Tag Archives: University of Oregon

Portland State vs. Oregon: Oh, the quandary

You might be aware from this blog that occasionally I have written about University of Oregon football. The Ducks ascended to NCAA gridiron elite status, only to fall dramatically two seasons ago.

They went from heroes to zeroes virtually overnight.

I didn’t attend Oregon. I attended Portland State University, in the downtown district of my hometown of Portland, Ore. However, since the Ducks were winning a lot of football games and twice played for the national collegiate championship — losing to Auburn in 2011 and Ohio State in 2015 — I have become a Ducks fan. Hey, I’ll cop to being somewhat of a fair-weather fan.

Now, though, comes the quandary. Portland State’s Vikings — who compete on the Division I-AA level — are traveling 100 miles down Interstate 5 to Eugene next Saturday to play the Ducks.

What do I do? I know. I’ll root for the Vikings, understanding that they likely are going to get clobbered by the Ducks, who are showing some signs of life after a miserable season and then a rebuilding year in 2017. The Ducks have a new coach, Mario Cristobal, who went to Eugene as an assistant to one-and-done head coach Willie Taggart, who left Oregon after a single season to return to his home state of Florida to coach Florida State University.

But dang! I would love to see Portland State score an upset. Is it impossible? I direct you to what Appalachian State did to the University of Michigan, in the Big House in Ann Arbor, just a few years back. ASU on Sept. 1, 2007 handed the Wolverines the upset of the ages before a crowd of 109,000 stunned and shocked Michigan fans.

As the saying goes: That’s why they play the game.

You go, Marcus and the Titans!

There once was a time when I despised the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League.

You see, they once were known as the Houston Oilers. Then the Oilers’ owner, Bud Adams, decided he wanted a nicer place to play his home football games. The Astrodome — the former Eighth Wonder of the World — wasn’t good enough for him, so he packed his team up and moved to Nashville.

I lived with my family for 11 years in Beaumont and I became a fairly diehard Oilers fan. I hated the Titans for quite some time.

Then they did something rather cool. The Titans drafted a young quarterback out of the University of Oregon. Marcus Mariota won the Heisman Trophy playing QB for the Ducks, which happen to be my favorite college football team; I am a native of Oregon, which you might already know.

With that draft pick, the Titans elevated themselves from the hated to the revered. Just … like … that.

Last night, I watched Mariota perform some gridiron magic that made me proud to call this former Duck one of my homeys.

The Titans trailed the Kansas City Chiefs by 21-3 at halftime of their American Football Conference wild card playoff game. The teams took the field in the second half and Mariota then demonstrated why he is considered the Titans’ “franchise quarterback.”

From from the Chiefs’ 6-yard line, Mariota tossed a pass, which got deflected and caught the pass himself — and then he dived into the end zone for another touchdown. Mariota to Mariota! Then he fired a 22-yard touchdown pass.

Late in the game, Mariota handed the ball off to another Heisman winner, Derrick Henry, who scampered around the left end — and got a decisive block from none other than … Marcus Mariota. Quarterbacks don’t usually throw their bodies at defensive players, let alone brutish linebackers.

The Titans won the football game 22-21.

I am a happy Titans fan today.

Well done, Marcus. You made this native Oregonian might proud.

Former UT football coach lands in good place


Charley Strong didn’t coach his team to enough football wins to suit the boosters, the athletic director and the fans who follow the University of Texas Longhorns.

UT fired the coach, sent him packing. Then the coach landed another gig, at the University of South Florida, where he succeeds Willie Taggart, who has headed off to coach the University of Oregon.

Despite the dismal win-loss record, Strong left the University of Texas football program better off. Why? Because of what he did in his first season in Austin. He cut loose a bunch of bad boys on the team, student-athletes who weren’t acquitting themselves properly off the field. He tossed them over, telling them, in effect, that they needed to live by certain standards to play for his team.

When it happened, I recall some of the players were stars on the team, gridiron studs, big men on campus. Coach Strong believes that character matters.

The loss of that athletic talent might have hurt the Longhorns’ football performance. It helped the team understand what their coach stood for: integrity.

I am not a UT grad. I didn’t attend school there. Neither of my sons attended UT; one of them graduated from Sam Houston State University, the other from the Art Institute of Dallas. I don’t have any particular vested loyalty in the program.

