December 9, 2009 by David Gillaspie
Whoa Nellie, we’ve got a barn burner tonight.
On a cold dry autumn evening the greatest game in Oregon football history played out in the ear shattering bowl of Autzen Stadium. Where the unexpected became the norm, and strength played to strength, the University of Oregon Ducks and the Oregon State Beavers clashed in a game destined for the ages.
The victor of Thursday night’s battle moves on to the Grand Daddy of them all, the Rose Bowl. In the history of bowl games, this year’s contest will serve double duty. One day it will show the match-up between the Ducks and the Ohio State Buckeyes, a few days later on the same turf a national championship will be decided.
In the unavoidable intricacies of the human mind it is natural to see both games and wonder how the winners would fare against each other. Should Oregon be in the National Championship conversation? Could the Ducks paddle through the Crimson Tide? Would they neuter a Longhorn? That, my friends, is what we shall never know.
For now the task at hand is celebrating another Oregon Pacific Conference championship.
From the dark blue days of Boise State on a Thursday, to the same night three months later, the Oregon Ducks learned to soar like eagles. They turned themselves into the rightful Princes of the Pac 10 after getting trashed like paupers in Idaho.
The calls for Coach Kelly became deafening back then: He needs to coach from the box where he can see the field; He’s too short for the sidelines; He runs onto the field like Bob Stoops; He wears a Spurrier visor. It’s a Bellotti plot. A Nike plot. And they were all proven wrong.
While the Cal Bears rip it up early again, everyone rehashed the Tedford question. Why isn’t Tedford the Oregon coach? How could they let that guy slip away? We end up with a Granite Stater sporting a Dick Cheney mouth instead of the cool of Coach Tedford, yet Coach Kelly is the difference maker.
The victories started racking up, but the quality of the competition came under question. Sure the Ducks won, but look who they played. People said it as if Washington State would have rolled on Oregon’s schedule, and it pains me say that that would be impossible in the Palloose.
Losing to Stanford must feel like losing to Harvard. Smart schools aren’t supposed to be good in football, but it’s happened before. Look at Northwestern. After the Cardinal worked USC the season changed focus. The losses made sense.
It’s hard playing Boise State with their blue turf, blue uniforms, and blue fans in blue stands. The only things they leave out of their blue home games are blue Velcro strips and a blue Nerf football.
It’s even harder playing Stanford when Toby Gerhart plays like Bronco Nagurski and Ernie Nevers with a mix of Walter Payton and Brandon Jacobs. He was a one man hurting machine.
Playing the final conference game at Autzen for the championship was sweet icing on the cake that is the Duck season, an orange glaze delicacy that leaves a thankful smile. That it was Oregon State on the same field for the same reason made it all the sweeter for everyone.
There comes a time in every league when any team but the dominant one is a welcome sight. Embrace the joy of seeing the biggest game of the year played in Oregon between two Oregon teams. A true sports fan feels their team’s win, or looks to the winning side and wants that feeling for themselves next year.
For now it’s one OSU down, The OSU to go. The Buckeyes may bring their lunch pails, but this is one day when the much hearalded Terrelle Pryor will wish he played second string for Oregon. Instead, he will have his lunch handed to him in a swarm of green and gold. So it has been, and so it shall be.
Katie bar the door, and GO DUCKS.