The Way We Were (A Duck fan's History of Suffering) - Part 1

In the afterglow of the Historic Trojan Puncturing, a little long-term perspective is in order.


It's not true that Oregon football began with The Pick, as UW fans allege, but that moment does signal a return to relevance. The truth is that most of the program's shining moments had faded into history by the time Dan Fouts graduated (and, of course, Fouts never played in a bowl game). The Oregon football timeline from roughly 1973 to 1994 had wide valleys and few peaks. Recall that Rich Brooks had a losing record as HC; at most schools a coach with as many 2-win seasons as Brooks had wouldn't have made it to 1994, and even fewer schools would name their field after him. There were paycheck-game beatdowns, conference bludgeonings, ugly scandals leading to probations, the Toilet Bowl, and a lot of years when the only real high point was a victory over OAC.. which at the time wasn't saying much, since the barkrats were even worse.


Having grown up in Eugene in the 60s, a member of the "Knothole Gang" at Hayward Field (50 cent tickets!), I can at least remember some competitive efforts on the gridiron. But it seemed things started kind of going south when a good HC, Jerry Frei, was sacked because he couldn't beat OAC.  Dick Enright could only manage six wins in two years with players like Norv Turner, Russ Francis, Donnie Reynolds, Reggie Lewis, George Martin, Rick Kane, and Mario Clark -- all of whom would wind up in the NFL at some point. Enright couldn't beat OAC either, so out he went. Working on the cheap, Don Read was promoted from OC to HC.


Thus began the Death Spiral of Oregon Football.


Return with us now to those ghastly days of yesteryear.. one game at a time.. in order of historic relevance..


Sept 20, 1975:  San Jose St 5, Oregon 0   (story "Oregon draws a blank" starts on right side of page 12)


Coming a week after yet another paycheck game at Oklahoma (it was 62-7, and not that close), this game was a good indicator of the weird combination of futility and disinterest that was Oregon Football in the mid-70s.


In '75 I was at a party at the Masonic temple across Centennial Blvd from Autzen; one of the best signs of those times was that in 1975 there wasn't much demand for overflow parking in our lot --  the idea that we could even schedule an event on a Saturday game night in that neighborhood seems laughable now.


It was a night game. I recall stepping outside for a smoke, watching the fireworks over the stadium, thinking "Gee, something great must be happening."  Nope, just a halftime show. 


This was the game that prompted UO president William Boyd to comment that he'd "rather be whipped in a public square than watch a game like that." 


Ducks: 42 yards rushing (on 36 plays), 13-26-2 for 117 yards passing. 9 first downs. 8 punts. Two turnovers.


It could have been worse.  San Jose State missed 4 field goals. 


The "marching band" performed in what looked like yellow Century21 realty blazers.


Attendance, for a home opener night game on a beautiful late summer evening, was estimated at "25,000".


Sure, the 70s were an apathetic decade, but the team didn't give anyone reason to care. If the Oregon program had a "bottom", this was probably it, although there were many similarly bottomy moments to come.

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