Oregon Duck fever has been spreading around Central Oregon Community College like wildfire during the regular college football season. Since their defeat in the Rose Bowl last year, Oregon and Oregon Fans have been hungry for another bowl game.
During the season, Oregon went 12-0 to earn a spot at this year’s National Championship Game, meeting the Tigers of Auburn. Oregon Fans at COCC were given a special treat, by having the game broadcast in the Campus Center.
Bill Douglass, head of the Sports and Recreation Department gave fans at COCC a chance to watch the Bowl Game.
“I wanted students to have a fun activity and spark some interest for the game.” Douglas said.
Gordon Price and Matt Greenleaf helped set up the party with free pizza, sodas, chips and healthy snacks. To complete the party, prizes were awarded each time Oregon scored. Matt Greenleaf head of intramural sports predicted that the game would be 28-21 for the ducks.”Both teams had lots of time to prepare” Greenleaf stated.
The atmosphere at the start of the game was a like a pot freshly placed on a burner. You could sense the energy it was creating but it never quite boiled over. During the game both Oregon and Auburn fans, were cheering as Oregon traded possessions with Auburn.
The first half performance of Oregon and Auburn were both lackluster and fans were starting to leave. Due to technical difficulties, the projection unit in the Campus Center had to be turned off. Oregon and Auburn fans congregated amongst the two remaining televisions. The game boasted as a shootout between both teams was a disappointing 11-16 after the first half.
As the third quarter progressed, fans started losing interest. With Oregon’s high-flying offense stalled and their defense losing the battle at the line of scrimmage, Auburn looked to be in control. Chip Kelley the coach for Ducks, never to be underestimated pulled off his best magicians trick, with a faked punt that continued the drive for Oregon. Holding Auburn to a field goal in the third quarter, Duck fans settled in for a long 4th quarter comeback.
Emotions ran high at the beginning of the fourth quarter. With the championship on the line with only one score separating the teams, it was still anyone’s game.
Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews gave the Ducks life when he punched the ball out Newton’s hand after a short gain for a fumble that was recovered by cornerback Cliff Harris with 4:54 left in the game. Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas took over, saving a drive by completing a 29-yard pass on fourth and five and later tossing a two-yard shovel pass to running back LaMichael James for a touchdown.
Still Duck fans were chewing on their nails.
With the possibility of a two-point conversion to tie the game, all hopes rested on Darron Thomas. Thomas’ two-point conversion pass to Jeff Maehl tied the score and set the stage for Auburn’s final drive.
Fans started hoping for overtime. Auburn running back Michael Dyer had other plans though. On second down, the freshman took a handoff and broke through into the Oregon secondary. Ducks free safety Eddie Pleasant appeared to wrap up Dyer, but Dyer’s knee did not hit the ground and he kept running for a 37-yard gain to Oregon’s 23.
With time left on the clock, Auburn went for the touchdown. With a last minute effort, the Oregon Ducks held them at the one-yard line, but two plays later Wes Byrum split the uprights to give the Tigers the title.
“Our defense was focused for one month,” Auburn head coach Gene Chizik said of the 37-day layoff between the SEC and national title games. “They went out and practiced every day to win a national championship. Every day.”
Consequently, Oregon head coach Kelly was proud of his team despite the defeat and the fact that Auburn stifled their high powered offense.
“I said in my first game when I was the head coach, one game doesn’t define you as a person or as a football player,” Kelly said at his press conference. “And the same thing holds true. These guys are champions. I love them. We’ll be back.”
Though, only a few Ducks that made up this championship team are coming back. Sophomore star LeMichael James has already stated his intention to stay in Eugene, as will quarterback Darron Thomas, who took over for the departed Jeremiah Masoli. However, senior receiver Jeff Maehl who was Thomas’ go-to target this year will be leaving, doubtless to enter the NFL Draft, as well as defensemen Brandon Bair, Casey Matthews, Kenny Roe, Zac Clark and Spencer Paysinger.