I do have an interest in seeing young men develop the right way when they are given a chance for a fully paid college education. Athletic scholarships aren’t just tickets to sports stardom. They also give these young people a chance to obtain a good education — paid for by their athletic skill — that will shepherd them through the rest of their life.

Coach Strong, by my way of thinking, sought to imbue that ethic in young men who play big-time college football.

He didn’t win enough football games. Big deal. I’m betting he likely produced a sufficient number of winners who played football for him — and will do so again at his next stop.

Thanks, Coach, for setting a great example.

So what if Cam Newton likes to dance in end zone?


I need to get out more . . . I guess.

All this discussion about a professional football quarterback and whether criticism of him is based on his race has gone way over my head.

The QB in question is Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers. He’s going to play in a big football game Sunday. The Super Bowl. He’ll be facing another pretty good quarterback, Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos.

So what’s the big deal?

I keep hearing about Newton’s end zone antics after he takes part in a touchdown for the Panthers. He’s a bit of a show off, or so I’m led to believe.

So what? The National Football League is full of guys who like to dance, strut and carry on.

Personally, I prefer that they not do such things. Remember when Earl Campbell or Bo Jackson would score touchdowns? They’d hand the ball to the official and go back to the sideline and accept salutes from their teammates. Someone once said — maybe it was Vince Lombardi — that football players should act “as if they’ve done this before” when they score touchdowns.

As for whether Cam Newton, a Heisman Trophy winner at Auburn University, should do it . . . well, it doesn’t matter one damn bit to me whether a black guy does it or white guy does it.

It must have something to do with the position he plays. Are quarterbacks not supposed to be, oh, emotional? Is there some unwritten code of conduct for these guys that prohibits them from carrying on? I’m unaware of any such behavioral mandate.

I suppose all this discussion about a particular athlete’s on-field conduct betrays a sad truth, which is that we haven’t come as far along as we had hoped regarding issues involving race.

All that said . . .

I am not a particular fan of Newton, but it has nothing at all to do with his behavior on the field. It has everything to do with the fact that he led Auburn to a national college championship victory over the Oregon Ducks.

But if he dances and prances after scoring a touchdown on Sunday, that’s fine. I wish he wouldn’t do it, but it’s not the kind of thing that’s going to make me angry.


Many lessons bigger than a game


The sting from that football game last night is lingering.

The University of Oregon blew a 31-point lead to lose to Texas Christian University in triple overtime 47-41. No need to revisit the second-half collapse of my Ducks.

Instead, I want to say something good about TCU head coach Gary Patterson, who made a decision two days before the game that was both difficult and easy at the same time.

His all-Universe quarterback Trevone Boykin got into a bar fight in San Antonio and then took a swing at a police officer. He was arrested, taken to jail and then released on bail.

Patterson had a decision to make: let the kid play or suspend him from the game. He chose the latter. On one hand, he could have let the kid play the game pending a “full review” of the incident; on the other hand, he had set down a set of principles and rules of conduct for his players to obey and he couldn’t possibly let any of them — including his star quarterback — abide by a different set of rules.

The outcome of the Alamo Bowl contest has little to do with this commentary here. Patterson made the correct call and in the process, it is my hope that he taught his young quarterback a life lesson that he’ll take with him as he proceeds farther into adulthood.

Someone said  prior to the game that Boykin blew it by night-clubbing and then swinging at the cop just two days before the big game. No, the timing of the incident had nothing to do with anything. Boykin should have behaved like a responsible adult regardless of his standing as a star quarterback for a nationally ranked college football team.

Boykin issued what I believe is a heartfelt apology to his teammates, to the university and to the Horned Frogs’ fans who — I am quite certain — thought it would be curtains for their team as they took the field against the Ducks.

It didn’t turn out that way.

My hope now for Boykin is that he’s learned his lesson. And my hat goes off to Coach Patterson for making a decision that well might save a young man from further shame.


Still waiting on explanation for Seminoles' departure

The media have reported — as they should — on the crummy conduct of three University of Oregon football players who chanted “No means no” while celebrating the Ducks’ win over Florida State in the semifinal game of the college football playoffs.

The chant was aimed at FSU quarterback Jameis Winston’s alleged sexual assault a couple of years ago.

Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich has said the players will be disciplined for their demonstration.


Now … what about the Seminoles’ conduct at the end of the game? Three-fourths of the team left the field before the final gun sounded to end the game, which ended with a 59-20 score in favor of the Ducks.

It’s customary for the coaches to meet at midfield, hug each other’s neck, shake hands and congratulate each other for a great game. The players do it, too.

It didn’t happen that way New Year’s Night in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks took congrats from a few FSU players. One of them was Jameis Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, who hugged the 2014 Heisman winner, Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. The two young men exchanged kind words.

Not a word — that I’ve heard, at least — has come from FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher about the conduct of his players.

Isn’t there a code of sportsmanship and decorum that’s supposed to be followed here? Has that code been lost on players who got walloped on the field, but who then haven’t learned how to take their defeat like grown men?

And what kind of leadership are they getting when their head coach doesn’t own up to his players’ disrespectful behavior?


Character seems to matter more

OK, one more comment about the Heisman Trophy presentation and I’ll be done.

I’ve been reading since Saturday night’s ceremony honoring University of Oregon All-Universe quarterback Marcus Mariota about the young man’s character.

It is exemplary. And it is made even more so in light of three of the past four Heisman Trophy winners’ own character.


College football needed someone like Mariota to win the Heisman Trophy.

His athletic exploits are — to borrow a term he’s used in recent days to describe his Heisman experience — utterly “surreal.” Football experts and casual fans of the game understand what he’s done on the field.

It’s the off-the-field stuff he does and things he does when no one’s looking that seems to matter more.

Auburn’s Cam Newton won the honor in 2010 amid a recruiting scandal; Johnny “Football” Manziel at Texas A&M won the honor two years later and has behaved in a less-than-gentlemanly manner all too often; Florida State’s Jameis Winston has those sexual abuse charges hanging over his head. In the middle of that Heisman sequence is Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, another fine young man.

Marcus Mariota? Well, he got a ticket for speeding several weeks ago. He paid the fine and apologized for messing up.

In truth, the other two finalists for the Heisman — Wisconsin running back Melvin Gordon and Alabama receiver Amari Cooper — also fit the Boy Scout mode. Everyone’s a winner, as the presenter said immediately before announcing Marcus Mariota’s name.

I’m obviously glad for Mariota. I’m proud that a football program from my home state of Oregon can boast about one of its athletes’ high honor. I also am glad for college football, which has awarded its best-player-in-the-country trophy to a young man who’s a role model — and is proud of it.



Looking forward to watching this young man evolve

Watching the Heisman Trophy presentation to the University of Oregon’s Marcus Mariota leaves me with several takeaways.


* As a native of Oregon, it was great fun to watch the second Heisman winner come out of my home state. This one’s a bit different, though, from the first one. Oregon State quarterback Terry Baker won the award in 1962. He didn’t fare well with the pros and washed out after a couple of seasons. He then went on to law school, became a successful lawyer and has lived an exemplary life. Mariota hails from Honolulu; Baker, though, is a native of Portland — the same home town as yours truly. So I feel a bit more of an Oregon kinship with Baker than with Mariota.

* Mariota’s decided lack of flash is a wonder to me, given all the bells and whistles associated with the Ducks’ football program. It’s well-funded, chiefly by Nike founder — and Oregon grad — Phil Knight. Everyone talks about the vast uniform ensembles from which the Ducks choose to wear every game day. Their training facilities are the best in the nation. Their home stadium is among the loudest venues in the country. Mariota, though, chooses to avoid the spotlight.

* The young man is humble. I mean, truly humble. Watch his speech on the link I’ve attached to this blog and you will be convinced that his humility is genuine.

* Finally, I look forward to watching him turn professional. If he succeeds in the National Football League, then I will interested in seeing how his public persona develops, changes and evolves. He’ll be asked to speak — a lot — to the media. He’s a young man now, 21 years of age. He has his degree. He’s got one more year of football eligibility left at Oregon; do not expect him to stay, now that his classwork is done.

His remarks after receiving the Heisman Trophy tonight were truly remarkable.

Sap that I am, I wept just a little as I watched Marcus’s dad wipe the tears from his eyes.

Well done, Marcus. Now, it’s time to beat Florida State in the Rose Bowl.