Awesome Autzen: The Day the Ducks Destroyed Nick Saban!

PittDuck Editorials 37 Comments

My FishDuck Friends, we have a wonderful article contributed by PittDuck about his favorite Autzen memory. Oh how sweet that game was, and the unusual circumstances for him surrounding that delightful game 22 years ago.  We thank him and invite you to write about yours as well!  Charles Fischer
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I’ve been an Oregon Duck fan since I was a kid in the ’60s, and while I have not been able to attend nearly as many games as I would have liked, I do have memories of watching some great games at Autzen. I was sitting about 15 rows from the field in 1990 when eventual Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer was sacked by Marcus Woods (the Belly-Bop) right in front of me in the end zone during the No. 4 ranked BYU Cougars’ 32-16 loss to the unheralded Ducks! In recent years, I bring grandsons and granddaughters to at least one game a year at Autzen, where the gameday experience absolutely rocks.

My future Duck fans have had the opportunity to witness Marcus Mariota magic and Joey Harrington heroics while building lifetime memories with grandpa.

I have a lot of great Autzen memories, but one of my favorite has got to be the September 5th, 1998 game against No. 23 ranked Michigan State in Eugene.

My daughter was in the award-winning Grants Pass High School (GPHS) Marching Band from 1997 through 2000, and in those days, the GPHS Marching Band (through connections with the Band Director) got invited to Autzen to play the half-time performance for the first home game, before the Duck Band members returned to school in the fall. As the pit boss (guy in charge of getting the equipment on and off the field), I was the lucky guy who got to drive a quad, pulling four equipment trailers full of pit equipment down the ramp and onto the turf at Autzen! Not everyone can say they got to drive a quad around Autzen stadium in front of 43,634 fans …

While I had to miss the last half of the 2nd quarter and the first half of the 3rd quarter (taking care of band equipment), I got to witness some awesome moments in this game. This includes the 4th and 3 play on the Ducks’ opening drive when Akili Smith threw a 20 yard reception to Tony Hartley. Another great moment was Reuben Droughns’ 75-yard touchdown run off left tackle in the 2nd half. The Ducks were up 48 to 0 before they let the Nick Saban-led Spartans get 14 garbage points to end the game.

The Ducks’ defense was nothing short of spectacular that game. They intercepted two, if not three, passes and didn’t allow a single 3rd-down conversion until the 4th quarter. The D-line denied MSU on three 4th-and-short situations. On the final MSU possession, they shut them down with three sacks in a row!

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon for the Ducks, as they gained 572 offensive yards. Droughns finished with 202 yards rushing and 2 TDs in his first game as a Duck! Akili Smith had a great game, completing 15 of 25 passes for 266 yards and 4 TDs, most of it in a masterful first half.

This was so much fun to recall, and I would be very interested to read about some of your favorite Autzen memories!

PittDuck
Portland, Oregon
Top Photo by John Giustina

Andrew Mueller, the FishDuck.com Volunteer Editor for this article, works in higher education in Chicago, Illinois.

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30Duck

Sep, 12, 2020, Ohio State @ Oregon, Buckeyes have the ball, 3rd & 9 from their own 2, Fields takes the snap, BAM, Thibodeaux wraps him up, 2 points. That makes the score, Oregon 23 Ohio State 0, as time runs out in the first quarter.” Wait, what?

Fortunately, this one really happened; Oct. 23, 1988. The Huskies were 4-3 but ranked #17 against the unranked, 6-1 Ducks. The Huskies had just taken their first lead of the game, 14-10 with 7:04 left in the 4th quarter.

A short kickoff gave the Ducks the ball on their 45. After a 13 yard run by Bill Musgrave, the Ducks had the ball on the Huskies’ 5 yard line, 4th down, a field goal doesn’t help. OC, Bob Toledo sends the play in; it hadn’t been called all season. Musgrave under center, takes the snap, hands off to Latin Berry who’s stopped for no gain. But he doesn’t have the ball, WR, Terry Obee, coming from the right side of the formation, gets the ball from Musgrave and runs untouched in to the end zone, Ducks win, 17-14.

