Throwback Thursday: Remembering 2007 and the Rise to Elite Status

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The Oregon football program has ascended to the top of the college football world. The Ducks have reached the national title game twice in five years, won four other bowl games, and haven’t finished outside the Top 10 in that same five-year stretch. The Ducks are now elite, and it’s very hard to argue against that fact.

Rich Brooks and the Ducks in the first Rose Bowl in almost 40 years.

John Giustina

Rich Brooks and the Ducks in their first Rose Bowl in more than 30 years.

But how did Oregon achieve that status? Rich Brooks took over the program in 1978, and after 11 seasons of no bowl appearances, the Ducks finally reached the post-season again in 1989. By January 1995, Oregon was playing in its first Rose Bowl since 1957. They lost that game, but it was the first step in the right direction.Mike Bellotti took over the team in 1995, and during his 14-year tenure, the Ducks went to 12 bowl games — winning seven. But the real rise to greatness began two years before Bellotti retired. It all started in 2007.

The 2007 season was the true beginning of what we see today as Duck fans, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Dennis Dixon‘s senior year, the climb to No. 2 in the BCS rankings, the Heisman that Dixon was going to win, and College Gameday came to Eugene twice and showed the nation just how passionate we are about our football. But then Dixon suffered the knee injury, and what could have been was no more. That wasn’t the end for the Ducks, however; it was the beginning.

Oregon QB Dennis Dixon in 2007

Otto Greule Jr

Oregon QB Dennis Dixon in 2007.

Here are a few fun facts: 2007 was Chip Kelly‘s first year as offensive coordinator. 2007 was the last time Oregon didn’t finish the season with 10 wins (they finished 9-4). 2007 was the start of eight consecutive seasons of finishing the year ranked in the final AP poll. In fact, 2007 was the last year the Ducks finished the season outside the Top 11 in the final AP poll (they finished 23rd in 2007). Since 2007, our beloved green and yellow has only lost three bowl games — the Rose Bowl in 2009, and the national title games in 2010 and last year in 2014. Finally, Oregon has a record of 89-18 since 2007. Let’s just take that in for a moment, folks. That’s incredible!

If Bellotti built up the Oregon program, and Kelly took it to new heights, what’s the next chapter for Mark Helfrich? Well, the obvious answer is winning the program’s first national championship. The continuity of the coaching staff, talent on the roster and potential of the recruits coming in, combined with the offensive scheme, are all great signs that Helfrich will take the Ducks to the next, next level. The dominance we have seen since 2007 is likely to continue moving forward, and we will win a national title sooner rather than later. This coming year without Marcus Mariota will show us a lot about the Oregon program as it moves forward, but I believe we will be pleasantly surprised.

The older Duck fans, the wise greybeards, have waited for this greatness for far too long. I honestly don’t anticipate it ending any time soon. I may be a homer, born and raised in Eugene and an Oregon alumnus as of last year, but I think it will be difficult for the Ducks to finish with fewer than eight or nine wins for the foreseeable future. Oregon football is here to stay!

Top Photo by John Giustina

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Nik Brownlee

Nik Brownlee

University of Oregon alumnus and Duck football fanatic. Born in Eugene and raised in Autzen Stadium, sports are the foundation for who I am. Passionate about fitness, the outdoors and making people laugh. If I'm not talking about sports, chances are I'm listening to my music too loud.

  • worldwidewebfoot

    Ah yes, I remember it well. Dennis Dixon running the statue of liberty twice against Michigan. Sweet.

    • Nik Brownlee

      Still wish they would bring that back at some point. We faked a fake… genius. And while we’re at it, lets bring back the diamond plate jerseys for a game and honor Dixon, Stewart, Chung, Ward, Byrd, Thurmond III and that great team and class of guys. But I digress… Thanks for the read!

  • MAITAIDUCK

    Yes I remember it like it was yesterday also and DD was magic behind center, until Arizona ruined our for sure National Champion Game because everyone knows on here if Dixon stayed healthy I seriously doubt anyone would of beat us the rest of the year! Well I should take that back as in the NCAA has always kind of screwed our Duck program like when Nebraska played Miami instead of us! They should of gotten sewed on that one! That was a beautiful offense to watch and especially the times we played SC down south in those all white Uni’s!

  • MarcTheDuck

    One correction, Nik: Rich Brooks’ first year as Oregon HC was 1977. It was my first year at UO so I remember the year well.

    Although MM has been our best all around QB and highest quality person I’ve ever seen play for the Ducks (or anyone else that I’m aware of), I actually think that DD was our overall best QB – in his senior year. I’ve never seen anyone who could run fakes the way he did. I was forever trying to figure out where the ball was. So was the cameraman quite often…following the wrong guy up the field, then suddenly jerking to some other location. And the opposing defense was usually even more baffled than any of us. The Michigan game was a great example, but DD was doing that all season long. “Where’s the ball? Oh, there it is. It’s in the end zone.”