Reasons to be Happy

Oregon has Stanford and Michigan State at home. They're ranked in the top five by everybody. Marcus Mariota is back and has a barn full of fast receivers. Running back Thomas Tyner is ready for his close-up.

It's all coming together, albeit delicately. The Ducks failed to strengthen their backup QB situation in the offseason. If any one of Mariota's joints twists badly, it's over.

But nobody's hurt yet. So now is the time to dream of the possibilities and be happy.


A look at Oregon's opponents in no particular order, plus the two other league teams not on Oregon's schedule. . . . . .

USC made an all out national search for the best and most highly reputable coach worthy enough to come to LA and wear the crimson cap. But none of them wanted the job. So the Trojans had to settle for Steve Sarkisian. That was his big upside. He actually WANTED to coach them. Unfortunately they're not on the Ducks schedule this year.

Washington is continuing with their long hallowed tradition since Don James retired of hiring coaches on the downswing of their careers. Since 2009, Chris Peterson's record at Boise State had been 14-0, 12-1, 12-1, 11-2, and finally 8-4. We're done with our fingers. Now let's take off our shoes to count to eleven consecutive wins. 

UCLA is hot. If this ends up being another year where the Ducks get one trip-up to knock them out of Title contention, it could very well be against the Bruins.

ASU is hotter. Oregon won't see them during the regular season, but despite getting picked to finish third in the South, I predict we'll see them playing for the Pac-12 title.

Cal's new coach Sonny Dykes was 1-11 last season. This season marks the second of his five-year plan to get fired.

Oregon State: After losing their home opener to the Eastern Washington Eagles last season, the Beavs say they are "not looking past Portland State" this year. Can't argue with that. OSU's QB Sean Mannion is considered by many as the second best in the league behind Mariota. The rest of their roster is noteworthy because they will be wearing the same color uniforms as Mannion.

Arizona was very proud of themselves for stunning Oregon last year, and deservedly so. Come up to Autzen, 'Zona. Try that again.

Washington State will not beat Oregon. But the Cougs could hurt Oregon. You know, like an over-sugared kid pushing Mom's shopping cart through a crowded store aisle . Like an old person confusing the gas pedal for the brake. Like Dick Cheney with a shotgun. Like Tony Stewart picking up a hitchhiker. I'm worried the Ducks could come out of Pullman with a win and a locker room full of injuries caused by so much "uber-hyped Cougar goonery" (Say that three times fast.).

Michigan State will be one of the biggest regular season games in the nation. Can Oregon beat the team that beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl? And they didn't just beat Stanford, they out-Stanforded Stanford, beating the Card at their own game of overwhelming the battle at the line. This game will affect the future of many teams through the remainder of the season.

Stanford isn't getting any respect and I don't get it. Nearly everyone is picking Oregon to finally topple Stanford to win the Pac-12 North. Sure, Mariota is back and this game is in Autzen. But in my mind, Stanford is still the king ONLY UNTIL the Ducks retake the crown.

Colorado is high.

Utah: Whatever.

Wyoming: What? . . . SHUT UP!

That brings us to Saturday night's opponent.

North Dakota was 3-8 last year in the Big Sky Conference. Their quarterback, Joe Mollberg, had seven starts last year. He was given the nod to start this year by new coach Bubba Schweigert after a tough fall camp battle for starter with . . . .

Oh I'm sorry. I just realized Oregon is actually playing the other one.

South Dakota was 4-8 last year in the Missouri Valley Conference. Their quarterback, Kevin Earl, is the returning starter from last year. Third year coach Joe Glen thinks that . . . . . . . Oh who cares?

A crappy team from a crappy league is going to serve as the opening season patsy that will give the Ducks a chance to blow the dust out of the carburetor.

Never mind the opponent. All eyes should be on Oregon and who their playmakers will be.

Mariota is a given. But what about his backup Jeff Lockie? Last year, he and the other backup Jake Rodriguez had lots of playing time as Mariota often sat down in the second half of many games after stretching the lead to a blowout. But all that PT failed to result in a trusted and capable backup.

Now Rodriguez is gone. He left in search of a team where he can start right away. The backup job is all Lockie's. Will he take advantage and step up?

During Spring drills in April,  Bralon Addison was lost for the season with an injured knee. Concern was high, as he was considered Oregon's best receiver. But through fall camp, others have really shown up. We need to keep an eye out for Chance Allen, Darren Carrington, B.J. Kelley, Keanon Lowe, Dwayne Stanford, and especially the current NCAA 110 meter hurdle champion, redshirt freshman Devon Allen (#13) 
Sure, Devon Allen can be the best 110 meter hurdler
in the nation. But can he do that while catching a
football? I wouldn't bet against him.

