— Sam Finley, Sports Editor EDN
Some Civil War. It was hardly a battle for Oregon against their rival Oregon State. Instead, the Ducks left the Beavers in the dust with a 49-21 whipping.
Now comes the time for a couple admissions. First of all, Oregon was not necessarily over that loss to USC and they took out their frustrations on OSU.
“It motivated us a lot,” said Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas. “We wanted to show the other guys what we could do, as well as show ourselves again what we can do.So we came out anxious to get some respect from the Pac-12.”
Second, contrary to what some said this past week, this was not just another game to play on the schedule for the Ducks. Not to Oregon running back Kenjon Barner, anyway.
“It means everything,” said Barner with a big smile. “It’s bragging rights for another year. I can go to Corvallis, take my hat off and show my face and be happy about it.”
The Ducks can certainly be happy about a lot of things besides winning the annual state dispute. The victory gives them three consecutive seasons with at least ten wins. They also won the Pac-12 North, and will host the inaugural Pac-12 Championship on Friday as a result. Head coach Chip Kelly said the key to getting back on track came from an overall team effort.
“I think the defense set the tone for us early,” stated Kelly. “I took us awhile to get us into our rhythm offensively, but everybody contributed to this one.”
Yes, it took their offense a quarter to get going. But after the Beavers tied the game at 7-7, the Ducks ran off 42 points and you can point to a number of outstanding performances that made it happen. Quarterback Darron Thomas threw for 305 yards and four touchdowns. LaMichael James rushed for 150 yards and a score (in what might’ve been his last Civil War matchup). Barner scored a couple of his own.
However, let’s give the game ball to senior tight end David Paulson. The soft-spoken, yet sure handed kid from Auburn, Washington led the way with a few more outstanding catches. On a surprising note, Saturday marked the first time he had a game with more than 100 yards in receiving. (105 to be exact).
“I think there was always a possibility of having a day like this,” said Paulson. “But you never really know until you see what defense they’re playing. We saw that the spots were open and we took advantage of it. It was fun to have the ball in my hands and help the offense out.”
Paulson had fun helping the offense out, and his teammates were glad to oblige one of their more reliable players.
“DP has been one of the most consistent guys all year,” said Thomas. “He comes out each week. Sometimes he’s banged up, but you wouldn’t know by his attitude. He caught every ball I threw his way. A very good game for him.”
Ironically, one of the other notable performers happened to be Paulson’s roommate. Defensive end Terrell Turner had two sacks and was willing to credit the living situation for their efforts.
“David was awesome,” said Turner. “I told him that’s why we’re roommates because we both played a good game.”
Of course, the fact that it was senior day also made their performances all the more memorable.
“It felt great,” Turner said. “I had my parents here, and they usually don’t make it out to that many games. So to have them here, and get to put on a show was awesome.”
“It was a special day,” said Paulson. “It was senior day and I looked back at the five years I’ve been here. I’ve had a great career and it’s kind of sad that it’s coming to an end. But it was fun to perform well in one of my last games here.”
Now the stage is set for UCLA (who clinched the Pac-12 South over the weekend) on Friday. If the Ducks can win that one, they’ll be back in the Rose Bowl for the second time in the last three years. It would also give them their third consecutive season of appearing in a BCS Bowl Game, setting up the goal of finally winning one. That being said, they have to get past the Bruins first.
“We’re excited for the chance to represent the Pac-12 North,” said Kelly. “The challenge for us is to play in a short week, and we haven’t done that. But the Bruins have the same challenge, too.”
Indeed, Oregon has a challenge on their hands and I’ll give my usual predictions later this week. In the meantime, let’s go over some other things that happened over the past few days.
I watched the Packers and Lions tussle on Thanksgiving Day and came to conclusion or two. One is that Aaron Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL right now. As he led Green Bay to a 27-15 victory over Detroit, I marveled about how calm and cool he was in leading his offense down the field.
Some will say that Tom Brady is still the guy, but he hasn’t won a playoff game since the ’07 season (when his Patriots blew their perfect season in the Super Bowl). Peyton Manning is injured and may not be back. Thus, for my money, Rodgers is the guy I want as my signal caller at this time.
I could go on and on about him, but why don’t I move along to what irked me during that game? Ndamukong Suh really put his put foot on it, didn’t he? What was the Lions’ defensive tackle doing by kicking that Packer in the head? That action, by itself, was stupid.
But doing it after a recent meeting with the NFL Commissioner to allegedly clarify the rules really takes the moron cake. It is clear this guy has some anger management issues, and the league needs to discipline him accordingly.
I’ve heard that Suh is a nice guy off the field, and it looks like he does a lot of good work with charities. Still, there is no place for his on-field behavior and should be suspended for a few games.
Let’s get to some high school football before I wrap this up. In 5A action, Marist’s outstanding year is over. The Spartans lost 31-14 against Mountain View on Friday in the OSAA semifinals. Still, head coach Frank Geske and his boys have little to hang their heads about their 11-1 campaign. Next season, look for them to make another run at the title.
Meanwhile, at the 6A level, Sheldon showed why they might be the best team in the state against Grant. The Generals were supposed to provide them a tougher matchup, but the Irish ran them right off the field in a 49-7 blowout.
Now Sheldon will face another potential test in the OSAA 6A semifinals on Saturday against Central Catholic. But if Connor Strahm can play at his usual high level, you’ve got to like their chances against the Rams. And what a feather it would be in Lane Johnson’s cap to win a state title in his first season as the head coach? We shall see.
With that, there’s a lot of stuff going on this week and I intend to cover it as only I can.
Until next time, I’ll see you in the bleachers.