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A Night of Mourning, but a Reason for Optimism

I'm really not quite sure what to say.  The game tonight is beyond words.  That was not the Oregon Ducks that lost to Arizona.  That was something unrecognizable.  We came into this season as deep as any team in the nation at the skill positions.  Yet, somehow, the injuries kept mounting and mounting, and finally they just could not be overcome.

Despite what some whiners out there will say, this season is not over.  There is a lot to play for.  There is a possible Rose Bowl and conference championship.  There is a Civil War.  And how long has it been since we've won a bowl game?  All those are still possible.  And I will get to that.  But first I need to vent.  I'll be over it after tonight, but I think that for one night we get to mourn.

First off, let me be forthright.  Arizona is a crap team.  And I have no problem saying that.  We lost to a crap team.  It happens.  I can live with that.  And if the voters want to plummet us to the ends of the Earth for losing to a crap team, I'm fine with that.  If Dixon doesn't get hurt, we roll over them.  But the national pundits will try to use this as yet another excuse for Pac-10 weakness, yada, yada, yada.  We all know that's a bunch of crap.  And that's all that matters.  Just know that for the last four games, we had the privilege of watching the best team in the country.  I really, truly belive that.  And losing a game with our second string offense isn't going to sour that for me.

And I just have to what if just one time.  What if Paysinger, Johnson, Colvin, Dixon, Tuitele, and Bacon had all stayed healthy?  The only game we saw that was the Michigan game.  What if.........

Obviously, the Dixon injury really hurt.  But I was really disheartened with the way our team responded to that injury.  They were just in a daze in the first half, and Arizona was rolling us.  Its understandable.  The emotions of losing your leader are really tough.  But, if the defense plays like themselves even a little, this game still has a different outcome.

Even with the injury, this game was there to be won.  There are three things that strike as really pivotal to this game:

  1.  Dropped passes.  We knew that a dropped pass would kill us eventually, but we figured it would be Jaison Williams.  Actually, Derrick Jones' drop in the end zone that turned into an interception was huge.  If we score right there to go up 15-0, the game is over.  But, as would happen all night, UA caught a lucky break.
  2.  Brady Leaf.  I don't want to imply that it was his fault we lost (although it was a very poorly QB'd game), but why in the world was he still in?  He was injured, playing abysmally, and had absolutely nothing more to give.  With his injury, he was even less mobile than normal, and couldn't throw a ball further than six yards.  I know that putting in Roper may or may not have worked, but Leaf clearly wasn't working, and we had three quarters of evidence to prove that.  Roper may have failed miserably, but given the situation, he should have had a chance.
  3.  The Ageyman fumble on the punt fake was brutal.  Why he decided to leap, I'll never know.
Those things go a bit differently, we probably win this game.  The best team in the country is too injured to win the national championship.  There is nothing we can do about those things, and harboring those thoughts will do nothing to harbor the cause.  You get one day to let them out.  As of Saturday, I want to hear no more of it.

The truth is, there is still an unbelievable amount to play for.  We haven't won a bowl game since 2001.  We haven't won a Rose Bowl since 1917.  And the Beavers are the reigning Civil War champions.  We still have a chance to do all of those things this year.  We'll need USC's help next week to get to the Rose Bowl, but other than that, we control the other two.  The true heart of a champion is determined by how they respond to adversity.  Our team was just punched in the mouth.  Are they going to just lie down, or are they going to keep fighting?

Obviously, concern #1 is the health of Dennis Dixon and Jonathan Stewart.  Even if Dixon hasn't suffered the worst (please, God), there is no way that he plays next week.  Which likely means another week of Brady Leaf.  As someone commented, I can't believe that they didn't have a better contingency plan for this scenario.  The offense was absolutely woeful.  Chip--you've got a week to figure it out.  Get something done.

As for Stewart, I really know nothing about his injury status (please, God).  Let's just pray for the best.  And I forgot, Jaison Williams looked a bit injured at the end.  Lets hope he's okay as well.

Two regular season games left.  I want them to be memorable.  I want to drive the stake in the heart of Karl Dorrell.  I want to reclaim Civil War victory.  But, most importantly, I want it to end positively for the kids who play on this team.  Regardless of this game, this is my favorite Duck team ever.  More so than 2001.  More so than 1994.  And, unlike those fair-weather fans who are proclaiming the season over, I still believe that they have something special in them.  They deserve to go out as champions, if not of the nation, then of the Civil War, the conference, and the Rose Bowl.

The marathon is not over yet.  We may have stumbled and lost a chance at the gold, but the silver is still there for the taking.



PS As much as I am trying to be optimistic, as the night wears on, its tough not to be pretty devistated by this. I just can't get over the fact that it was a shell of the real Ducks that we saw out there. And it really tells you how special Dennis is that he was able to mask the other injuries so well. I mean everything I said about the optimism, and everything that there still is to play for. But, damn. This one hurts. Like I said, one night of mourning.

PPS And why did it have to be Arizona? Is there a bigger jackass in college football than Mike Stoops (except maybe Bob?).