This one hurts, there is no getting around that. To some, Auburn’s game-winning drive might sting more, but to me, this one stings more.
Maybe it’s because I mentally blocked the 2011 BCS National Championship Game from memory just like I’ll probably block this one from mind. But this loss had an emotional impact on me that no game has ever had before.
Football is an emotional roller coaster. You'll experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. And if you're not prepared for that, well, there's the door. This is the beauty of football. It makes us feel like we believe in something bigger than ourselves. Our emotions are controlled by the athletic performance of teenagers and kids barely old enough to legally drink, and we don't find anything strange about that.
I write this column not as any type of unbiased journalist, but as what I truly am. A fan, and a proud alum. And yes, as hard as that is to admit right now, I am proud. Now, I never thought a quote from South Park would summarize how I feel right now, but this is about the best way to describe it.
"Well, yeah and I'm sad. But at the same time I'm really happy something could make me feel that sad. Like, it makes me feel alive, you know? It makes me feel human. And the only way I can feel this sad now is if I felt something really good before. So I have to take the bad with the good. So I guess what I'm feeling is like a beautiful sadness."
Before this game, I said all along that if Ezekiel Elliott got going and ran for over 200 yards, the Ducks would be in trouble. I wish my prediction was wrong, but it was not. One of the images that will be burned into my head for eternity is Elliott doing a hand gesture towards his mouth, telling his coaching staff and team, "Keep feeding me all night." What happened the very next play? Touchdown. When the Buckeyes needed a big play, they turned to Ezekiel Elliott. And he brought them a national championship.
The loss to Ohio State in the 2010 Rose Bowl and the loss tonight were similar at times. There were moments of hope, but at the end of the day, it was like a train wreck. You knew you shouldn't watch, and you could see it from a mile away, but you somehow couldn't look away.
I watched the game at the official Ducks bar in Seattle, a place called Spitfire. Unfortunately, I dont think I’ll ever be able to return to the bar. But for a few glorious hours, it was as if I was back home in Oregon again. The bar was packed with a sea of green and yellow. I had some moments where I was convinced I had never felt happier in my life, and I had moments where I knew I never felt lower. When Ohio State scored their final touchdown, I turned away from the TV. When the clock hit zero, I walked out the door. My mom, who had joined me to watch the game, attempted to turn me around in the right direction to the bus stop. At that moment, I leaned against the wall of the building, said "I just need a minute," and started to break down. I fought off tears the best I could. When I got on the bus home, I sat down, broke down and began to cry.
This was the first time a team has ever made me cry. I’ve been in this position before, but this one hurts just as bad, if not worse. Maybe it hurts worse because the wounds are fresh. Maybe it hurts worse because it’s the second time around. But you know what they say, time heals all wounds.
Chip said it after the loss to Auburn and I’ll say it again now. These guys are champions, and we will be back. It might take five years. It might take 10 years. There’s simply no way to tell. But we will be back. And as much pain as Ducks fans might be in tonight, or for the months to come, this team made us all proud. The slogan on the Rose Bowl shirts, Won Not Done, now offers new meaning. We won the Rose Bowl, but fell one game short of the ultimate goal. We’re not done. We’ll be back in the fall, and we have unfinished business to take care of.
Wish so bad we could have won this last game, but this group will always be champions. They will always be Men of Oregon. #MenOfOregon #WTD— Mark Helfrich (@CoachHelfrich) January 13, 2015