If you grew up playing the original Nintendo system, you might be familiar with an old arcade game called “Marble Madness.” We’re talking about the first Nintendo – you know the one: a directional pad, the shiny red A and B buttons, Select, and Start button. A sleek five-button controller — like God intended. This game would mesmorize kids with elaborate mazes that players navigated to pass each level. When a highly-skilled player would reach a later level called “Silly,” flashing text would scroll across the screen saying “EVERYTHING YOU KNOW IS WRONG,” and the levels and controls would be flipped, causing a number of broken controllers from adolecent gamer rage.
In Arizona this weekend, most Duck fans streamed out of the stadium midway through the fourth quarter, but without the usual quick step in their’ webbed feet convincing Oregon wins have produced so often the past five seasons. On November 23, 2013, everything they knew was wrong. Arizona fans jeered Oregon fans with “Quack quack” as they walked past, rubbing the salt just a bit deeper into the fresh wound. As a member of the media that day, I felt some relief that my responsibilities required clothing neutrality. Parts of me briefly no longer wanted to bleed green and yellow.
The ‘Cats clawed away at Oregon’s defense, picking up chunks of yards all afternoon. For a second loss this year, Oregon missed run-stopping linebackers Michael Clay and likely NFL Rookie of the Year Kiko Alonzo. The simple formula to beat Oregon this year has been run, run and run some more. That said, there is reason for hope in the final contest versus Oregon State. Here are five things to consider:
1. Autzen stadium — Although the season hasn’t gone according to plan, ripping off another ten-win season can still be accomplished at home for Oregon against their little brother. Oregon is unbeaten at home this season, and The Autzen Factor will account for a touchdown advantage in this final 2013 home game.
2. Senior Day — Everyone in the stands in Arizona could feel the emotion as they said goodbye to their seniors. That electricity helped propel the home team to one of the biggest upsets of the season. The Ducks will say goodbye to their graduating class, in addition to several early departures to the NFL, so this will be the final home game for a number of key contributors to Oregon’s recent seasons of success.
3. Open auditions — It is this writer’s belief that given the inconsistency in certain position groups this season, this will be the final in-season game for players to show why they deserve to continue atop the depth charts heading into the bowl season and beyond. A healthy crop of red-shirts and college-ready 2014 recruits will certainly challenge current players this spring, so this Civil War will provide critical in-game experience and additional player film.
4. A dismal running attack — The Oregon State rushing offense is ranked 120th in college football this season. With a lights out secondary for the Ducks and the Beavers propensity for throwing interceptions, this game could provide some much needed medicine for a defense who has struggled in recent weeks against run heavy offenses.
5. Pride — A number of emotional fans wearing their “we only care about now” badges on their twitter sleeves this weekend, called for drastic changes for a 9-2 team. This is evidence that some fans, along with some players, have become entitled. This weekend will be a test of the mental makeup of the coaches and players. Adversity breeds character, and this will be a week Oregon will regain some of that much needed confidence.