Don Pellum - Page 9

Recruiting Update: Oregon Ridin’ Roughshod in Southwest

Football Recruiting


Former Defensive Coordinator Nick Aliotti’s final stand at the Alamo Bowl gave Southwest superbeast Trey Lealaimatafao (3-Star/San Antonio, TX) a reason to think through his options.  Lealaimatafao had been previously committed to Texas until this past November and recently named Oregon as the favorite to land his unique skill-set.

“I really like the coaches at Oregon and they are only returning one defensive tackle,”  said Lealaimatafao.  ”Oregon is my top school right now and they said they will wait it out until the end for me.”

An imposing 6-foot, 301 lbs., Lealaimatafao has a quick first step and sheds blocks with ease.  Nimble for an interior lineman, the Southwest prep is a nightmare for opposing lineman as he keeps with the play until he wraps up and brings down the ball carrier.

Oregon sits in the driver’s seat and will undoubtedly pick up its second interior lineman commit in the closing moments of the 2014 recruiting cycle.  Lealaimatafao will visit Oregon this weekend in what promises to be the final push to get him to Eugene permanently.

While still a year away, the Ducks have sights set on landing one of, it not the top defensive tackle in 2015′s class.  Jacob Daniel (4-Star/Fresno, CA/Rivals100) had closed up shop on the recruiting trail in December when he committed to Washington but recently opted to open his search when the latest wave of coaching changes hit.

Defensive line coach Ron Aiken has maintained contact with the 6-foot-5, 300 lb. trench warrior and recently received word that Daniel will be in town for Oregon’s Spring Game on May 3rd.  In a huge step to get back in the running for Daniel, expect his unofficial visit to carry extra importance as Oregon has a way of making ground with even the smallest of chances.

It’s no secret that Oregon has been selective with offers extended to receivers.  In a class with several marquee standouts, the Ducks continue to look for a commitment from a wideout.  Top West Coast talent Stanley Norman (4-Star/Culver City, CA/Rivals100) recently expressed interest in Oregon and may play into the Ducks’ final recruiting frenzy.

“(The Ducks) head coach (Mark Helfrich) and offensive coordinator (Scott Frost) came to my practice,” said Norman.  ”They asked me how I liked Oregon and I’m, like, it’s Oregon!  That would be big for my recruiting.  The way they play fits me – and their edginess.”

While it’s a late cycle move, expect Helfrich & Co. to push for Norman as both parties are moving up each other’s big boards.  Stay tuned!

For up to the minute recruiting news, please visit our friends at DUCK TERRITORY, who graciously provide FISHDUCK with in-depth analysis and player-generated material.  Look for my latest recruiting update every Wednesday. WTD!!!

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Oregon Ducks Pick Don Pellum, NFL Picks Former Pupil Kiko Alonso As Defensive Rookie of the Year.


The day the Oregon Ducks pick Don Pellum as their Defensive Coordinator, the NFL’s Buffalo Bills name former Pellum student Kiko Alonso the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

image - GoDucks
image – GoDucks

For Don Pellum the planets must feel like they are aligning today. The Ducks Linebackers coach was named the new Defensive Coordinator for the Ducks. Pellum follows in the footsteps of Nick Allioti whose final game after 17 seasons at the position was the Alamo Bowl on December 30th, a game Oregon won over the Texas Longhorns 30-7.

Pellum is most certainly a student of the game having taught on the Defensive side of the ball going back to his graduate school days with Oregon back in 1985. He now leads a team that led the Pac-12 Conference in tackles three of the last four seasons. Even better is what happened to one of his star pupils Kiko Alonso.

Kiko Alonso
Kiko Alonso always seemed to make a big play
(Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News)

Cementing to me that the Ducks made the right decision, the former Oregon star, who in his final season with the Oregon underwent several knee surgeries has come back in his first season with the Buffalo Bills in the NFL to be named Defensive Rookie of the Year. Alonso had 87 solo tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble, and five pass deflections. He was a best for the Bills in 2013 and can only build in his accomplishments in the years to come.

Mark Helfrich
Oregon Ducks football head coach Mark Helfrich
(Alex Shoemaker/Eugene Daily News)

Pellum, similarly will also build on what he has already accomplished in his coaching career. From teaching Defensive Ends and turning non household names into stars at their respective position the new man for the Ducks will work to putting that stamp on the rest of the Defense. There are several key games that will test Nick Allioti’s replacement early in the year including a likely Top 10 matchup with Michigan State from the Big 10 Conference who visits Autzen on September 6th. He should have his feet under him when the Stanford Cardinal visits Eugene on November 1st.

“I am grateful to Coach Helfrich and the University of Oregon for the confidence they have bestowed upon me and am excited to add to the success this program has enjoyed.”