Jon Joseph

30 – They must have had Ws over 4 really good teams?

30Duck

The W’s were over, Purdue, Army, San Jose St & USC. The loss to the Ducks dropped the Dawgs out of the rankings for good. Unfortunately for the Ducks, in the next game, against ASU, Musgrave broke his collarbone, and the 6-1 Ducks would go winless the rest of the season.

DonealDuck

Which goes to prove that it is not only ‘running’ QB’s in a ‘QB running heavy offense’ who break their collarbones…..

Charles Fischer

The Obee “End-Around” was right in front of me and again…such a joyous and loud experience. A life experience…

30Duck

Obee would catch the deciding touchdown, 29-22, in the Duck win the next year in Husky Stadium.

bearlybalanced

This game was my introduction and indoctrination into Duck Football Fandom. I wasn’t into college football that much, basketball had taken over from baseball after the strikes in the early 90’s, and moving to Eugene in the summer of my 16th Birthday so my dad could attend Grad School at UofO. For my birthday present, we went to an Emeralds minor league game across from what would be my highschool for a year (south). After the Em’s game, dad said he got lucky and had tickets for us to go see the University Football team play.
Ho Hum. Not really interested… I mean your mascot is the Ducks?!?!?
Okay I’ll go with you to support your team… teenage eyeroll.

but then Autzen. and the most rabidly loud fanbase + student section (he got student section tickets because undergrad wasn’t yet on campus if I remember right) was rockin’ and beyond anything I had ever experienced and I was instantly hooked.

I estimate that I have ‘followed duck stuff (newspaper articles, Fishduck, educk etc)’ on average of 1.5 hrs per day since this game.. that put me well over the 10,000 hrs to become an expert :/
Oh well. what a ride this Fandom experience has been. Thanks for reminding me of where it all started. Go Ducks!

Charles Fischer

bearly….I have not seen you before and want to encourage you to post often and WELCOME!

Jon Joseph

Great take, thank you.

Charles Fischer

Watching “The Pick” unfold in front of me….the most incredible joy ever. Little did I know of the long-term impact of that play at that time…

I would have been even more happy!

DumpsterFire

You know, one of my favorite plays, which I know, wasn’t at Autzen, but when LaMike runs right, stops, dodges a defender, changes direction and cruises 72 yards up the sideline with guys bouncing off of him and scores a TD for the lead in front of a stunned crowd at Neyland Stadium.

Jon Joseph

Check mate on the checker board.

bearlybalanced

I was at this game as well! Got really worried down 13-0 and the lighting storm forced us all into the concourses like southern sardines… That 48 point response was exactly what the storm was about :) best ducks trip I’ve been on by far.. Tennessee was a great host and the college atmosphere there was phenomenal both inside the stadium and in town as wel.

Jon Joseph

1 of 3 college stadiums where you can take your boat to the game. UW is another. Can anyone come up without Wickipedia, etc. help, with the other?

BigDucksFan

An off subject question.

I just read an article about Oregon offering a recruit for the class of 2022 (Kenji Swanson, offensive linemen). In the article it mentioned Swanson is ranked as the 37th best offensive tackle in the country for the class of 2022, the 414th best player regardless of position, and the 37th best prospect in the state of California.

Swanson is listed by 247sports as a 3 star and it makes me wonder about the 37th best player in the country only being a 3 star ranking. Are offensive linemen rankings different for OL than other position ?? Why would the 37 best player in the country only be a 3 star ?? Surely OL’s can be 4 and 5 star players but #37 in the country only a 3 star, what am I failing to see or understand here ??

Jon Joseph

How about this OT – Jamie Newman announced a few hours ago that he is opting out and will not play QB for UGA this season.

Next man up – JT Daniels?

DonealDuck

Actually, you are mixing yourself up here dear BDF. You have actually answered your own question within your question….

Swanson is ranked as the 37th best offensive tackle in the country for the class of 2022, the 414th best player regardless of position, and the 37th best prospect in the state of California.

