Monday, December 31, 2007

TAKING A BREAK FROM THE USUAL STUFF FOR A DAY...

Today was a great day for the University of Oregon Ducks football team and its fans! The following was also posted at the sports blog American Legends (see links). I write an occasional blurb there to provide a Pacific NW perspective:


Who is Justin Roper?

Until today, there were not many sports fans who could answer that question. After the University of Oregon Ducks' 56-21 victory over the University of South Florida Bulls, more people will know about the Ducks' redshirt freshman quarterback from Buford High School, in Douglasville, Georgia. In the first start of his collegiate career, and in a bowl game no less, Roper responded by completing 16 of 29 passes including four for touchdowns.

Most college football fans and pundits had given the Ducks up for dead after a season-ending knee injury to starting quarterback Dennis Dixon against the University of Arizona Wildcats November 15. Dixon was headed for a possible Heisman Trophy, and Oregon, 8-1 and ranked #2 in the polls at the time, seemed destined for a BCS bowl game... then Dixon, playing on a knee he and the team knew was damaged, went down early in the 34-24 loss to the 'Cats. Backup quarterback Brady Leaf took over, but the Ducks were unable to catch Arizona.

In the next game against UCLA, Leaf was injured, and with third-string QB Nathan Costa already unable to play due to a knee injury, Oregon was forced to use fourth-stringer Cody Kempt. Oregon's defense played very well against the Bruins, but the offense was unable to put any points on the board in a 16-0 loss. Oregon's quarterbacks were only 11 for 39 for 105 yards in that game, including a 1-for-5 performance from Roper in his first action of the season.

Roper got his chance to step up in the Civil War game versus the Ducks' archrival Oregon State Beavers. After Kempt failed to move the offense early in the game, Roper came in and nearly guided the Ducks to a win, completing 13 of 25 passes . Oregon ultimately lost in two overtimes 38-31, allowing the Beavers to finish ahead of them in the Pac-10 Conference standings. Oregon finished the regular season 8-4, and although there would be a bowl invite, many Duck fans were left thinking that any bowl appearance would only end up in another disappointing loss. The mighty team that appeared set to make a BCS splash seemed to be a shell of the group that was 8-1 prior to the Arizona game, and .

Oddly, instead of opting for the Sun Bowl, the Beavers chose a lesser bowl game matchup against Maryland in San Francisco's Emerald Bowl. Oregon State's argument was that they didn't want to go to the Sun Bowl two years in a row. The Ducks ended up with the Sun Bowl invite, which offered a payout of almost a million dollars more than the Emerald Bowl, but which appeared to offer Oregon little chance for a win in a matchup with South Florida which had also been ranked #2 earlier in the season until three consecutive mid-season losses dropped them to #21 in the BCS standings.

Enter Roper. The freshman guided the Ducks as if he had been doing it for a year or two, executing ball fakes and misdirection plays with skill. His stellar play, combined with 253 rushing yards from running back Jonathan Stewart and two interceptions returned for touchdowns, helped the Ducks vindicate their season. Their effort today proved, contrary to the belief of many college football fans, that Oregon could be a good team even without Dennis Dixon playing.

Today's win offers ample hope for Duck fans for the 2008 season. Although Dixon will have graduated and Stewart will probably have gone pro, only three defensive starters were seniors this year. With a number of offensive linemen graduating, it may be tougher for the QB to get adequate protection in 2008. Opening holes for RBs Andre Crenshaw and Jeremiah Johnson may also prove problematic, but Oregon has recruited well enough that maybe this won't be a problem.

Life isn't always fair, but today's 56-21 Sun Bowl victory over a ranked team should put Oregon back into the Top 25 in the final poll of the season. It should also put Justin Roper in the catbird seat among Oregon's quarterbacks... enough so that nobody will have to ask "Who is this guy?" Roper answered that question for us all today, in grand fashion.

Go Ducks!

11 Comments:

Blogger Mary Ellen said...

Happy New Year, Snave!

8:28 PM  
Blogger Mercurie said...

Happy New Year, Snave!

Mercurie (hoping for a Mizzou win at the Cotton Bowl)

9:36 AM  
Blogger J. Marquis said...

Wow, what a great story. Looking forward to watching that kid next year.

Happy new year, dude!

11:17 AM  
Blogger Demeur said...

I missed that game. I like to catch the guys from Oregon if the Huskies or the Cougs aren't in it. A cheer for the guys from the Northwest!
The Michigan game was a good one.

Happy New year Snave!

11:54 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Happy New Year Snave (sorry I'm a day late).

Who Hijacked Our Country

12:25 PM  
Blogger pissed off patricia said...

Being married to a USF grad, things weren't so sweet here in Bulls country. Except for the Univ of Central Fla. it was a black weekend in Bedrock for Fla. teams.

The Bulls QB needs to remove that piece of road kill from his head. I think that was his problem.

1:10 PM  
Blogger lovehog said...

Nicely said Snave! I thought I was back in Eugene reading the Register Guard. The O-line played a GREAT game. Roper never got touched plus I think my mom could have gone for around 200 through those gaps. It'll be fun watching Stew on Sundays next year though. It was great seeing the Ducks finally pumped for a bowl game but this will always be the 'what if' season with Dixon crumpled on the field in Wildcat stadium permanently etched in my brain. Have Great '08!!!

4:36 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

I know what you mean about Grothe's hair, PoP. I was on the phone with my U of O buddy Martin (he lives in Iowa now) for most of the second half, and he and I agreed that the team needed to pin Grothe to the ground, get out the shaver, and send him back into the game bald.

Lovehog!! Thanks for stopping by! You should start your own blog, my friend!

Happy new year to all who stopped by to wish me the same!

Now it's time to get back into the usual old stuff.

7:28 PM  
Blogger Randal Graves said...

That shocked the hell out of me. Oregon was such a quality team until the injuries started piling up, but this is a good sign for next year.

I just hope that West Virginia's trouncing of favorite Oklahoma drowns out the Hawaii thrashing so that, in 70 or 80 years, we'll have a real playoff in place.

9:52 AM  
Blogger Lizzy said...

Sorry, Snave, I can't comment on football. I'm not a fan.

BUT, I can wish you a great 2008, buddy.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Lizzy said...

Sorry, bud, you've been tagged. See my blog for details.

5:07 PM  

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