Disappointment, frustration, and downright anger are a few words I might use in regards to my feelings about this year's intrastate rivalry. A national championship was once on the line. A Heisman Trophy was once up for grabs. And a senior send-off worthy of this team's character was seemingly inevitable.
Oh how things have changed.
You'll have to excuse me if I sound a bit jaded…because I am. I've been dumped. Dumped by the "It" girl, with the "It" friends, and the "It" future I longed to be a part of. "Can't Buy Me Love's," Ronald Miller has nothing on me. I had a lease on the Oregon Ducks. A lease which seemingly ended prematurely, taking the Ducks from geek to chic, and now back to geek…and all much too soon.
This wasn't supposed to be how it went. Oregon wasn't supposed to be an underdog in this game. Sure, they're one point favorites in nearly every gambling establishment from here to the southern most tip of Nevada, but show me someone confident in an Oregon triumph and I'll show you a current student, alum, or fanatic blinded by a dangerous level of allegiance to he or she's beloved. The Ducks are limping into this game with a man size hitch in their getty-up, the type of imperfection incapable of disguise…and apparent to all. A fifth-string quarterback, third-string running back, and receivers from the bottom of a bucket previously thought to be bottomless. Sure, Aaron Pflugrad, Drew Davis, and Terence Scott are talented players whose time would certainly have come, but now was not supposed to be that time.
This was supposed to be Dennis Dixon's time, Brian Paysinger's time, and Cameron Colvin's long awaited time to stand out, be acknowledged, and most importantly thanked for their season and career contributions to the Ducks and the University of Oregon as a whole.
Jonathan Stewart was supposed to dominate en route to a blowout victory. Brady Leaf was supposed to finish the fourth quarter of a one-sided affair, with a late game drive worthy of an Autzen faithful curtain call. And A.J. Tuitele was supposed to ice the game with a final second interception, of which he'd take to the "house" amidst a sea of green-clad-students who'd stormed the field coinciding with the final second of Oregon's eleventh victory of a nearly perfect 2007 season.
Dennis Dixon was supposed to win the Heisman Trophy.
The Ducks were supposed to win the Pac-10 Conference.
And Oregon was supposed to be playing for the national championship in the BCS Title Game January 7th, 2008.
But he's not, they didn't, and Oregon unfortunately won't be playing in New Orleans.
Many will point to the myriad of injuries as merely part of the game, and yes, injuries of all shapes and sizes are an unfortunate part of a game built around physical violence, but injuries and catastrophic injuries are far from peas-in-a-pod. The Ducks have been the recipient of a particularly odoriferous pile of bad luck this season, and at the risk of sounding like a homer; this team deserved better.
They recovered, rebounded, and reformed themselves after an embarrassing defeat in last season's Las Vegas Bowl finale.
Dennis Dixon made an about face in comparison to last year's disappointing performance, and transformed himself from a shell-shocked signal caller, to a leader, standout performer, and role model to each and every one of his teammates.
The offensive line defied everyone's low expectations and molded their unit into one of, if not the best of its kind in the Pac-10 Conference.
And the coaching staff survived an off-season of scrutiny, by creating a new attitude, evident by the apparent increase of teamwork and attention to detail.
All worthy of acknowledgment, and ideally a far better reward.
So yes, I'm disappointed, frustrated and angry about what might've been. This could've been one of the all-time Civil War's, with subplots never seen before in this game's long illustrious history. Yet it still should be celebrated, not for what it could've become, but for what it can represent; resiliency, dedication, and a newfound unity culminating with an unexpected result…a win against the odds.
Oh Where, Oh Where, Has The Civil War Gone?
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