Chip Kelly finished his Oregon career with 46 wins including three-straight 12-win seasons to close out his time in Eugene. In honor of the Ducks three-peat of 12-win seasons, here are, in no particular order, the 12 things we’ll remember most about the one and only Mr. Charles Kelly and his tenure at Oregon.
1. The Fourth Downs
It didn’t take long for Kelly to earn the nickname Big Balls Chip, in no small part because of his willingness to go for it on fourth down when the field position was favorable. With all of the offensive firepower the Ducks have had in his tenure, these fourth down plays often demoralized defenses who had only seconds earlier celebrated stopping the Ducks on fourth down. Once the Ducks got anywhere near midfield and had fourth and five yards or less to go it seemed almost an automatic decision, and it was one that usually paid off. Elder statesmen in the student section may remember a play in the 2009 Civil War where Jeremiah Masoli trucked Oregon State’s Lance Mitchell as the Ducks tried to burn the rest of the clock en route to a Civil War victory, which brings us to…
2. The 2010 Rose Bowl
So the Ducks didn’t win the Rose Bowl, but who, really, could fault a coach for losing a BCS bowl game in his first season. Oregon did enter the game as slight favorites but were outplayed by Ohio State thanks to a career night from Terrelle Pryor. But for Duck fans the accomplishment was in getting to the Granddaddy of Them All for the first time in more than a decade. It made official the rise of Oregon as a Pac-12 power and also marked the fall of another.
3. Oregon 47, USC 20
Or so read the Daily Emerald’s front page after the Ducks destroyed USC 47-20 on Halloween night in Autzen Stadium. College Gameday was on hand while Chip Kelly’s Ducks made one of their loudest statements of the season against a Pac-12 power. It was USC’s worst loss since 1997 and featured a 24-carry, 183-yard performance from LaMichael James — then just a redshirt freshman. Masoli had an outstanding night on the ground as well with 164 yards on 13 carries.
4. Every swinging gate two-point conversion ever
One of the quirks that defined Kelly’s offense was the quick-strike two point conversions that saw punter Jackson Rice, kicker Rob Beard or even long snapper Jeff Palmer find the endzone for a quick two points. Most recently, the swinging gate led to two points for defensive lineman Dion Jordan in the Fiesta Bowl. The decision to go for two points was usually a personnel-driven one and often came right after big scoring play.
After their Rose Bowl loss, the Ducks were still in a good position the following year, until the offseason happened. Jeremiah Masoli was kicked off the team. LaMichael James and others ran into legal problems. The accusation was that Kelly had lost control of the Ducks. So how does the team respond the following year? They win 12 straight games and finish the regular season with a goose egg in the loss column.
6. The “bunt” onside kick vs Stanford
Midway through that undefeated regular season the Ducks had a sluggish start against Stanford. But after a touchdown brought the Ducks back into the game, Kelly had Beard “bunt” the kickoff, turning it into an onside kick — one the Ducks didn’t appear to have been lined up for. Oregon recovered the kick and went on one of their trademarked runs and the game turned out to be little more than a speed bump for the Ducks.
7. The national championship game
Oregon may have lost to Auburn, but they did so on a last-second field goal. The Ducks held the Tigers to just 22 points and controlled Cam Newton as well as any other team Auburn played that season. The Ducks made life difficult for the Heisman winner, even forcing turnovers, but just couldn’t put enough points up to keep Auburn from lifting the crystal football.
8. Every time he opened his mouth
Wise-cracking doesn’t even begin to describe Kelly. The Ducks’ former head coach had a wit as quick as his offense, and was always prepared with a quick answer, even if it wasn’t quite what the reporter was looking for. Kelly’s sit-down press conference before the Fiesta Bowl seemed equal parts press conference and comedic routine.
9. The Rose Bowl win
The Ducks played a much tougher schedule than they did a year before and lost their season opener to LSU, but Oregon still won the Pac-12 title game and earned a berth in the Rose Bowl, their third BCS bowl in as many years. This time around was different though as the Ducks played Wisconsin close all game and took the lead late aided by a pair of turnovers from Wisconsin. The Badgers had their chance to score late though, and it took a video replay to confirm that Russell Wilson failed to get a spike off in time to finally end Oregon’s 95 year Rose Bowl drought.
10. 8-0 versus rivals
Kelly himself may not believe in rivalry, but his fans sure do. In his time in Eugene, Kelly never lost to Oregon State or Washington and with the exception of the Ducks 2009 win in the Civil War, it was never close. The Ducks dominance over Washington in the Kelly era was particularly notable with the Huskies never getting with single digits of Oregon.
11. His trips overseas
It didn’t rear its head too often, but Kelly had a soft side too. Kelly traveled overseas to visit with active duty troops and his admiration for the military was always evident in the Ducks spring games as Oregon donned uniforms with “land of the free” and “home of the brave” in the nameplates and the “support our troops” T-shirts made for the spring game.
12. The Fiesta Bowl win
Finally, there was the Fiesta Bowl. The Ducks beat Kansas State to win their second straight BCS bowl, and while it was never totally out of hand, it was never particularly close, either. De’Anthony Thomas opened the scoring 12 seconds in and Kelly floored it from that point on, going for the early two point conversion. The solid win was an indication that the Ducks, playing in their fourth BCS bowl game in a row, had truly arrived.