The 37th best player in the state of California, NOT in the country. He is, as you stated, the “414th best player” in the country, which would be a 3 star ranking.

He is the 37th best player in the country at his position, and with 65 i believe P5 teams, there are only 130 starters total at his position, divided by 4 years of playing = approximately 32.5 starters per year even needed at his position amongst the 65 P5 schools = borderline starter = 3 star.

;)….

BigDucksFan

The statement of where he is was a direct quote from the article but I think I see what your getting at. The key, as you point out is that he is only the 414th best player in the country, thus a 3 star is very realistic.

Thanks for the clarity

DonealDuck

How many of US in high school would have LOVED to be ‘only’ the 414th best player in the entire country?! hehe and as i said below, a 3 star, especially a ‘high’ three star is “a potential All-Conference candidate”. I’ll take the remaining of our recruiting classes filled with ” potential All-Conference candidates” :-)

Charles Fischer

Often times the difference between a 3-Star offensive lineman, and a 4-Star is simply who is ready to play NOW. An OL that is now at 6’4″ and 301 lbs. is ready and thus a 4-Star, while another OL with the same height and at 270 needs “Felding” for a year or so.

Hroniss Grasu was a 3-Star because he was only 265 pounds out of high school and I remember wondering...”is this going to turn out OK?” (I should have trusted Steve Greatwood!)

And do keep in mind how early this is for 2022 and how we just have had two players for 2021 get graded up, (QB Thompson from 4-Star to 5-Star, and Jackson Light from 3-Star to 4-Star) and thus our coaches are doing a good job of seeing upside.

DonealDuck

The other item to consider is that the rating services supposedly ‘try’ to project the recruits not only for their college potential but also to their NFL potential. Take for example our last 3 offensive linemen, Hanson, Lemiuex and Doc Throck, all who were, I believe, rated as 3 stars during their recruiting days. Since all 3 started all 4 years as Ducks since their freshman seasons, for Oregon they were definitely ‘4 star’ players. But since none were drafted at ‘starter’ level draft spots on NFL draft day, the NFL scouts and general managers basically rated them the same 5 years later – as ‘3 star’ NFL playing potential players.

Charles Fischer

I have not heard about rating services projecting NFL potential into their ranking. All three you mentioned were 3-Stars with Rivals, (which is what I follow here due to decades of consistency) and thus our coaches saw the upside.

DonealDuck

and yes, the three i mentioned came in as 3 stars according to the Rivals ranking system and after 4 years of starting and 5 years in the program, went out as 3 stars according to the Rivals’ ranking system.

I know we LOVE THEM MORE than ‘3 stars’ because they were 4 year starters and mostly because they are DUCKS AND OUR GUYS!!! it’s not like a 3 star is chopped liver …. “a potential All-Conference candidate”, which is exactly what Hansen Lemuiex and Throck were.

I think this is also borne out by the way the line struggled the second half of the 2018 season even as 3 year starting juniors after the freshman Penei went down with his fuskie caused ankle injury.

DonealDuck

I used Rivals, since that is the one we use here Charles, but the other sites say much the same thing…

Rivals:

6.1 — 5-star/Franchise Player: considered one of the elite prospects in the country, generally among the nation’s top 30-35 players overall, a potential first-team All American candidate and a player deemed to have first round NFL potential.
6.0-5.8 — 4-star/All American Candidate: considered one of the next-tier elite prospects in the country, generally among the nation’s top 300-325 prospects overall, a national All American candidate and a player deemed to have first to third round NFL potential
5.7-5.5 — 3-star/All Region Selection: considered among the region’s top prospects and generally among the nation’s top 800-850 prospects overall, a potential All-Conference candidate and a player deemed to have mid to low-end pro potential and ability to impact at the college level.
5.2-5.4 — 2-star/Low End FBS prospect: considered a mid-major prospect with limited pro potential and expected to contribute 1-2 years at a high level maximum or often as a role player.