And then there is one more person to watch for -- a running back. Oregon apparently has a surprising Manhattan Project-like secret weapon on the roster. Duck fans were content to have Thomas Tyner and Byron Marshall in the backfield to handle the ball carrying duties.

But along comes Royce Freeman. A true freshman rated at 6',0" and 229 pounds, although others say he's a little shorter, but every bit as brawny. He's been compared to former Duck powerhouse RB Jonathan Stewart, but with better footwork and juking skills. Coaches can't say enough about him. This is from Tyson Alger of the Oregonian . . . .

Freeman flat-out has something the other two guys don't: Size. At 6-foot, 229-pounds, Freeman has 14 pounds on Tyner and an additional 24 on Marshall. Add the fact that numerous coaches have said Freeman is way ahead of where most freshman begin, the question shifts from "Is Freeman going to redshirt?" to "How does this guy not start?"

 He busts tackles and wears down defenses. They say he's got good hands; he's a good blocker. Smart. He's also a good receiver. I read somewhere, "Chuck Norris has a Royce Freeman tattoo." Look for him, #21.

Over these past few years Duck fans have learned to take these seasons one game at a time. Good things are expected to happen. Bad things can happen. The Ducks have a great shot this year. They know it, and they'll take it. For myself, I'm not planning to nut up and hold my breath until Oregon goes to the Natty. I'm just going to enjoy each game one at a time for what they are.

And be happy . . .

Oh hell. Who am I kidding?

Gametime Saturday 7:30 Pacific on the PAC-12 Network.


On His Back

Marcus Mariota put the Ducks on his back and went nuts. His 253 passing yards and one TD were well and good. But his real damage came in the form of a game leading 133 rushing yards of 15 carries.

Texas saw what Stanford, Arizona and Oregon State did and bet that Mariota couldn't run. From the second play of the game, he proved them wrong.

Big time.

MM ran like he was possessed with the demons of those two losses in November and all the criticism that went with them.

In the second half, his legs started cramping up. Duck fans got nervous as he collapsed to the ground in the middle of one run.

"Take him out," I thought. Better to have a healthy second string than a hurt starter at QB. But did you see the look of determination on his face? His mission to establish himself as a threat to Texas' D was already accomplished, and their secondary was soft and ripe for his pass attack.

It wasn't perfect. Time and time again, Oregon got bogged down in the red zone, settling for field goals. Thank goodness our kicker was better than average. But it goes to show that even winning ugly is likely so long as the QB can run.

That, and a defense that is playing for it's departing coach.
Flying to the ball.
Two interceptions returned for TD's.

That's Aliotti with a capital D
I will sit with a tall cool beverage and go toe-to-toe with anyone who says Nick Aliotti wasn't a good coach. He personified Fast, Hard, Finish.
Nick Allioti gets a well deserved shower.
He was a momentum killer. Time and time again, he had a way of turning up the heat in the fourth quarter as opponents tried to rally. His blitzes were well timed and came from nowhere. Through his career, he was never married to one type of defense -- 3-4, 4-3 -- whatever the head coach and the talents of his players called for.

He had seen it all and done it all. No offense surprised him.

To honor their outgoing coach Mack Brown,
Texas renamed their cow after him.
And now comes the hard part.
It's going to be a real trick finding a new D coach who won't make us say "We miss Nick." The field of choices is target rich. But who will be the right choice?

The emotional favorite would have been getting Justin Wilcox out of Washington. But he just made it official, signing with Snarky Sarkisian to USC.

That means that former USC assistant and interim head coach Ed Orgeron is available. But is he the right fit, or just the latest popular flavor of the month to have his name thrown on the wall?

The "Oregon Way" of late has been to hire from within. That brings up names like 20-year veteran Don Pellum and 10-year staffer John Neal. Pellum is a key recruiter and has been in charge of the linebackers. Neal is the aggressive minded secondary coach.

Then if you want to get really creative, you look for talent in the areas of Texas, Louisiana or Florida to cash in on recruiting in those areas. Who is in Gus Malzahn's stable? Who is tired of being in Nick Saban's shadow? What is Lane Kiffin's dad doing?

Ya, I was just kidding about that last one.

