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.
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 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.
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.
SPEAKING OF GROWING 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|
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.