SAN ANTONIO, Texas — As defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti walked through the tunnel for the final time after Oregon’s 30-7 victory in Monday night’s Alamo Bowl he turned to offensive coordinator Scott Frost and said, “We made a bold statement.”
In a game where the Oregon defense contributed with two interceptions run back for touchdowns, the coach who has been in the business for 36 years was undeniably overwhelmed in his final post-game interview as a coach.
However, looking back on what Aliotti has done with the Oregon defense combined with his memorable personality — one that players love and media or other coaches sometimes get the brunt of — it is fair to say he may of made the boldest statement as he closed out his coaching career tonight.
“This ended better than the dream I could have had,” defensive coordinator Aliotti said about Monday night’s game.
The man who has been with the Oregon program for 21 years said he guesses a shutout would have been better and went into detail of how he was mad about a couple of plays gone wrong. He spoke again about how this was for the kids and getting the W, just like he did at the press conference on the day he announced his retirement.
“I think they really wanted to get this one for me. There was a lot of love after the game,” Aliotti said.
Aliotti, an emotional guy, said he barely made it through the talk with his players and in a short speech said that he was proud of them, thanked them for the ride, the record and said there is no substitute for hard work.
The 59-year-old coach talked about how Oregon football has been his whole life and shared details about his start at Oregon; how he arrived to Eugene in 1978 in a green Volkswagen Beetle with $200 and no place to live and just the clothes he owned and former Oregon coach Rich Brooks gave him a chance.
Aliotti spoke about how he is proud about his long tenure with the Ducks and how far the program has come.
“It’s very important to me to see the ascension from the buildings we have now and the Taj Mahal that we have now used to be parking lots,” Aliotti said.
Aliotti also discussed safety Avery Patterson, who set the tempo for the game with a pick-six on the Texas’ opening drive and also happens to be from Aliotti’s hometown of Pittsburgh, Calif.
“It’s kinda neat when you recruit a kid from Pittsburgh,” Aliotti said. “You give him an opportunity, he graduates, he played a big part in our success throughout the year.”
Patterson admitted that his performance in Monday’s game was for his coach.
“We wanted to do it for him. We wanted to send him out the right way,” Patterson said.
The senior said he would remember this day for the rest of his life and that he was trying to hold back his emotions.
“He has done so much for this team and this program,” Patterson said.
Aliotti said once the game started it was like any other, but after the final touchdown on defense, he felt the goal was accomplished — they won the game.
“To win a game is the best drug in the world,” Aliotti said. “It’s the only drug I choose to take … there is no feeling like winning when you put so much blood, sweat, tears and time into something.”
Aliotti said his first activity as a retired man is to sit on the couch come Jan. 1, sleep and watch some football. Four days later he will head down to the Bay Area to go duck hunting with his brothers and after that — he hasn’t thought about it just yet.
“This game is bigger than me, it just so happens this is my last rodeo,” Aliotti said.
Follow Beth Maiman on Twitter @bethamaiman