THE FUTURE IS NOW . . . give or take four months.
Oregonian writer Ken Goe, who made me swear never to mention his name in my blog, showed some of his genius when he said the exact same thing I've been saying about the Ducks being a night-and-day better team when Marcus Mariota is able to run.
In this write-up including other good links, he makes the clear point that the Ducks simply cannot gamble on going an entire season with a 100% healthy Mariota.

Helfrich and offensive coordinator Scott Frost probably won't find another Mariota. They don't have to.
But they do need somebody to whom they can turn if their franchise player is too hobbled to properly execute the offense.

Translation: They can't have Jeff Lockie come in for one play and fumble the ball off his knee. If he can't do it, then Jake Rodrigues has to step up. All of those games this season where Mariota came out in the third quarter to give those two some real-time snaps, and they still couldn't be counted on to fill the need against Stanford or Arizona, or finish the Alamo Bowl when Mariota's hammies started tightening up?

It's time for those two redshirt freshmen to grow up.

Did you see, amongst the balloons and cheers and trophy hoisting, who was NOT getting a whole lot of love?

From the Portland Tribune:
• De'Anthony Thomas had only five touches on offense, a kickoff return and played some on kickoff coverage. He also spent much time hanging around defensive back huddles before the UO defense took the field, for some inexplicable reason. He has purportedly fallen out of favor with coaches, as he decides on whether to jump into the NFL draft. He didn't show up for an interview request. Who knows what his future holds.

And this excerpt from John Canzano's critical post game story:
Let's see. Thomas fumbled in the red-zone against Stanford. He dropped what would have been a critical first-down catch early against Arizona. Those were big plays, ones that we all know Thomas might have easily turned into six if he's locked in. But on Monday, he dismissed the anemic role he played against Texas with, "You know, I can't control that. It's up to the coaches."
No, kid. Show up. Work hard. Perform. Some of your teammates have been doing it all season. If you want to follow someone's lead, your starting quarterback is a pretty wise choice. In the end, a huge piece of how involved Thomas is in the offense is really up to Thomas himself, isn't it? He's that talented when he wants to be.
The word is DAT allegedly missed a practice. He opened his big mouth before the Stanford game with his "been there, done that" remark about the Rose Bowl, then he played subpar. He's been dangling his choice to go to the NFL over the team's head for too long now.

He reminds me of QB Akili Smith, who in his senior season started talking NFL and interviewing agents while the rest of the team was preparing for the Aloha Bowl against Rick Nuhoser's Colorado Buffs. Smith's head clearly wasn't in the game and Oregon got embarrassed.
DAT: "Where's the love?"

This is a critical decision and crossroads for Thomas. He would be wise to stay at Oregon and get serious about his focus, discipline and preparation. Then take that to the NFL next year. If he goes to the NFL now, I'll bet he'll return some kickoffs for a few years and then be cut loose to team up with Darron Thomas in the Arena League.

There is nothing more frustrating in sports than watching a talented player dogging it. Maturation is what he needs, and college is the best place to get that. Because as Crash Davis said in "Bull Durham", right now he's got a "million dollar body and a ten cent head." 

Josh Huff, who had a phenomenal game while collecting records and scoring the offense's only TD, is the only starting senior graduating. All other starters in the offense will be back. Thomas would be doing the smart thing to stay. 

Huff. All day
This season has been like the song, "What a long, strange trip it's been." The 11 wins is great. It was a year when we had lopsided wins against traditional powerhouses Virginia, Tennessee and Texas. So why does it feel lackluster? 

Have we Duck fans done what I swore we'd never do? Have we become jaded? Do we throw up our hands after one loss and say "The season's over!"

That's not Oregon. That's Washington. That's USC. That's an SEC school. 

This was a great season. Next year could be as good or better. The off season will be very interesting. 

But for right now, let's just lie back and enjoy the moment.

Thank you all for sharing another Duck season with me.


Win One for the Aliottipper

Here's the truth about Texas. They're Texas. Nothing less. Texas is better than Arizona. They could beat Stanford on a good day when the Cardinal locker room is rife with the stomach flu. The Longhorns are plenty good enough to stampede roughshod over Oregon if the Ducks choose to approach this game feeling sorry for themselves.

That downer we all felt when we knew Oregon wasn't going to play 'Bama, Auburn or Florida State? Forget it. Texas will give the Ducks all they can handle. And they have good game film from Stanford, Arizona, and Oregon State.

The good news is Marcus Mariota will be as healthy as ever. He proved to be the most valuable player in the losses as well as wins. When he couldn't run, Oregon's offense didn't run. 

