A Post-Civil War Game Thought

Although eDuck.com is generally not a website where people turn for recommendations, let's all agree that after Saturday's Civil War, the only appropriate post-game meal for outspoken Beavers linebacker Richard Seigler was to eat crow. <br><br>(PHOTO LEFT) Oregon's Justin Phinisee (31) knocks the ball away from Oregon State receiver James Newson (2) during the second quarter in Eugene, Ore., Saturday, Nov. 22, 2003. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)

Through the past week Seigler has been the most boastful, trash-talking player on either side of the UO-OSU divide in many a year. Among the many joys for Duck fans to savor after the team's 34-20 victory, the thought of zipping Seigler's mouth is right up there with the best.

Because for a significant portion of the season Oregon looked…uh, really bad, ending the regular season with a three game win streak is all the more satisfying, let alone one capped by a trashing of the supposedly superior Beavers. In the week leading up to the game the Las Vegas line favored the Beavers by about 3 points. These are much better odds given the Ducks than by Oregonian columnist John Canzano, who wrote that Oregon had "no chance" of beating Oregon State. Made an underdog in their home stadium, just as they were against Michigan earlier this year, the Ducks reveled in the opportunity to prove themselves.

To keep the season in context, of course we all would have liked to see 10 or 11 wins this year. After all, winning the Civil War won't put us in a bowl game on New Year's Day. We'll be very fortunate to make the Sun Bowl or Holiday Bowl, all things considered. But if someone would have told us we'd finish 3-1 a month ago, when seemingly one conference opponent after another was blowing Oregon out with victory margins of several touchdowns, let's face it: most of us would have been pleasantly surprised.

Of course with each year in the books we must say goodbye to another class of players. So Autzen Stadium will never again see between its sidelines the likes of Sammy Parker, whose Olympic-caliber speed and soft hands rank the wide receiver among the schools all-time best—and we've had a lot of good ones over the years: Christian McLemore, Patrick Johnson, Lew Barnes, then-tailback Bobby Moore (a.k.a. Ahmad Rashad), Damon Griffin. And Duck fans also bid goodbye Kevin Mitchell, the Brian Urlacher of Eugene. In good times and bad the last few years, this linebacker has been a rock. If OSU's Seigler will go higher in the NFL draft, it will be because he's faster in the 40 or some other inane draft methodology—not because he's a better football player.

And there are more seniors bowing out at Autzen on a high note. After a shaky start last year, cornerback Steven Moore led a resurrected Ducks secondary. Defensive end Quinn Dorsey helped stabilize the line after Haloti Ngata's season-ending injury in the first game. Same goes for Junior Siavii, whose long hair may have made the name on the back of his jersey hard to read but whose presence was unmistakable. Josh Line has been a solid presence at fullback. Keith Lewis may have talked a lot of trash at times, but he was an excellent safety, making interceptions and tackles when the defense has at times had little other star players to turn to. Dan Weaver has been a rock at center, stabilizing the offensive line. And lets not forget quarterback Jason Fife.

Although he will not rank among Oregon's all-time best quarterbacks, there were times during his career when the young man from Lake Elsinore was superb. It wasn't easy last year filling the mammoth shoes of Joey Harrington. It wasn't easy this year losing the starting job to underclassman Kellen Clemens. But Fife handled it all with class, and the Ducks are better for his efforts.

(Incidentally, as long as we're looking at players departing, how enticing is it to imagine an Oregon State team next year with Derrick Anderson lining up under center potentially without an NFL-departed Steven Jackson?)

One also can't mention this season without talking about the uniforms. Many of us would have been very happy to see Oregon keep the duds the team already had, but unquestionably a key part of the uniform's job is to attract talented players. If it helps us land a top running back last year, let the change come. And after all, we were 3-0 in those shocking all-yellow "lightning" numbers.

As for the coaches, Mike Bellotti and his staff attracted some criticism this year, especially offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig and defensive coordinator Nick Alliotti. For much of the season Ludwig's play calling seemed more predictable and less effective than his two predecessors, Jeff Tedford and Dirk Koetter. But Ludwig rebounded in the second half of the season, especially after moving to the sideline from the press box. And there's no denying he called a masterful game in the Civil War. Alliotti continued to take the heat began last year, when his defensive backs could hardly stop anything or anyone. By the end of this season, however, Duck cornerbacks and safeties were more than holding up their side of the bargain. Without their interceptions in the last few games, the offense never would have been able to win the game on its own.

After the season concludes in El Paso, San Diego, or wherever Oregon plays its bowl, there will be reason for optimism next year. Kellen Clemens is the undisputed #1 at quarterback, and he's looking better than ever. Demetrius Williams and company figure to make the receiver position a continuing strength even with Parker's graduation to the NFL. The entire defense seems well stocked and ready to dominate, as long as someone can fill Mitchell's shoes. Both lines return more than they lose, including a budding superstar in Ngata back from injury. If Oregon can just improve its running game, the team will be looking very good. Will it be Whitehead? A new recruit? Or will the highly touted Chris Vincent rebound from a disappointing redshirt freshman campaign?

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's savor victory in the game that arguably means more than any other. Whether we're 1-10 or 10-1 going into the Civil War, winning is enough to reduce us to tears or outright goofiness. Yeah, I'll fess up to slapping "Celebration" on the turntable last night, and I don't care how stupid I looked shimmying across the living room floor. The Ducks beat the Beavers, and that's all you have to say.

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