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What If It All Goes Wrong?

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Oregon Football seems poised for big things in 2014--but what if everything goes wrong?

Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

I just have a hard time caring.

The fans didn't care about Oregon's trip to the 2014 Las Vegas Bowl and, judging by the way the players played, they didn't care either. But even a victory over Boise State, instead of a 45-21 pounding, would have done little to change anyone's perception of this season, or the direction of the program. How did the No. 3 preseason team in the country fall so far, so fast? And is there any way to pry open a window that was emphatically slammed shut.

No, it wasn't Mark Helfrich's fault that Marcus Mariota was lost for the year in a heartbreaking loss to Michigan State. Everyone gave the coach the benefit of the doubt after that game because Mariota's loss was so much to overcome. But to go up to Pullman and lose to Washington State two weeks later? I still can't fathom how the coaching staff let Jeff Lockie put the ball up 46 times in a game where the Ducks were never down by more than a touchdown. And as bad as losing to Washington State was, it was just a sign of things to come.

The Arizona win was nice vindication, and I really thought that the breakout performance of Thomas Tyner with 212 yards and four touchdowns would really right this offense. But they were held to 21 points in a loss to UCLA.

But the worst was the next week. For the first time in over 4,000 days, the Ducks lost to Washington. The dam on the Oregon defense finally broke, and the offense couldn't pick them up. 52-28, easily the darkest moment for Oregon in a long, long time.

Still, there was that four game winning streak that came after. The win over Stanford, even though the Cardinal were nowhere near where we thought they'd be, had made you think that, under Lockie, the team finally turned the corner and got over the loss of their leader.

Then Oregon State happened. And as Matt Wogan's potential tying field goal sailed wide left, what was left of anything to feel good about disappeared. Watching Washington win the Pac-12 Championship Game the next week was just an extra kick in the gut. Watching them in the College Football Playoff will be worse.

This could merely be a blip on the radar. Plenty of programs have had a disappointing 7-6 season on the way to another run. But this sure doesn't feel that way. Mariota will be in the NFL. Mark Helfrich will be on one of the hottest seats in the country. And Washington has just poached Oregon's top two recruits.

It's going to be a long winter in Eugene. But after the carnage that was the season, winter is a welcome respite.