Throughout a season filled with championship aspirations and dramatic letdowns, the Oregon football team has emphasized the importance of turning a page. The Ducks might have stumbled upon a perfect way to end a chapter, and an era, in program history.
Following a 42-31 comeback victory over Oklahoma State in the 2008 Holiday Bowl, Oregon, lead by then-head coach Mike Bellotti and junior college transfer quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, finished the season ranked 10th in the nation and also eclipsed the double-digit win mark for only the fourth time in school history. A 10-3 season was considered an absolute success for a team laden with professional talent.
This was the start of a new chapter in Oregon’s football program, the rise of a team from mediocre Pac-10 participants to consistent national powerhouse.
The chapter continued the next season when Bellotti retired and former offensive coordinator Chip Kelly was promoted to head man in Eugene. Kelly’s hiring immediately paid dividends. In his four seasons as head coach, Kelly and the Ducks soared to previously unknown heights. Using a fast-paced offense and an opportunistic defense, Oregon finished 46-7 in that four-year period and went to four consecutive BCS bowl games.
After a 35-17 victory in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl, Kelly left the Ducks to join the Philadelphia Eagles. For the second time in a row, Oregon turned to its offensive coordinator to be the next head coach. Mark Helfrich took over, and expectations reached an all-time high coming into the 2013 season.
Fast forward to today. For the first time since that victory in the 2008 Holiday Bowl, the Ducks will not be going to a BCS game. Instead of playing Alabama in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the Ducks will travel to San Antonio to face off against unranked Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
In 2008, 10-2 and a spot in the Alamo Bowl would be considered a successful season. However, due to an inflation of Oregon fan expectations, many believe that a two-loss season and a bowl game with the Longhorns is an absolute failure.
SportsCenter anchor Neil Everett spoke about this in an interview while he was visiting UO earlier this year.
“People who have expectations that are if Oregon doesn’t play in a BCS game then it’s been a failure of a season, they need a history lesson in Oregon football. If Oregon goes to the Holiday Bowl … or if Oregon goes to a bowl game that is not the Rose Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, the Sugar Bowl … that doesn’t mean it’s been a disappointing season,” Everett said.
Instead of ridiculing a first-year head coach and a group of talented student athletes for faltering twice in a 12-game season, maybe fans should take a step back and look at the progress this program has made in the past five years. In a five-year stretch, losses happen, and expecting perfection from a team year in and year out is expecting the impossible.
Offensive lineman Hroniss Grasu emphasized the importance of the upcoming bowl game against Texas earlier this week.
“I don’t think anyone’s disappointed,” Grasu said during a conference call earlier this week. “I think this would be a big momentum booster for the offseason.”
And that’s exactly what the Ducks have to accomplish in their game against Texas on Dec. 30 — seize the unique opportunity to build into 2014 instead of turning the page and ending the most important chapter in the book of Oregon football.
Follow Joseph Hoyt on Twitter @jhoyt42