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Hank Stern: Dear Oregon Football Fan Since 2009

Thursday, September 17, 2015

 

Calm down.

Yes, the Ducks lost a high-profile game last Saturday at Michigan State.

And like in any close loss, Oregon can look back and say it left a lot of plays on the field – in this case, getting stuffed on fourth down at the end zone in the second quarter, Vernon Adams’ late-game overthrow of Byron Marshall, Adams taking a sack on third down of the final drive.

And of course there was the Ducks’ puzzling refusal to run outside throughout the game and their pass rushers’ continuing inability to shed blocks to sack the quarterback.  

But take these friendly words of advice from older Ducks fans who remember the depths where Oregon football once dwelled (and from Ducks haters): “Lighten up.”

Heading into this season, Oregon had posted a 70-11 record since the start of the 2009 season. And given the early-season mediocrity of the Pac-12 season this fall in non-conference games, it’s hard to imagine the Ducks losing any more than one or two regular-season games the rest of this year.

Some will say expectations are loftier – and should be loftier – for Oregon fans after so much success – two Rose Bowl wins, two national title appearances, a Heisman Trophy winner. In other words, there’s nothing wrong with demanding routs every game and national championships every year like fans at Alabama, Ohio State and other perennial powerhouses.

True, but that attitude should not morph into petulant anger by newer fans at Oregon football when every Ducks play on offense does not go for 20 yards or every play on defense is not a loss. And similarly, it’s not the end of the world if Oregon goes 10-2 or 9-3 in this post-Marcus Mariota season.

Disappointing? Sure. But disastrous?  No way.

You want disastrous? Try this litany of one-time powerhouses struggling again this season even after years of trying to return to earlier glories: Texas, Penn State, Michigan, to name a few.

Mediocrity or worse can descend on any nationally recognized college football program. Alabama went 28-30 in a five-year stretch between 2003 and 2007. Ohio State was 25-18-2 over a four-year period from 1987 through 1990. USC had a 37-35 record from 1996 through 2001. And then there’s Washington, which has gone 61-78 since 2003 – including 11 straight losses to Oregon.

In the current era when there are scholarship limits per program and it’s infinitely easier for all teams to gain visibility with seemingly every college game available on TV, it’s both harder to stay on top over time and easier for even traditional powers to veer off into a series of lousy seasons.

So bemoan the Ducks’ loss to Michigan State all you want, but recognize they battled back three times on the road in the second half to either tie the game or shave the Spartans’ 10-point lead to three.

And be thankful you did not suffer through the 1970s when the Ducks compiled a 35-73-1 record and their defensive linemen looked smaller than USC’s tailbacks – or through the 1980s when Oregon’s decade-long record “improved” to 50-58-4.

These are the good times, young fan. Enjoy them.

Your friend,

Oregon football fan since 1972

PS: Also feel free to be thankful for Marcus Mariota’s sterling NFL debut the day after the Michigan State loss.

A native Oregonian, Hank Stern had a 24-year career in journalism, working for more than a decade as a reporter with The Associated Press in Oregon, New Jersey and Washington, DC. He worked seven years for The Oregonian as a reporter in east Multnomah County, Washington County and Portland’s City Hall. In 2005, he became Willamette Week’s managing news editor and worked there until 2011.

 

Related Slideshow: 20 Things To Watch For In Sports This Fall

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How will the Ducks fair without Mariota?

The Ducks have been extremely fortunate to have had one of the greatest quarterbacks in college football leading their offense over the past few seasons. But with him now in the NFL there will undoubtedly be an adjustment period. Can the Ducks overcome losing the reigning Heisman trophy winner? Only time will tell.

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Will the Beavers finally be able to step out of the Ducks’ shadow?

Over the past few seasons the Beavers have been commonly referred to as the Oregon Ducks’ “little brother.” It’s been close to 8 years since the Beavers last defeated Oregon in the Civil War, and it’s been even longer since they’ve had the type of success the Ducks have recently experienced. Although this year’s Civil War will be played in Eugene there’s still a chance that they could pull off an upset over the Ducks.

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Will the Ducks’ receiving core live up to expectations?

This year’s receiving core is deep, fast and tall. There’s no doubt that the Duck’s receivers could give almost any team’s secondary headaches if they can put it all together on the field. If Devon Allen and Bralon Addison come back healthy, and Darren Carrington decides to stop smoking marijuana before big games, the sky’s the limit for the Ducks’ offense. 

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Who will take more snaps between Jeff Lockie and Vernon Adams?

One of Oregon’s most prized offseason acquisitions is Vernon Adams Jr. Although he hasn’t been around the team as much as Jeff Lockie has it’s still possible that he wins the starting quarterback position. Both quarterbacks have pros and cons when it comes to starting. The only difference is that Oregon’s coaching staff knows what Lockie’s pros and cons are while they have almost no idea what Adams’ are. We’ll have to trust Mark Helfrich when it comes to who starts on September 5th. 

Photo via Vernon Adams Facebook page (image cropped)

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Who will take the scoring load with Joseph Young now in the NBA?

Joseph Young was an offensive force last season for the Ducks’ basketball team. He not only led the team in scoring, he also won the Pac-12 Player of the Year award. He had a tendency to come up with big plays just when his team needed them the most. With him now in the NBA the team desperately needs someone to step up and take over where Young left off. 

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Will Russell Wilson and the Seahawks agree to a new contract before the start of the regular season?

One of the Seahawks’ biggest question marks is whether or not they will be able to agree on a new contract with Russell Wilson. Wilson has led the team to 2 Super Bowl appearances and apparently wants to be one of the highest paid players in the NFL. The only issue is that the Seahawks don’t want to fork up that kind of cash. If this remains unsettled heading into the regular season it could provide plenty of distractions for the team.

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Can the Seahawks move past their Super Bowl blunder?

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How will Jimmy Graham fit in with the Seahawks’ offense?

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Photo via Jimmy Graham Twitter page (image cropped)

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Will Marshawn Lynch begin slowing down?

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Will Damian Lillard be able to lead a young Blazer team?

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Who will Damian Lillard’s sidekick be?

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Will the Blazers be able to move past LaMarcus Aldridge?

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Can Meyers Leonard and C.J. McCollum continue improving?

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Can the Timbers fix their scoring woes?

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Will Joseph Young be able to contribute to the Pacers this season?

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Photo via Joseph Young Twitter page (image cropped)

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Will Gary Payton II follow in his father’s footsteps?     

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Photo via Gary Payton Twitter page (image cropped)

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Will Royce Freeman emerge as a Heisman candidate?

The University of Oregon has been blessed with numerous football players that have turned out to be Heisman candidates. Dennis Dixon, LaMichael James and Marcus Mariota have all been nominated for college football’s most prestigious award. There have already been some rumblings that Royce Freeman could be the next Duck to be up for the Heisman. He had a breakout season as a true freshman. If he continues to dominate there’s no doubt the sky’s the limit for the true sophomore. 

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Can Marcus Mariota lead the Titans franchise?

Marcus Mariota is one of the most successful quarterbacks to have come through the University of Oregon. With him now in the NFL many are curious as to whether or not he can come in and contribute right away. The Tennessee Titans are in need of a franchise player, and Mariota could very well be that guy. We wont know for sure until this upcoming season. 

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Will Chip Kelly’s offseason moves pay off?

Chip Kelly made a plethora of off-season moves that have many analysts scratching their heads. He traded away one of the most effective running backs in the NFL as well as his starting quarterback. What he got in return were two players who are both coming off of ACL injuries. If Kelly has a plan it better work out soon otherwise he could quickly find himself unemployed. 

 
 

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