This is the fifth of a week-long series of posts sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
Writing a post on memorable moments in Oregon football history prompts a very simple question: Where do I begin?
Over the past 20 years, Oregon football has been blessed with an almost endless supply of memorable moments and big plays. We'll try to cover a good number of them in this post, but be sure to leave your memorable moments in the comments.
2006 Oklahoma Sooners (jtlight)
Every college football fan knows of the infamous onside kick game, though the botched call has not tarnished my memory of the game (how the Ducks finished out the 2006 season was all the tarnishing I needed). But for emotional response at the moment, this game ranks up there with many Oregon classics, and holds a special place for me, as it was my first return trip to Autzen after a five-year hiatus (the previous game I'd seen at Autzen was the 2001 Stanford game, so after that suffering, maybe the football gods wanted to give me a good show).
After losses to Oklahoma in two consecutive years, Oregon fans wanted a victory, but a poor second half showing made it look like we were headed for the third straight straight defeat to the Sooners.
Oregon's offense was largely ineffective after the half, and Dennis Dixon threw two interceptiosn at the beginning of the 4th quarter. The tired Duck defense was steamrolled by Adrian Petersen, who ran for 145 in the fourth quarter alone. But in a couple key situations, the Ducks held the Sooners to field goals, and 3:02 remaining, the Ducks were down by 13 points. The crowd knew what was going to happen.
But, with a good portion of the crowd filing out, The Ducks marched down the field, scored a touchdown on a Dixon run, and lined up for the onside kick. One atrocious, terrible call (though in the stands we didn't know it at the time), the Ducks were in business, scored the go ahead touchdown 21 seconds later, and Autzen went ballistic.
Yet, our roller coaster of emotion was not yet over. Oklahoma took the kickoff back to give Oklahoma a last-second field goal attempt, almost dooming one of the greatest comebacks ever. But the Ducks sealed the victory by blocking the kick.
While in some sense that game has been tainted by terrible officiating, one thing that I love about sports is the pure emotion involved when cheering on your team. During that game, we went from euphoria to despair in seconds, and then back again. It may not have been the best played game ever, but I won't be forgetting that feeling after the victory.
Countless comebacks from the Joey Era (jtlight)
Is is possible to pick just one Joey game? I don't think so. The guy had a flair for the dramatic, and came through time after time after time. Two that stick out in my mind. The 2000 Arizona St. Sun Devils game. This was a game that just never went the Ducks way. The defense couldn't get big stops, and every time they'd claw their way into the game, ASU would make a big play to seemingly put the game out of reach. After Justin Peele was stopped at the one yard line, the game was seemingly over. But ASU fumbled the ball as their ball carrier was passing that yellow first down line, and the Ducks sent the game into overtime on the next play.
2001 USC Trojans game was also a classic, and carries emotional significance as it was the first game Oregon played after 9/11.
As for the game, like many Harrington era games, the Ducks gave away multiple chances to take over the game, and even had the go-ahead field goal blocked. But Carson Palmer didn't win the Heisman in 2001. In that year, he was busy stopping the clock for the opposing team, and his blunder left the Ducks one time out and gave Joey Harrington enough time to march the Ducks into scoring position for the winning field goal. While there were a lot of great games in 2001, this one gave the Ducks their first conference victory of the season, and put them on the path to the Pac-10 championship.
2009 California Golden Bears (jtlight)
While many games are memorable for their theatrics, this game is memorable for the Ducks total domination of the California Golden Bears.
I was lucky enough to attend this game in person, a rare occurence as I live in Chicago, and was able to meet many of the ATQ writers for the first time, which is memorable enough in itself. Before the game, we were simply hoping for a competitive game. Though we though the Ducks had a great chance in all 4 main phases of the game (rushing offense/defense, passing offense/defense).
Little did we know that the Ducks would break out and put an absolute beat down on the Bears. Ed Dickson had his breakout game of the season. The offensive line began to dominate, and the Ducks dominated every phase of the game. Jahvid Best was shut down. The Duck defense pressured Kevin Riley all game long. And by the end of the game, we were walking out in shock over the 42-3 victory.
2001 Civil War (PaulSF)
I was there for "The Pick" during the 1994 Washington Huskies game, as well as the 1994 Civil War a few weeks later. But as a relatively clueless 12-year-old, I can't really recall the emotions or whether or not I truly understood what was transpiring. And although those two games are probably the defining moments that led to me becoming a die-hard Ducks fan, my favorite moment came seven years later during the 2001 Oregon State Beavers game. With the Beavers leading 6-3 to start the fourth quarter amid a cold and dreary evening at Autzen, Keenan Howry fielded a low, line-drive punt and returned it 69 yards for the touchdown, putting the Ducks up for good en route to a 17-14 win and the program's first 11-win season in school history. I was a sophomore at Oregon at the time, who had camped out all night when the tickets were distributed to students, so with all the hype and build-up leading up to the game, it seemed nearly impossible for the game to live up to its billing. It did and become one of Oregon football's historic and defining moments. And it will never be forgotten.
2000 California Golden Bears (Matt Daddy)
My favorite Duck memory comes from the only game I've ever attended at Autzen. Yes, I lived in Eugene for 5 years and only attended one game. I was a student, and I worked full-time (which while being a student means you work a lot of Saturdays), a husband and also a father while I lived there. So the chance of me being able to attend were rather low. Luckily, a good friend of mine, who was a student trainer for the team, asked me if I wanted his "Parent Tickets" for the Cal game. So my Dad was going to be in town that weekend, so I asked if he wanted to go with me, and we were all set.
The game was great, Harrington was stellar, and Autzen is a magnificent place to watch a game. My friend's seat were right about the 45 yard line, first row behind the Duck's bench (probably the best seats in the house). We got to listen to the coaches yell at the players, see Bellotti work the refs, and be right on top of all the action.
My actual favorite memory came in the 4th quarter with about 3:30 to go. Kyle Boller of Cal is forced out of the pocket and decides to throw the ball away over the top of the Duck's bench. Unfortunately he didn't see me standing there and I picked him off. That's right, I intercepted Kyle Boller (in reality a couple of plays later Boller actually does throw an interception that seals the game for the Ducks... I just did it first and in my head Jerry Allen was screaming, "Matt Daddy's gonna score! Matt Daddy's gonna score!!!). After the game I raced into the house to make sure that my wife had set the VCR correctly and recorded the game. While everyone there wanted to go out to dinner, I was more interested in watching my pick. Sure enough, they recorded it correctly... and in case you don't believe me, here it is through the magic of youtube.
We've only scratched the surface in terms of unforgettable games, so leave yours in the comments! GO DUCKS!