory
We were on the brink of perfection in 2010. I’ve discussed in depth how the BCS Championship was ours for the taking here. But a picture says a thousand words.
2012 looked to be our year. Oregon straight rolled last season. The Ducks were the number one team in the country and had won their first ten games by an average score of 55-22; they were just blowing everyone they faced into oblivion…Then Stanford happened.
I thought our hearts were broken once again this year. After that early October loss to Arizona at Autzen I thought that our national championship hopes were over, but (thankfully) I was wrong. We’ve been a different team since that loss. We’ve won our last nine games by an average score of 49-21, and we’ve only gotten stronger as the season has gone on. You only need to really look at our last two games to see how far we’ve come.
We were given the opportunity to avenge our season’s only loss, and we did so in dominating fashion when we took on Arizona in the PAC-12 Championship. That 51-13 drubbing of the Wildcats was a statement game. In the past, naysayers would point to Oregon’s defense as the team’s weak point, but that’s no longer the case. Against Arizona, our defense was suffocating. We only allowed 224 yards of offense, and the two touchdowns the Wildcats scored were an aberration. Seriously, their first score came on a 69 yard touchdown pass against blown coverage, and the other on a 25 yard run on the last play of the game.
Offensively Oregon was a juggernaut. Marcus Mariota did Marcus Mariota things (threw for two touchdowns and ran for three more) and sealed up the Heisman that night. By the end of the game, the Ducks had compiled 627 yards of offense and their 38 point margin of victory was the highest of the year (up to that point) outside of the season opener against South Dakota. Any questions surrounding the Ducks were answered at that point.
Florida State was supposed to be faster, stronger, and more athletic than the Ducks. The Seminoles had won 29 games in a row and last year’s Heisman winner, Jameis Winston, was supposed to light up Oregon’s secondary. So much for that. Florida State had no idea what was coming to them. We were up 18-13 at the half and the game still had the appearance of being competitive.
Then the second half started. Oregon forced turnovers on four of Florida State’s next five drives, and capitalized on all of them. The Ducks scored 27 points in the third quarter, and outscored the Seminoles 41-7 in the second half. It was a record setting day. Oregon broke ten Rose Bowl records, including most points (59) and most total yards (639). We just seem to elevate our game to levels that have never been seen before when the stakes are at their highest.
It’s been a truly remarkable season. Marcus Mariota brought us our first Heisman, and now we’re playing in the inaugural College Football Playoff Championship. It’s everything that we dreamed of… All eyes will be on us Monday night and we have the opportunity to show the entire nation what Oregon football is all about. We can silence all the critics that called us “soft,” called our offense a “gimmick” and said that we couldn’t go toe to toe with bigger physical teams. This is our time to make our mark on history, and forever live in college football lore.
This season is different. This is our year. Win The Day. Go Ducks!
Top Photo by John Sperry