Saturday, November 21, 2009
I spent a nerve-wracking evening watching my University of Oregon Ducks football team escape from Tucson with a 44-41 double-overtime win over the tough University of Arizona Wildcats. The Ducks got out to a quick 14-0 lead, then fell behind 24-14 as Arizona's defense held the Ducks down, and the Wildcats got some seriously good offense going. The Ducks fought back to 24-24, then immediately gave up a long TD pass to fall behind again 31-24... but they scored with seconds remaining in the game to tie the score at 31-all, forcing overtime. After one overtime session it was 38-38. In the second OT, Arizona had the ball first and ended up getting a long field goal to take a 41-38 lead. With their possession next, all Oregon had to do was score a touchdown to win it, and they did that in a few plays. How sweet it was!
Oregon's naysayers always like to talk about how the Ducks always "fall apart in November", how they choke, etc. This win tonight was a character moment for the team. Before the season I was skeptical about how well Oregon could do this year, and after their first game (a ridiculous 19-8 loss at Boise State) I wasn't sure they would win half their games. But after tonight, they have 9 wins and 2 losses, and they have 7 wins and 1 loss in the Pacific-10 Conference.
How well will they do in the Civil War game against Oregon State on December 3?
I think they can pull it off, but it will be difficult. OSU has been on a roll recently, and Oregon will have to not only stop the Beavers' excellent passing game but also find a way to defense the Rodgers brothers, James and Jacquizz. And the OSU defense is very respectable.
But I think the Ducks will win. What do they have going for them?
First of all, the game is being played in Eugene, at Autzen Stadium... the Ducks are very difficult to beat at home, and Autzen is a tough place for opposing teams. It should also be noted that in last year's rivalry game, Oregon beat up on the Beavers on OSU's home field, 65-39. That was the most points ever allowed by OSU to an opponent at home, and they allowed that 65 to Oregon... and both teams have many of the same players this year.
What makes this year's Civil War so special is what is at stake. The winner will get to play against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl! I would pick whichever team wins the Civil War to beat Ohio State, and possibly fairly easily. Both the Ducks and Beavers are that good! And while it seems to me, the Ducks should beat OSU by at least 10-14 points this year... when it comes to Civil War time, you just never know.
I will only be able to watch the first half of the Civil War game! It's already killing me. Quite some time ago, our band agreed to play a job here in La Grande on that evening. Had I been paying attention to the Ducks' schedule, I would never have agreed to play on that date. And our bassist Mike is a diehard Beavers fan! I told him we were going to miss most of the Civil War game, and his response was a very quiet, disappointed "Ohhh... " But at least we will be having fun, and at least I have TiVo. If I find out that the Beavers won, I can hit the "delete" button on the TiVo. If the Ducks win, I will come home after the gig, turn on the TV and savor the second half of the game.
Another thing the naysayers will be pumping up is Oregon's reinstatement of troubled running back LaGarrette Blount, who got a hefty suspension for punching a Boise State player after that first game. UO took away Blount's right to play in games, but he was allowed to keep his scholarship and practice with the team. After meeting conditions set out by the team, he has been suited up at the last couple of games (Arizona State in Eugene last week and tonight against Arizona in Tucson) but he hasn't played. Who knows if he will play against the Beavers... I almost hope he doesn't, but I suspect he will see some action, and that if so, OSU won't be prepared for some of the plays Oregon will have designed specifically for Blount. And they will cry foul that the kid is playing, but I say "let them". Whether or not Blount plays, as Oregon coach Chip Kelly has said, "This is not about reinstatement, it's about rehabilitation." In today's punitive society, that attitude is almost refreshing. My attitude has changed since Blount's original suspension. The knee-jerk reaction is "kick him off the team for good, take away his scholarship, etc." But in the long run, if this kid is to have any chance at all of making it in the world, rehabilitation is the way to go.
So, GO DUCKS! If Oregon wins, I won't be rubbing any OSU fans' noses in it... in any case, the best team will win, and this time around, I'm pretty sure it will be Oregon.