Oregon Defensive Coordinator Don Pellum on his new position

Former Player Tribute: “Nothing Like the Mighty Quinn”

John Giustina

“Come all without, come all within . . . You’ll not see nothing like the Mighty Quinn!” – Manfred Mann

A forgotten starting defensive lineman made a major impact during Oregon’s late 90′s – early 2000′s rise to fortune and fame.  A quiet leader and huge anchor to Oregon’s defensive line, this valuable defensive end played a key role in Oregon’s memorable 2001 season/run for the Fiesta Bowl, and beyond.  As a FishDuck contributor, I am pleased to welcome back long-lost former Defensive End Quinn Dorsey.

Doresy 4 copy

“In life, you’re either going forwards or backwards…  I don’t believe in going backwards.” – Quinn Dorsey, Oregon Defensive Lineman (1999-2003.)


A.  “Colorado State, Kansas State, Notre Dame, Washington State.  I committed to Colorado State because I thought I wanted to stay in the (Denver) area.  But, after the Oregon trip, I decided to go there.  Other teams were too full of party animals; it was a family environment at Oregon.  I went to my high school Coach Nate Howard.  I was like ‘Coach, I know I committed to CSU, but I think I want to be a Duck!  I was a Blue-Chip recruit for CSU.  I called their coach from Coach Howard’s office to de-commit, only to be cursed-out; when my high school coach took the phone, told him not to talk to a young man like that and hung up on him!”


Part of the 1998 recruiting class, Dorsey delayed his enrollment until spring term for academic qualification reasons; aiding his opportunity to become an immediate asset in the spring of 1999 and extend his playing time eligibility.


A. (Dorsey’s interview comments as follows:)


A.  “I would say a year and a half, just with so much to do and deal with.  So many responsibilities.  But, when you have true leaders like Dietrich Moore & Nathan Naggi, that really helps.  Naggi really helped me transition on the field, as I started on the punt team next to Naggi who really got me dialed in on the field and made sure I knew my assignments.  How leaders conduct themselves off campus and in meetings goes a long ways.”

Q.  What do you remember of your first playing experience?

A.   “One memory I’ll never forget: Our first game in ’99, we traveled to Michigan State!  I’m a fresh-off-the-boat 19 year-old.  ESPN was there, Nick Saban was their head coach — it was a big deal!  I remember being on the sidelines freaking out, and this overwhelming feeling of ‘I can’t believe I’m here!’  It was surreal, I was stunned by those mile-high stands and sea of fans.  That really had an impact on me to begin my career; going from watching it on TV to being on TV.  ‘OH S***, this is really happening!’”

Q.  What are some of your earliest memories of being part of the team?

A.  “That first training camp was an eye-opener.  One of the first practices, Derien Latimer (on a kickoff return) hit me nice!  He then gave me the look, and I was like ‘I thought we were on the same team!’  It didn’t register to me that this was practice – I was a knucklehead back then!  That first camp really let me know this is business, and you have to perform!”

As a true (grayshirt) freshman in 1999, Dorsey worked his way into the lineup in nine of 12 games.  In only the third game of the season, Dorsey saw playing time in a blowout over Nevada.  He also aided in a huge comeback over UCLA by forcing a fumble that led to a field goal and giving Oregon momentum.


Dorsey 2

The 2000 season was huge for Oregon, who was packed with defensive line depth.  Dorsey saw the field in six games despite being behind big names such as Jed Boice, Saul Patu, Seth McEwan, James Rose, and Jason Nikaloa.  His first play of the season came in the second game at Wisconsin, starting on special teams.  In the unforgettable “Desert Miracle” shootout victory at Arizona State, Dorsey only played five snaps, yet registered two unassisted tackle — one for loss.  He saw scattered playing time as a valuable reserve the rest of the season in Oregon’s successful run for the Holiday Bowl and Pac-10 co-championship.

The memorable 2001 Fiesta Bowl campaign was huge for Oregon, and Dorsey was an asset from the start.  A huge gap was left in the D-line with the graduation of  Boice, Patu, Nikaloa, Rose, etc., leaving a huge question mark at the voids.  Ready to meet the challenge, Dorsey made his presence felt the very first game in an unforgettable shootout over Wisconsin.  Early in the first quarter, he hit Wisconsin QB Jim Sorgi, causing the ball to pop up and be picked by opposite end Darrell Wright.  He posted one tackle-for-loss, a sack, a QB hurry, a forced interception, – and a forced fumble near the end to seal the deal.  Arguably the defensive player of the game, his two huge turnover-forcing plays made a huge difference in the narrow 31-28 deficit.


Oregon went on to win the outright Pac-10 Title, with Dorsey making a big difference with 65 plays from scrimmage in a tight win vs USC, and three tackles against both Stanford and Arizona State.  In the memorable Fiesta Bowl, Dorsey registered four tackles in only 39 snaps; two of them QB sacks.  2001 was Dorsey’s biggest year, as he played in all 12 games, (even while splitting time with Darrell Wright) finishing with an impressive ten tackles for loss — the most of any lineman.  He also had five QB sacks, tying for second place on the entire defense.