NFL draft projection is definitely used and cited and ranked within the ranking system

Jon Sousa

Charles, with those two upgrades, how are we doing in our quest for the “best class ever”?

Charles Fischer

We now have 13 of the 4-Star or 5-Star players, the record is 14, and I really believe we are going to get two more and break the record…

DumpsterFire

The ranking between a 3-star and 4-star is all too often subjective at best. Most likely it has to do with his age and like a lot of the mid to lower range kids that aren’t recruited that heavily, once there’s an offer or commitment from a P5 school those stars magically increase. If I recall correctly, Mariota wasn’t even ranked, or he was like a 1-star or something like that, then he committed to Oregon and TADAAAA….he’s a 3-star.

Jon Joseph

Thank you Sir! Great stuff and great memories.

Isn’t it incredible how great a coach Saint Nick became when he moved to the happy recruiting hunting grounds of Louisiana and Alabama.

In fairness, not all coaches who are great recruiters can coach guys up. A recent example would be Butch Jones at Tennessee. Of course Butch did have the unenvious task of having Saban’s Bama teams as his permanent SEC cross-over opponent.

Don James had one heck of a coaching tree including Saban and Gary Pinkel who played for him at the same time at Kent State. It was James who convinced Nick to give coaching a try. The great Pittsburgh Steeler, Jack Lambert, was also on that Kent State team with Saban and Pinkel.. Lou Holtz is another guy who played at Kent State.

Hats off for the band volunteering. I’m sure many band members have their own great recollections of you.

Jon Joseph

You have given me a Dandy Don flashback: Turn out the lights, the party’s over.

Annie

I remember that BYU game well! So exciting! I was in the stands–but my husband was on the field as a faculty guest coach. So I was watching him as well as the game.

I think it was 1987 when the Ducks beat osu 44-0 after a week of the Oregonian blathering on about how good the beavs supposedly were. It was so satisfying to watch. The next day I talked to my Mom and she said it must have been boring to sit there and watch such a lopsided game. I assured her it was not boring for Duck fans at all.

Last edited 2 months ago by Annie
Jon Joseph

So, your hubby has a 100% winning record. Not too shabby.

Mulholland

Block punt vs Michigan ! Block FG vs. Oklahoma. !! KH # 15. up the middle in the rain storm vs OSU. ! THE monsoon vs Cal !!!! DAT missing the block. vs Stanford. !! Gronk 18 rec. 3000 yards 48-45. Win ! The tragic hit for that CU player ! Every time. since 1972 , I walk into the happiest place on earth , walk to my same seats., 31 years season ticket holder, it ALWAYS brings a tear to my eyes , Cause I get to watch my DUCKS with 60k of my best friends ! Nothing better. ! I AM A DUCK !!!!!!!

Charles Fischer

I will never forget how everyone leaving the stadium after the high-scoring, but narrow win over Arizona–was cursing Nick Aliotti. “Why can’t he defend the Tight End? Heck you can’t even pronounce his name…that Gronk guy… Why can’t we get a decent DC?”

Only later did all of us realize…the was one of the best ever and they could not cover him at the NFL level either!

DonealDuck

I loved your “Gronk 18 rec. 3000 yards”! Sure felt that way that day in that second half that Gronk got 3000 yards!…. He was special and unstoppable when he wanted to be.

Ducks have had a couple great games against MSU. The other MSU game at Autzen, Mariotta flip to Royce and Ifo diving interception, Crosby’s first game having to start the second half as a true frosh, coming back in the second half …. – was also one of my faves to be in attendance at.

Jon Joseph

CFB, more than a game, it’s a love affair.

30Duck

PittDuck, thanks for once again setting things up; so we can recall great games, “Touchdown, Reuben Droughns” is stuck in my head and I hope it never leaves. I’d forgotten that was his first game as a Duck, what a debut! And 3 sacks in a row for the D!

Not many football fans can savor memories of beating Nick, and us Duck fans destroyed him, on both sides of the ball, all game long. This will be great as we all think back and share our memories.