Oregon’s football season is now just days away! The long wait is nearly over. Expectations are high for Our Heroes. Every team is undefeated now, with visions of grandeur and — of course — championships. The harsh reality for those 129 programs is that only one will obtain the brass ring. Getting to the Penthouse requires building and taking the important steps that mark a path to greatness.
Let’s explore signature wins (SWs). They’re a crucial part of the journey. Just what are they? Why are they a big deal?
An SW most often is a dominating performance on the road, which the opponent and the odds-makers did not see coming. With a Ducks SW, opposing teams get the message that they have a style of play that gets results!
Let’s go back in time to illustrate previous Oregon coaches and some important SWs:
Rich Brooks: 1989 season, second game, Iowa City, Iowa, Kinnick Stadium. Bill Musgrave and the Ducks completely routed the favored Hawkeyes 44-6. An SW if ever there was one! If the Ducks hadn’t blown a 17-0 second-half lead to a lousy Stanford team, and gotten homered by BYU in Provo, they would have had a 10-win season for the first time!
They also beat Tulsa in the Independence Bowl in this season, for their first bowl win in decades. This game was a tipping point for Brooks’s program; after 13 seasons, the Ducks had finally arrived on a bigger stage.
Mike Bellotti: 2000 Holiday Bowl, December 29th, against Texas. In front of over 63,000 fans and a huge ESPN TV audience, the Ducks outplayed and took down the more talented Horns.
The following year, Bellotti and the Ducks thrashed Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl. This springboard game took them to 11 wins and a number-two NCAA final ranking, Oregon’s highest ranking ever up to that date. Joey Harrington and the boys showed that they were a force to be reckoned with.
Chip Kelly: On September 11th and October 2nd, 2010, Oregon prop-washed the Tennessee Vols and the Tree, scoring over 100 points combined on the road, and on the way inventing the term “boat race.” Oregon was now one of the “bigs” on the national football stage. Its style and pace of play left opponents gasping and grasping. Everyone in college football now knew that the Ducks were easily a top-10 football team!
Mark Helfrich: January 1st 2015, The Rose Bowl and a national College Football Playoff semi-final, with the Florida State Seminoles. It was the Marcus Mariota show, as he ran and passed over, around and through the defending National Champs in a blowout win, 59-20. The victory gave great national television exposure to the Oregon program once again. One win away from the best in the land!
From that apex win, the unfortunate slide to insignificance soon followed.
Willie Taggart did not stay long enough to have a signature win.
Mario Cristobal: This, of course, is a question mark. When and where will he get his SW? This year or next? Further into his tenure as head coach? Expectations are too high for a protracted wait. Without one, the natives will grow more and more restless, at the program’s peril! How and when this SW happens will leave an indelible mark on Cristobal’s program. An SW needs to happen sooner rather than later, preferably in the next 10-15 games.
One thing is certain: when it does happen, we will know.
This SW will have an even greater impact with a defeat of a top-20 team. That will shout “we are back!” Foes will have to take notice, and deal with Oregon differently from the way they have in the past two seasons.
A Signature Win is a statement that tells other programs how you’re going to beat them.
We are getting glimpses of how it may play out. Domination on the front end by both O and D lines. Wearing teams down, particularly in the second half, especially in the fourth quarter. Quick-strike scores on tired, demoralized defenses. Special teams that cash in on foes’ execution flaws.
Just how soon will Oregon get the SW, and which opponent do we believe it will be (in Seattle in 2019 possibly)? Who will emerge as our new beloved Duck football heroes to make this happen? Which players, using skill, drive, absolute will to win and great coaching, will get that vaunted victory? Whether veterans, newbies or both, it will be a joy to see!
To be continued …
Steven E Smith
Powell Butte, Oregon
Photo credit From Video
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