The 2007 Oregon Ducks team was a team of survival. They survived a suspension to the Duck after the season opener vs. Houston. They more than survived a trip to the Big House, blowing out Michigan 39-7. They survived season-ending injuries to Brian Paysinger, Cameron Colvin, and Jeremiah Johnson. They survived games against top 15 teams USC and Arizona State in consecutive weeks. And in a season where there was one undefeated BCS conference team by the second week of November - AND IT WAS KANSAS! - Oregon's only blemish was the "Touchback Game" to Cal. A matter of feet separated Oregon from an undefeated season as it headed into Tucson to face Arizona, and they were led by Heisman trophy front-runner Dennis Dixon.
Dennis Dixon's 2007 season had been one for the ages. After an inconsistent 2006 campaign that saw him splitting time with Brady Leaf, Dixon seized the job heading into his senior season, and started with a bang, running for a then-school-record 140 yards against Houston that included an 80 yard touchdown scamper. The following week against Michigan, he showcased all his talents in throwing for 292 yards and three touchdowns, and running in a touchdown on the now-famous fake Statue of Liberty. He'd battled adversity, numerous rabid defenses, and a sprained knee that knocked him out of the Arizona State game. He'd thrown for over 2000 yards, and run for 500 more, as he entered Tucson. It had already been a memorable season. But no one knew how memorable that night in the desert would be.
Dennis Dixon walked onto the field that Thursday night in a knee brace. He had sprained it twelve days earlier against Arizona State, and there were concerns that the injury was worse than the coaching staff let on. After a big run by Jonathan Stewart, and a pass from Dixon to Aaron Pflugrad that came up short of a first down, Oregon faced a 4th and 3 from the Arizona 39 yard line. The Ducks ran a zone read, with Dixon pulling the ball out and running through the right side of the offensive line. With nary a challenge from the Wildcats defense, Dixon ran the ball in for the touchdown, and Oregon had the lead.
That's when the unthinkable happened.
The field at Arizona Stadium, which was natural grass at the time, began to shudder. Many spectators thought an earthquake had hit the stadium. Many Oregon fans thought Haloti Ngata had decided to pay the team a surprise visit. But it was something else entirely. The shudder turned to a shake. The field began to crack open, as a wide, smoky chasm opened up at the 50 yard line. A hush fell over the crowd as the dust surrounding the newfound portal to the unknown settled. A coyote howled in the distance.
From the dark expanse came footsteps, and four shadowy figures. The first was John Heisman, legendary head coach and namesake of the Heisman trophy. The second, Bradbury Robinson, the man who threw the first legal forward pass. Then came Bear Bryant, six-time national championship winning coach. And last was Harry Houdini, pioneer escape artist and the greatest magician of all time. As an astonished crowd looked on, the four spirits walked to the south endzone and surrounded Dixon. Houdini conjured a microphone from thin air, and spoke.
Dennis Dixon. We four have been watching your exploits from the great beyond. Your season has been one of unparalleled skill and wonder. I have been impressed most by your magical hands that can make a football come and go, defying the laws of nature. One minute it is here, the next it is in Jonathan Stewart's hands, thirty yards down field. Your skill with close-up magic is unlike anything I have ever seen, and you are to be commended for your efforts.
Robinson spoke next:
When I threw the first forward pass in 1906, I threw it in hopes that football could be something more than a sport where adolescents run into each other, and a couple dozen players die each year. That first pass was incomplete, and according to the rules at the time, that meant the other team got the ball. But the next pass I threw was completed. And now here we are, at the pinnacle of quarterbacking. You, Dennis Dixon, have made throws this year that I could not have thought was possible 101 years ago. You are a golden god, and I can now rest knowing my small contribution has, in some way, given your gift to the world.
John Heisman approached Dixon, handing him a version of his trophy no one had ever seen. The old leatherhead was bathed in a soft white light, holding a cobra where the football should be, and had twin katana swords strapped to his back.
When Jay Berwanger won the Downtown Athletic Club trophy in 1935, I thought he was the most unstoppable athlete I had ever seen. He was a champion decathlete, and a fierce competitor at running back that could win a game all by himself. Over the next 72 seasons, the football landscape has changed drastically, but never have I seen as special a player as you, Dennis Dixon. There are other good players in college football, but none stand up to the arms, legs and heart that you possess. I've seen all I need to see, and I present you with the 2007 Heisman trophy, which I forged myself in the depths of college football Valhalla. Congratulations, hero.
Bear Bryant was the last to speak.
As someone who has seen many a national champion, I know the look of a worthy team when I see one. And this Oregon Ducks team has every necessary quality: strong leadership, quality running and blocking, top-notch passing and catching, and great coaching. Your only loss this season came because of a fumble through the endzone, which, if you'll allow me to speak bluntly, is the most bullshit rule in sports. And your wins have been truly magnificent. In all honesty, there's no point in playing the rest of the season, because the Oregon Ducks are the best. Bring me the trophy!
Six winged fairies carried out the national championship trophy, a crystal football of such luster you couldn't look directly at it without wearing sunglasses. Bryant presented the trophy to head coach Mike Bellotti, and joined his cohorts in one final salute to the Ducks, before descending back from whence they came.
Arizona fans slowly begun filing for the exits, still a bit in awe of what had just transpired. The Wildcats players were understandably disappointed at their season being cancelled in the middle of a game, but understood the consequences. There would be no appeal from LSU, Oklahoma, or Kansas, or any other team with aspirations of a title. The matter was settled. Oregon was the national champion, and Dennis Dixon was the Heisman trophy winner. A parade was held in honor of this special team, a statue was erected of Dixon in the middle of campus, and E. 13th Avenue in Eugene was renamed Dennis Dixon Way, in honor of Oregon's greatest athlete. To this day, thousands of students gather each week at the corner of Dixon and Agate, to receive a zone read fake from Dixon's magic hands. You can visit the national championship trophy in the Casanova Center, and if you catch it in the right light, you can see Harry Houdini and Bear Bryant smiling back at you.
At least, that's how I remember it.