If you were to ask me for the key to the game (and you didn't, but I'm giving it to you anyway), it would be the FIRST QUARTER. Stanford and Arizona were able to take a good lead in the first quarter and then control the tempo with running. Had Oregon been able to keep pace or take the lead, the opponents would have been forced into riskier plays.  The team that controls the first quarter, controls the tempo. 

The question is an interesting suggestion I heard recently by a fellow Pac-12 fan who happens to be an avid hater of the Ducks. 

My initial reply was, "SHUT UP, IDIOT!". But after pondering his entitled opinion for a few weeks, my reply today is,


Oregon's rise to the top over the past decade didn't merely happen by an infusion of cash, a lucky guess at a new coach and a few good recruits. It came by the methodical building of a foundation reminiscent of a Fortune 100 company. Oregon has set itself up to where they can have a disappointing year or two, and then suddenly come back to win the Pac-12 and get back to the championship again.

A recent article in Forbes Magazine, Why the Oregon Ducks Teach Us that Luck isn't Everything explained it like this.

Oregon's success is based on key management and development models of Entrepreneurial Forethought, Pioneering Innovation, and Disciplined Overachievement.

Nike designed End zone at Alamo
Bowl has winged pattern in background.
So which does this fall under, Entrepreneurial
Forethought, Pioneering Innovation or Disciplined
In addition, the stability of the coaching ranks has a huge positive impact. Writer Jason Belzer says the following:

There is no better example of consistency for the Ducks than when it comes to the hiring of coaches. The last three head coaches of the university’s lauded football and track programs have all come from within the existing staff, a streak that is unmatched in college athletics. Even more impressive, a number of the current assistant football coaches have been on staff for all three of those head coaching regimes. In fact, under former head football coach Chip Kelly, the football coaching staff had absolutely no turn over for four straight years! Such continuity is simply unheard of in the turbulent profession of coaching, much less for any organization operating on a budget in excess of $21 million.

Aliotti: "I'm retiring after this game."

So while Mack Brown is coaching his last game for Texas, Oregon answered that "Win one for the Gipper" motivation with the announced retiring of Defensive Coach Nick Aliotti.

After about 90 years in coaching, roughly 60 of them at Oregon, Aliotti has decided to hang it up. The word is he was ready to retire last year when he didn't get the head coaching position, but felt he should stay one more year to help Helfrich transition.

That's the class of Aliotti. All the college football history books will talk about Oregon's head coaches including Helfrich. But just looking at the past six seasons of 10 wins or more, three coaches owe their success to the one constant, Nick Aliotti.

Rich Brooks couldn't have gone from zero to Rose Bowl bound hero in 1995 were it not for Aliotti's Gang Green defense.

What is Aliotti's legacy? Let him answer that in this Oregonian Article by Jason Quick:

“Bottom line, I’m very satisfied with my career,’’ Aliotti said. “I did it the right way. I did it with integrity. Never cheated to get a recruit. We were a laughingstock; they wanted us to get out of the Pac 8 ... five decades I’ve been here. All those nice buildings they have? Those were parking lots... I’ve been able to watch this thing grow from what was nothing to what it is today. I’d like to think on some level I had a lot to do with that.’’

Thanks for all the great games, Coach Aliotti. Now we ask that you do it just one more time.

Alamo Bowl Game time 3:45 pm Pacific on ESPN


A Day to be Duckful

I have much to be thankful for.

I am thankful for this year's anticipation of football season. It made the entire year exciting.

I am thankful for some great single plays, like this one.

I am thankful for the play of one single player, like Marcus Mariota.

We of course hope he returns to his prime form soon.

If I would be thankful for one single game, it would be the 10th consecutive win over Washington.

I am thankful for the number of times this year that Oregon played a roll in bringing together friends and family.

I am thankful for my disappointment at this point in the season that Oregon has lost two games. There was a time when we would've been optimistic had Oregon lost ONLY two of it's first five games.
How awesome is this? I just found it online.

Finally I am thankful for all of you who have shared this fun with me.

The season hasn't gone like we wanted. I don't think there is any single reason for the collapse, but rather a perfect storm of several. I believe most of all, it's been a learning experience for both young players and new coaches.

But I will not let the bummer parts eclipse all of the above great parts of this season.

Friday: Civil War 4pm Pacific on Fox Sports 1.

Wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving.


What? You were expecting me to flip some traditional Civil War crap at the Beavs?

OK. How's this: How do you get a Beaver off your porch?
Pay him for the . . . . Ah, screw it. Just play the game.


Kick the Cat Theory*

* Mad Duck 2020 wishes to state that in no way do the following comments and opinions support or endorse the harming of cats or any other animals.

