Oregon athletics have recently had a flair for the dramatic.
There have been quite a few games with a lot on the line, where the Ducks have either come up just short or escaped with a win. Most notably, the football and basketball teams have each had their own version of making a run for the national title in spectacular fashion, and each in their unique way. Here’s a closer look at some of Oregon’s most recent postseason theatrics.
2014 Oregon Football
The 2014 Marcus Mariota-led Oregon Ducks were a national powerhouse from the beginning of the season right until the very end. In the second week of the season, the Ducks hosted the seventh-ranked Michigan State Spartans and promptly sent them and their national title hopes back home, handing them a 46-27 defeat.
The only slip-up the Ducks had in the regular season was to the Arizona Wildcats. Oregon played a dreadful game, and looked just about out of the national championship conversation after the seven-point loss. But then, the Ducks won out the rest of the regular season with little to no trouble, posting an 11-1 regular season record — a record good enough to clinch the North division and a Pac-12 championship berth. Their opponent in the championship game was the same team that almost derailed their whole season, the Wildcats.
Arizona — which had worked its way up to eighth in the polls — was looking for a repeat of the regular season. The Ducks had other ideas in mind and blew out the Wildcats 51-13, securing a spot in the first-ever College Football Playoff. Oregon put together one of its best performances of the year on both sides of the ball, out-gaining the Wildcats 627 yards to 224. With zero turnovers, it did what it had been preaching all season: take care of the football.
In the College Football Playoff semifinal game, played at the Rose Bowl, the Ducks were up against the second-best team in the land: the Florida State Seminoles. It’s hard to believe that they could improve on their performance in the Pac-12 Championship, but they rose to the occasion and destroyed the Noles. FSU possessed a 3-0 lead early, and the Ducks took over from there. Jameis Winston slipping on the banana peel solidified Oregon’s 59-20 rout on their way to the National Championship.
Of course, the season didn’t end the way Oregon fans had hoped, but it was a fun playoff run nonetheless.
2018 Oregon Basketball
Talk about peaking at the right time. The 2018 Oregon Ducks basketball season was a roller-coaster ride, to say the least. To begin the season, the Ducks were ranked No. 14 in the polls, led by key returners Kenny Wooten and Payton Pritchard, as well as highly touted freshmen Bol Bol and Louis King. King and Bol were regarded as being definite NBA talents, and were going to make an immediate impact.
The Ducks were considered by many to be National Title hopefuls. That all changed when Bol’s foot injury, which was originally believed to be short term, turned into a season-ending one. Wooten also dealt with injuries most the season, most notably his jaw, and possible contributors off the bench like Abu Kigab elected to transfer. This meant what felt like a rag-tag bunch was left to salvage what was left of the season.
By late February, with March Madness being less than a month away, the Ducks found themselves struggling to a 15-12 record, and had just come off a three-game losing streak where they looked defeated and lifeless. The only way for them to make the NCAA Tournament was to win the Pac-12, and by this time, most fans had written them off.
After a four-game winning streak to end the regular season, Oregon found itself as a six-seed heading into the Pac-12 tournament. After a blowout win against Wazzu, the Ducks gutted out a win against Utah, an unforgettable overtime win against Arizona State and lastly a convincing win over Washington in the championship game.
Because of this eight-game win streak and winning the Pac-12 championship, the Ducks found themselves in the NCAA tournament as a 12-seed. Oregon was out to prove critics wrong yet again, because most “experts” had once again written them off. Oregon dominated its first- and second-round games and advanced to the Sweet 16.
Oregon wound up losing a four-point game to the eventual national champion Virginia Cavaliers. Although the Ducks only made it to the Sweet 16, the way they got there makes this run one of the most memorable in Oregon basketball history. To win 10 straight games down the stretch when it mattered was exciting to watch.
2017 Men’s Final Four
Another in the “how-could-you-forget” category, the 2017 NCAA Tournament run for the men’s basketball team was awesome to watch, with every game having fans on the edge of their seats.
Oregon entered the tournament with a 29-5 record and a tough loss at the hands of Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship game. Because of this loss, the Ducks were a three-seed in the Midwest region. Without star center Chris Boucher, who tore his ACL in the Pac-12 tournament, Oregon was no longer seen as a contender for the national title. This is when Tyler Dorsey and Jordan Bell filled the hole and propelled the Ducks through the tournament.
After a rather easy win against Iona in the first round, the Ducks needed some Dorsey magic in the second round against Rhode Island, and then again in the Sweet 16 against Michigan.
Oregon found a way to make it to the Elite 8, where they faced a much more talented Kansas Jayhawks team. Oregon worked them up and down the floor all night long and cruised to a 14-point win, led by Dorsey’s 24 points, to clinch their first Final Four since 1939.
Oregon drew a matchup against North Carolina. This was a highly contested matchup that, in the end, didn’t go the Ducks way, ending in a one-point loss and promptly ending Oregon’s outstanding run at a national championship. When this game ended, it felt like the run wasn’t long enough and fans weren’t ready for the season to be over. There’s good reason to believe Oregon could have gone on to beat Gonzaga in the final.
Oregon players put forth a valiant effort, with Dorsey averaging just over 23 points a game, Bell grabbing 13 rebounds per game and of course, freshman Pritchard playing a huge role in the team’s success.
Unfortunately for Ducks fans, Bell, Dorsey, Dylan Ennis, Boucher and Dillon Brooks all left school for the NBA draft, so we never got to see this squad run it back one more time. This was one of those “enjoy-it-while-it-lasts” deals and it sure didn’t disappoint.
Honorable Mention: 2018 Women’s Final Four
Anytime a team accomplishes something for the first time in school history, it’s worth noting. Led by superstar Sabrina Ionescu and Coach Kelly Graves, the 2018-2019 Oregon Women’s Basketball team reached the Final Four and solidified themselves among the nations best. This run to the Final Four is really a testament to Coach Graves and his players to see just how far the Women’s Basketball program has come in such a short time.
Each playoff run is memorable and special for its own set of reasons. They all must come to an end one way or another; whether it be the Ducks hoisting the championship trophy or in defeat, they end. With football and both basketball programs on an upward trend, there will be more playoff runs in the near future. That’s certainly something to certainly look forward to. Grab the Asprin and your favorite jersey out of the closet because you’re going to need them.
Eugene, OregonTop Photo by Craig Strobeck
Bob Rodes, the FishDuck.com Volunteer editor for this article, is an IT analyst, software developer and amateur classical pianist in Manchester, Tennessee.
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