As the punt team trotted onto the field with roughly seven minutes to go in the game, I knew I had to get out there. I had to leave the watch party I was at because I couldn’t stomach sticking around to witness the confetti rain down on Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes. I didn’t want to see Marcus slowly saunter to the locker room with his head down after congratulating his opposition. I didn’t want those to be my last memories watching this team as a student at UO. This wasn’t supposed to happen. The dream season, highlighted by Oregon’s very first Heisman winner, Marcus Mariota, was supposed to culminate with the program capturing its first ever National Championship. And while I may come off like a five-year old throwing a tantrum, this was Oregon’s time, and there wasn’t a program on the face of this earth that deserved this National Championship more than the Ducks. After a decade of knocking at the door and symbolically paying its dues through heart wrenching defeats in the biggest of games, the time had finally come for Oregon to take what was rightfully theirs. Ohio State? They’ve had their time, and quite frankly, I'm sick and tired of it still being their time. They’ve already won National Championship's and staked their claim as college football royalty. And with their third string quarterback, it wasn’t even supposed to be their year. But that’s how
sports life goes, and even though the game ended many hours ago, Oregon fans are still mourning the loss.
Eugene was as somber as I’ve ever seen it last night. As I sat down on my friends’ porch as the final minutes ticked away on the TV inside the house, I sipped on one last beer and took in the sights and sounds. Echoes of broken bottles and profane screams filled the streets. Small packs of students roamed up and down the block, seemingly lost and wandering in disbelief. I noticed one girl with tears running down her red and distraught face. Most passers-by however, could muster up nothing more than a blank stare. Campus PD casually perused through the neighborhood to mediate the madness, and keep order. A few houses down from the one I was at, a group of guys set a couch on fire. Burning couches are typically reserved for wins, but with the disaster that unfolded, the scene was perfect metaphorically. Eugene was burning.
I couldn’t help but reflect and get a bit nostalgic as I sat on that porch and watched the chaos ensue. I thought back to the first time I ever made the walk to Autzen when visiting the school for the first time on a humid summer afternoon. I'll never forget that feeling as I gazed upon the massive pantheon-like structure with the giant yellow O that is Autzen Stadium, after I crossed the bridge, and went through the woods. That same summer, there was a quarterback controversy in Eugene between the backup from the year before, who was favored to win the job, and a former three-star unknown recruit from Hawaii. That three star recruit would go on to lead the program to some of its best years, and he’d have a fine career for himself as well. He just won the Heisman, and is now set to become a millionaire playing in the NFL. I thought about the UW blowouts, the Jordan Williamson field goal, the Michigan State game and the romping in Pasadena. Damn, how fortunate I was to be student at UO during all of this. Regardless of national titles to claim, it was one hell of ride, right? How many other schools have had a run like Oregon's? I tried like hell to rationalize the situation, but there was no silver lining to be found on that night.
Despite my tenure as a student at UO being filled with nothing but success and utter domination from the Ducks in football, you’d have to be a fucking robot to feel no sort of emotional letdown from this game. In 2010, Oregon entered unchartered territory against Auburn. Oregon had never played in a National Championship before and despite the bigger goal, there had to be a sense of shock and awe in just being there, pitted against one of the programs they always envisioned themselves being measured against. That wasn't the case this year. After thoroughly embarrassing Florida State in the Rose Bowl (a team thought to be more talented than the Ducks), we knew this team wasn't just content with making it to the playoff. The team wanted that coveted National Championship just as much as the fans that supported the program even before Kenny Wheaton capped off the most improbable finish to a football game. But it wasn't meant to be yet again, and Oregon is left to be nothing but the butt of jokes with the flashy uniforms during what is going to be an excruciating off-season.
To be quite honest, the impending ridicule Oregon is sure to receive may be the toughest effect from this 2nd National Championship loss. I wanted more than anything for Oregon to erase the "That O stands for ZERO national championships, DERR" jabs that we are surely going to hear from Beaver and Husky fans. It's hard to get excited for 2015, for me at least, because the future for Oregon is so uncertain. Getting back to this game is not going to be easier. Our Heisman quarterback is likely gone, Oregon is never going to be in the upper echelon in recruiting, and the Pac-12 is only getting stronger from top to bottom. How could one not be pessimistic about the future? They were right there, and it slipped away…again. It takes a lot of fortunate bounces to get where Oregon ended up (ahem, Kaelin Clay). Actually, it takes a SHIT TON of luck. But luck is indifferent, and while it may have been on your side one year, it could be your worst enemy the very next. However, it takes more than just luck to actually win a National Championship. It takes something that Oregon has yet to figure out, and may never possess. We're all still left wondering if they'll ever have what it takes to finally cross over.
Back in 2010, following the loss to Auburn, David Piper raised the question about whether or not Oregon would ever make it back to this game. I wish like hell I could convince myself that Oregon most definitely will, and that the long set goal of winning a National Championship will be inevitably met. But no one knows that, and you’d be delusional at this point NOT to be doubtful about the Ducks chances of ever winning one. Just ask Virginia Tech fans. Being consistently good doesn’t promise you anything. The landscape of college football is vast and ever evolving, and whether you’re Texas or Colorado, your fate is unknown. After the loss in 2015, the question isn't, will Oregon make it back?, but rather, will Oregon ever win a National Championship? Perhaps Oregon never will be anything more than 2nd best, and that really sucks.