Think the Ducks had a better showing against Utah?

Oregon's rushing was held to a net 145 yards. They could only convert 2 out of 10 third downs while allowing Utah to covert 9 for 18. The new and improved starting kicker MISSED A PAT?!? 

Once again Oregon's starting RB Byron Marshall was anemic in the first half. So was DeAnthony Thomas before his kickoff return for a TD that seemed to finally spark Oregon's famed steamrolling momentum. Mariota still couldn't run. The team committed 10 penalties for 80 yards -- most of them for false starts.

False starts?. . . . . FALSE STARTS?!?!

In games past, we laughed at other teams leading in time-of-possession. But it's not funny anymore when you see that Utah CONTROLLED the ball for nearly 12 more minutes and ran nine more plays than the Ducks.

It was good to see Josh Huff having a great
game after going down hurt last week.
Good for Oregon that the Utes couldn't do more with all that opportunity. But the team before them could. And the teams ahead of Oregon will. Arizona has a supposedly tough defense. Oregon State will bring their typical ferocity to the Civil War.

If Oregon manages those two, they're likely looking at Arizona State in the Pac-12 Championship. ASU leads the league in total defense. They are second only to Stanford in rushing defense.

Should Oregon find it's way past them, they can go to the Rose Bowl -- against Ohio State. Remember the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl of 2010 and their overpowering linemen? Well let's just say for this year they haven't gotten any worse.

Oregon got a fat bloody lip against Stanford. And it would only do them good if that shot still stings; if the unimpressive victory over Utah failed to lessen the taste of their own salty sweaty blood.

But now is the moment for them to taste that bitterness for the last time and move on. The Ducks need to scab over and heal. They need to get their mojo back. More than that, they need to stop feeling bloated and pent up and clear out some inner obstructions.

What Oregon needs right now is a good cleansing. You know how it feels when you've been blocked up for a couple of weeks and you're not feeling your best?

Oregon is irregular.

They could really use a blowout. More than a blowout -- a coffee and prune irrigated colon blowout. And Arizona Stadium seems like the perfect bowl. Last year Oregon blanked the 'Cats 49-0.  Though less likely (It was at Autzen, and Arizona was still trying to find themselves with their new coach.), it would still feel real good to do that again. 

For season altering games, Arizona vs. Oregon has history over the last eight years
Dixon at Arizona.
or so. Kellen Clemens ended his career against Arizona. Dennis Dixon's knee blew apart and so did Oregon's BCS Title hopes at Arizona.

Masoli at his best.
Then came 2009, Jeremiah "Weed" Masoli's finest hour. 'Zona fans were climbing over the walls in the final two minutes ready to storm the field with their Cats up by a TD. Oregon tied it and won that dramatic contest in double overtime.

But this year, no one wearing green is in the mood for drama. Oregon is better -- sometimes far better-- than Arizona in nearly every statistical category. The Cats (6-4, 3-4) have lost to every Pac-12 team with a winning record. Then last week they were completely dominated by Washington State.

They have one good offensive weapon, RB Ka'Deem Carey. Shut him down, they're done. Oregon has a better offense and a better defense, a better team. Period. Arizona will be the last weak team the Ducks plays for the season.

Why not blow away the 'Cats? Why not tee-off on them? Oregon is frustrated right now. They blew another golden opportunity. Ya, I know I said "Don't worry." and "A lot of football left." But damn it anyway.

Once again, Oregon is unlikely to get their shot at the Natty. And this Saturday, it's all Arizona's fault.

Kick the 'Cat.

Give Oregon credit for playing a legitimate Pac-12 foe in mid November. I mean who else would they be playing, right?

Did you see who the two teams currently destined to play for the national title have slated this Saturday?

FSU QB Jameis Winston
Heisman candidate,
Tallahassee's favorite son.
Alabama is hosting Chattanooga (That's not even a state. Not even a large city.), and FSU has scheduled this week's sexual battery on Idaho (Might as well be a small city). 

Also in the above linked story, you'll see that if the Sems struggle with Idaho at all, their good-ol'-boy boosters -- the Tallahassee Police Department -- will do whatever is needed to . . . . you know . . . . . make things right.

Washington is in a pitiful position again. Their four losses this season have come at the hands of the truly better teams in the league -- Stanford, Oregon, ASU, and then last week when they lost the game and starting QB Keith Price at UCLA.

Keith Price's damaged shoulder is very iffy for their game at Corvallis at 7:30 Saturday night on ESPN2. Enter the Dawg's backup QB.

