However, late schedule changes as a result of Indiana's request to be released from their game with the Ducks shifted the game with the Huskies from the 29th to the 15th, delaying the bye by two weeks.
Either this column couldn't wait two more weeks, or I was working from an old schedule when I was doing my outlines... I'm not tellin'...
Regardless, here are the memorable moments of the 2004/05 scholastic year.
As the 2004 football season approached, most conversation regarding the football team spoke of the returning "potential" in place on offense and the hope of a stout defense in light of Haloti Ngata's return from a knee injury that sidelined him the previous season.
Before fall camps would begin, the Ducks would suffer a tragedy in the loss of incoming freshman Terrance Kelly. When fall camp began the conversation again returned to that presumed "potential" and, in hindsight, overlooked the lingering effect of the recent tragedy.
By definition "potential" is mostly hope with a dash of reason for thrown in, and when Indiana came calling to open the 2004 season, both hope and reason were rudely shown to be mislaid. Whatever Oregon would become as a football team in '04, the Indiana game clearly removed "potential" from the discussion.
The lasting memory of that game – and the season that would never attain that "potential" is now deposed Indiana coach Gary DiNardo's reaction when Kellen Clemens pass was intercepted at the Indiana 37-yard line, sealing the Hoosiers unlikely 30-24 victory. There aren't many triple-jumpers who could equal the distance of DiNardo's hop, skip and jump along the sideline, and certainly none would match its exuberance.
Brandi, Brandi, Brandi.
It was perhaps the most electric 30 minutes of the year. With UCLA in town to open a series versus the two LA schools the Ducks needed to right themselves after two losses in the desert the week before. A back and forth first half had the Ducks looking to be ripe for the picking.
With 3:31 left in the first half, the woman with the 400 megawatt smile buried a trey to get started and didn't stop until she posted a 28 on the Bruins, shooting 6 of 13 from behind the arc and 10-for-19 overall, leading the Ducks to a victory that would provide momentum through the rest of the conference schedule and in to the NCAA tournament.
Once again, the albatross of "potential" hung around the necks of the Ducks as the season got underway. With stellar back-to-back recruiting classes, "the future is now" was the catch phrase and that looked to be the case as Oregon got out of the gate 6-0.
After a loss to top ranked Illinois in Chicago, the Ducks returned home for a victory over Bethune-Cookman that was more of a struggle than it should have been. A gutty win at Fresno State on Bryce Taylor's last second rebound/jump shot rekindled the enthusiasm of the faithful.
Two non-conference victories and a Pac-10 opening victory over USC appeared to set the stage for a thrilling conference race as UCLA came into Mac Court for a Sunday afternoon tilt.
A balanced inside/out Bruin attack deflated the Ducks to the tune of a 70-62 loss, but the margin was truly greater than that. In the process, UCLA exposed the Ducks defensively and provided a template for the rest of the conference teams to follow – establish strength inside and shoot the ball from the perimeter when the defense collapses. For the rest of the season Oregon's opponents mostly did exactly that, as the Ducks were only able to muster five more wins and failed to qualify for the conference tournament and post season play for the first time since the 2000-01 season.
TRACK & FIELD
The only Pac-10 conference championship of the year came in the spring. Kedar Inico (400, 45.61) and Eric Mitchum (110 hurdles, 13.59) won individual championships for the Ducks. With strong showings in the relays and the distance races, Oregon was able to build a 17 ½ point victory margin over UCLA and win their fifth conference championship.
On the women's side, though finishing seventh in the conference meet, Sarah Malone cannot go unmentioned. The senior dynamo won a conference championship in the javelin and made every throw of her career with every ounce of heart and ability she possesses
Two weeks earlier, in the only other moment that could compete with Brandi Davis' lights out performance as the "memory of the year", freshman distance running sensation Galen Rupp had broken the junior record in the 15k and in doing so put to rest any remaining controversy relating to the early season staff restructuring and his subsequent late enrollment in the University.
Once the conference championship had been secured – Galen Rupp's fourth and Eric Logdson's sixth place finishes in the 5K provided the winning margin – a photograph of Rupp being carried on the shoulders of pole-vaulter Tommy Skipper as the rest of the team joins in celebration around them served to illustrate how the team had been able to insulate itself from the distractions of the external turmoil. Though Skipper – the returning NCAA champion – had failed to qualify for the NCAA meet, he had contributed to the conference championship by securing a seventh place finish and two points in the javelin. Important as those points were, the gesture captured in the photograph may have been the more valuable point made as it set the stage for what should be a powerhouse of a track and field team next season.
With the bye week now put to constructive use, we will return to the game-by-game preview of the 2005 season next week.
Till the next time…