He's a redshirt freshman with a pretty cool name. At least he HAD a pretty cool name before America witnessed a horrific scene at a music awards show a few months ago.

I mean what could possibly be wrong with a name like Cyler Miles. It was just a good unique name . . . .

Cyler Miles
. . . . . until it became a cruel anagram-like joke for . . . . .

She who must not be named.
I would give Beaver announcer Mike Parker 10 bucks and let him watch me eat a napkin if he gets "confused" and says something like "Miley Cyrus can't escape the Beaver rush and goes down."

"Ain't that a kick in the head?" *

* Mad Duck 2020 wishes to state that in no way do the preceding comments and opinions support or endorse the harming of President Kennedy or any other presidents.  

Game time: Oregon at Arizona 12:30 Pacific on ABC or ESPN2


We Want 'Bama ..... to Just Wait 'til Next Year!!!

Told ya these T-shirts were a stupid idea.
Oh the horror, the horror. It was so hard to watch such a great team be brought down and manhandled. As I was watching the game I asked myself, "Could it be that Oregon could never have beaten Alabama after all?"

Some of you may already have your answer. I'll give mine in a moment.

There were many factors in this game. Stanford controlled most of them. Their offensive line could be the best in the nation. Their coaching is great. They were very VERY prepared for this game.

Their defense is good, but I won't say great because a key element of Oregon's attack was clearly missing. Marcus Mariota was sacked three times, and ran three times for only eight yards.

Was your house filled with the desperate screams of "RUN MARCUS RUN" when you saw a path open ahead of him? Were you pulling your hair out as he wouldn't take advantage of a hole in the line three times the size on anything he gained 50 yards through in the past?

Mariota didn't run, because Mariota couldn't run.

It all became clear when he fumbled during a sack and we saw him crumple to the ground. Super Mario was playing hurt. John Canzano's story talks about Mariota's pain inside and out.

"It is what it is," Mariota said after the game when asked about his knee.

Coach Helfrich was all class when he took the postgame mike and said that this loss was all on him. He took the blame and would not hear of any finger pointing at Mariota or anyone else.

I'm wondering whether Helfrich was just saying that to take the heat, or was he referring to something more specific?  Mariota first wore his knee brace in the second half of the UCLA game. So they had a whole week to deal with his injury.

Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda: 
Should Helfrich have declared Jeff Lockie or Jake Rodriguez the starter right away? Would either of them have netted better results with their running abilities even though Mariota is the more experienced passer? Could either of them have made a difference against a great Stanford team?

Perhaps, but we'll never know. And that brings me to the question of Alabama or any other National Champion foe. Could Oregon beat the other Natty contenders? Not with a hobbled QB they can't. Helfrich proved the hard way that a healthy and effective three-way dangerous QB is crucial for Oregon's system to work.  With a more mobile Mariota, the Ducks beat Stanford, I truly believe that. 

I still believe in the way the Ducks play. I think it is the future of football. I was looking forward to new math vs. old school had Oregon lined up against the Tide.  I believe the Ducks can beat anyone when all their key players are healthy. 

But if Oregon is a team from planet Krypton, an injury to the starting QB is it's Kryptonite (Remember Dennis Dixon crumpling to the carpet at Arizona?)  If faced with a stout blitzing defense, Mariota could peel off 70, 80 or 100 yards on the day. That output, -- or even the threat of it -- is fully needed against a Stanford, or an Ohio State, or an Alabama.

Forget those guys. For the present, it will be needed against UTAH. If Oregon's QB, whoever he may be, cannot run, Utah could beat Oregon next week. Arizona could beat Oregon the following week. Oregon State could very much beat Oregon in the Civil War.

Monday's practice will tell us an interesting tale. Will Mariota be able to run? How many reps will he get with the ones compared to the backup QB's?  I trust Helfrich is smart enough to know that health is more important than Heisman hype.

Who were those clowns announcing the game? And who was that particularly ignorant clown who kept saying, "You see? Stanford just wants it more.", every time Stanford got the better of a play?

I don't know who it was and frankly don't care. But obviously it was someone who has never been around the Oregon locker room, someone who has never talked to the players or coaches.

What was he thinking, that the Ducks took a team vote moments before taking to the field at The Farm, "Hey guys, do we really want this?"
"Naaaaa, let's just go out there and tank it."

Say what you want about style, talent, game prep, injuries, etc. But don't watch the game and then -- like a casual beer chuggin', pork rind stuffin' Jabba-the-Hut in a Lazy Boy -- say, "Oh I guess they just don't want it."


I mean how stupid is that, REALLY?

   "And the Huskies go back to pass, and it is INTERCEPTED, INTERCEPTED. KENNY WHEATON. HE WANTED IT MORE . . . "

What?!?! SHUT UP!!!

   "Swing and a high fly out to center. Willie Mays goes back to the warning track and it's going, going, OH WHAT A GREAT CATCH!  Willie Mays clearly wanted it more!!!!

That doesn't even make any sense . . . . SHUT UP!!!!

   "Swing and a high fly, and over the wall it goes just over Mays outstretched hand. Mays apparently didn't want that one as much as the batter, so . . . ."


   "Flash from Dallas. Shots rang out at the presidential motorcade. President Kennedy has been shot. Lee Harvey Oswald obviously wanted it more."


   "The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor because they wanted it more."


There is still a lot of football left. Stanford has to travel to a resurgent USC next week. Could that be their trap game? Upsets can happen anywhere at anytime. Let's just hope Oregon got their's out of its system for the rest of the season.

At halftime, I threw this video up on Facebook. I'd like to show it again. We Duck fans are NOT going to be like SEC teams or the Huskies of the 90's who threw up their hands after the first loss and said, "That's it. The season is over"  Don't let that be the Oregon way. We who have endured so many ugly games and seasons are going to appreciate each win with the team, suffer each loss with the team, and enjoy the drama that either brings to the season. It'll be exciting.

In the meantme, stay loose. Stay positive. Keep believin'. Don't worry 'bout a thing. 

And as for those three little birds . . . Exactly what kind of birds are they?

Colossus Defined (and refined)

El Coloso

This week Sports Illustrated doubled down on their cover jinx by putting Marcus Mariota on the front with the title "The Colossus", and the lines, "Oregon redefined West Coat football, now it's time to conquer America (They're coming for you, SEC)."

Thanks S.I. Way to put that target on Oregon's back with indelible oil base paint; and with Stanford up next, no less.

So OK. Let's just go with it. Stick our chins out, and as Crash Davis said in Bull Durham, "Be cocky and arrogant."  But what exactly is this "Colossus" they speak of?

I climbed the 21st century Mt. Olympus of information (Google) to get to The Oracle of modern knowledge (Wikipedia) and found two primary definitions of "The Colossus." The first was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, "The Colossus of Rhodes", a 100-foot tall statue of a strong dude holding a lamp near Greece circa 260 BC. But that didn't seem to fit this narrative.

The second reference was the painting shown at the top. And as soon as I saw it, I got it. From the famous Spanish painter Francisco De Goya, The Colossus, or El Coloso, and also called El Panico (The Panic) and El Tormenta (The Storm), is an image of a giant seen beyond the hills who looks to be in a bad mood. In the valley below, we see the little people, the rabble and their livestock all panicking and fleeing in hopes of getting away before El Coloso turns his attention toward them.

Let me take this moment and say that it's been years since I had an SI subscription, let alone read it regularly. I grew tired of the East Coast bias and sloppiness with local detail. This is indeed an interesting SI story about the shift of power from USC and UCLA to Oregon and Stanford. Nevertheless it had one line in it saying for all of Phil Knight's philanthropy to Oregon, he has "kept his name off the architecture" in Eugene. 

That suggests to me that even if writer Austin Murphy visited Autzen and surrounding facilities, he never ventured onto campus where he would've walked past the Matt Knight Basketball Arena, past the Knight Library, and over to the Knight Law Center where he could have found a cozy quiet spot to write his story. And then if he caught a connecting flight out of Portland, he could have looked up on a hill and spied the Knight Cancer Institute at OHSU. It's just another typical case of poor, lazy journalism intermixed with otherwise good writing.

But back to the painting and the cover, what SI is suggesting is that Oregon's style -- both the play on the field and the successful marketing off the field -- is taking the country by storm (El Tormenta). As you look again, you can see how this image can apply to what may appear before our eyes starting tonight and through the winter.

Looking in the distance (Let's say westward.), we see the giant looming beyond a mountain range (Let's say the Rockies). His attention is presently turned in another direction (Perhaps maybe let's say . . . . southward, towards Palo Alto.) where he has some unfinished business to, uhhh. . . . FINISH.

The folks in the valleys and plains below fear what is about to happen to The Farm, as El Coloso Pato (The Giant Duck) will turn the Cardinal into a sea of red. (???)  And they can only hope that this will buy them time to run and hide.

If you were to look closer at the scurrying figures at the bottom of the image (But don't bother looking too close because I just didn't have time to Photoshop some stuff down there like I wanted, although it would've made the refinement of this masterpiece even more awesome.), you could definitely see some Sooner schooners speeding and Longhorns stampeding. With a little imagination (again, because I just didn't have the time...) you can perhaps see amongst the panicking horde at least three tigers, a wolverine, a large chestnut, some guys husking corn, a drunken feisty Irishman, a gator, at least one American Native who, for the purposes of not offending them, shall not be specifically identified, unless they don't mind at all, which in that case would be the Seminoles; a gator, an aggie, a red raider, at least one bear, maybe even a turtle. . . . and in the center of it all, one big obnoxious red elephant.

If it all turns out well, El Coloso Pato will be completed, enlarged and hung over my fireplace. Perhaps yours too? Place your orders.

I was expecting Oregon to be favored, perhaps by 3. I was surprised to see the spread at 10-1/2. But I think everyone is looking at one glaring fact.

Stanford is injured. Oregon is not.

According to this Oregonian story, Stanford's powerful defense took a huge hit when they lost their starting Defensive End Ben Gardner to a torn muscle against Oregon State. They are hoping to get back another starting DE, Henry Anderson, after he missed six weeks with a knee injury.

That right there reveals a problem. It's one thing to be back from injury able to play. But it's a whole 'nother matter to come back from six weeks of rehab and be healthy and conditioned enough to play against the rapid, powerful, and unrelenting wave that is the Oregon offense.

Stanford receiver Devon Cajuste is also injured. And while their much heralded receiver Ty Montgomery will play, is he at full strength? Reports were he was fighting pain in his lower body as late as last week. Against Oregon State he only had 3 catches for 55 yards and no TD's. Stanford is also down one kicker.

Don't get me wrong, the Cardinal are still potent. But while they're dealing with those issues, DeAnthony Thomas is healthy, eager to go, and promising 40 points. He only played the first half against UCLA before his ankle got sore again. I'm just wondering what if he plays one half again, this time the second?

Another factor in Oregon's favor: The most valuable person on Oregon's sideline that Stanford didn't face last year, Passing Coach Matt Lubick. Rated the best offensive coordinator of the year last year when Helfrich picked him up, Lubick has helped to stretch the field and give Mariota some spot-on downfield targets this year.

Last year, Stanford was successful in forcing Oregon into third and long. This year, third and long -- hell, even fourth and long -- are just other downs.

When Ken Goe asked San Jose Merc writer Jon Wilner "How is this Stanford team different from last year's team (that beat Oregon 17-14)?", Wilner started his answer, "Actually it's fairly similar." And he's right. After their loss to Utah, Stanford has worked to become about as good as they were last year.

But the bottom line is this. Oregon this year is flat out better than Oregon of last year. Mariota is better. DAT is better. Marshall is better. All the receivers are better. The defense is better. The kickers are . . . . . The defense is better!  And along with the addition of Coach Lubick, the Ducks have enjoyed the new talents of RB Thomas Tyner and Tight Ends Pharoah Brown and Johnny "The Mundster" Mundt.

Furthermore, the day after their loss to Stanford last year, Mariota led the team in studying, analyzing and learning what they did wrong in that game. They have been chomping at the bit ever since that day to make things right.

DAT's 40-point comment wasn't just loud mouth blathering. It was confidence. It was eagerness. He is picturing in his mind what he and his teammates are ready to do. And we know exactly how the Ducks will conquer the Cardinal because we have already seen them do it.

First down. "Oh you stopped the Ducks? Congratula-- ah oh, here comes second down. . . Incomplete! Hold that high-five, they just snapped the ball for third down . . . Gain of nine. HA, a yard short! Head for the Gatorade, they're done. WHAT? They're going for it!. . . . TOUCHDOWN!!!"

That's one series. Cram a bunch of those in one quarter. Then the second quarter. Still holding them? Good job. Here comes the third quarter. The game is still winnable. And look they're bringing in their third string bench warmer Thomas Tyner. . . .  

It is relentless.  Stanford can feel as good as they want about what they got away with last year. But all they did was kick a giant in the shin. Now he's coming. His shadow looms over the valley. And he doesn't stop. Doesn't hesitate. No mercy. No rest.

He pursues. He overwhelms. He suffocates. Finally, he crushes. And the lone tall tree, the Palo Alto, snaps in his fingers and digs in his molar to clear out whatever memory of last year's small Stanford victory was left.

In the end, that victory bore not a reward, but a terrible price. The wrath of


Now crank it and stomp around your office like a big green, fire breathing monster!

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