In the summer of 2002, Dorsey was set to take the field for his senior season.  Prior to the start of the season, disaster struck in more ways than one for the senior-to-be.  Physically, he had knee trouble and wasn’t 100%.  The death of his grandmother, with whom he was very close, made it difficult to focus on football.  Tragically, Dorsey also faced another sudden death, losing his baby daughter.  To “add insult to injury,” the NCAA jumped to a conclusion that Dorsey would be required to serve a controversial suspension, claiming the NCAA “extra benefits” policy was violated.  Given his delayed 1999 enrollment, Dorsey had a redshirt year to use.  In light of the three difficult obstacles, he redshirted the 2002 season to handle the difficulties and get his life back on track, while also rehabilitating his knee.



Photo by John Giustina

The 2002 year was difficult for Oregon.  Luckily for Dorsey, he did not have to take part in the forgettable year of mediocrity.  Many had forgotten his 2001 impact, and some even wondered if they would see him in an Oregon uniform again.  Not only did he return, but he came back a stronger man and true senior leader who took the time to learn more about being an athlete during his time of healing.  Though he was forced to sit out the beginning of the year due to an unproven NCAA “extra benefits” violation, his presence and senior leadership were felt from the start.  He remained a quiet leader/inspirational player on the sidelines and scout team member for the first several games (including the memorable Michigan home victory), then returned to the starting lineup when the suspension was lifted.  Dorsey picked up where he left off, starting immediately and greatly aiding Oregon at the D-Line position during a mid-season slump.  They lost his first several games back, but Dorsey and the senior leaders weren’t about to let the year end on a low, (as had happened the previous year.)

With Oregon on a three-game losing skid, Dorsey played a huge role in a memorable defensive-dominated shutout win over Stanford.  Leading 28-0, Oregon was serious about its first conference shutout victory in 11 years, and Dorsey was there to make it stick on consecutive plays in the third quarter.  On one Stanford drive, he had four huge plays (an assist, a sack, a third-down stop, and a fake punt stop) to foil the drive.  With Dorsey’s senior leadership, the line later held Stanford on a seven-play goal-line stand to begin the fourth quarter and preserve the shutout, 35-0.

Several weeks passed until then-dominant California came to town for Jeff Tedford’s first return to Autzen since coaching at Oregon.  Arguably the greatest play of Dorsey’s career came in that game — his semi-final game at Autzen.  On a rainy night at Autzen, Oregon made a sack to initially force a fourth-down situation.  An unsportsmanlike conduct gave Cal a fresh set of downs, which turned out to be a “blessing in disguise,” to set up Dorsey’s greatest play.  Current NFL Veteran QB Aaron Rodgers had a low-point of his collegiate career, as Dorsey read the play beautifully and blitzed straight into Rodgers, untouched for the perfect blindside sack.  Coming off 4-5 losses, Dorsey and company rebounded by holding Cal’s offense in check following a 17-7 deficit that cold night.  The famous power outage at Autzen delayed the game nearly an hour to allow Oregon to regroup and come back to win 21-17 with great defense and an offensive comeback at the end.  “That’s the night that the light’s went out in Autzen!”

“In that Cal game, I had recognized the formation, and knew it would be a pass.  So, I keyed the ball, moved when it moved, allowing me to get off and sack the QB.”


Dorsey in 2003 Civil War (Photo by John Giustina)

Oregon won its final three regular season games, including a blowout of UCLA on the road and a hard-fought Civil War at home, where Dorsey (in his home finale) had a hit on current NFL superstar RB Steven Jackson, and the Ducks held Jackson in check for a 34-20 victory.  Dorsey had a great final game as a Duck in the 2003 Sun Bowl, and Oregon kept it close, falling just shy of victory on a last minute field goal.  However, Oregon completed it’s tenth-consecutive winning season, with Dorsey (despite playing in only eight games) finishing 2003 12th in total defense (third for all linemen, with 24 total tackles, averaging three per game), five tackles-for-loss for 22 yards, and three QB sacks for 16 yards.  He left in style and happy as a senior leader; going from a boy to a man in his longer-than-usual college football journey.

Q.  What did your position coach teach you that sticks out the most?  Do you have any specific stories about any of your coaches?

A.  “Knowledge!  Not only understanding YOUR defense, but THEIR OFFENSE!  Had a few position coaches (Greatwood, Pellum).  To know your job is one thing, but when you can understand the entire defense — you can virtually freelance within it.  To understand the call of linebackers, defensive backs, to know the alignment of everyone defensively allows you to play freer.  THEN, to take the next step and know what the offense is doing is huge.  If there’s one thing to teach as a coach, it’s to know each other on defense, and I want my players to know what the offense is doing.  Tendencies are huge.  We’d get playbooks with them, but I didn’t start really studying them until my senior year (where I knew what percent chance they’d do what play).  If everyone on your defense is that dedicated, it’s an amazing and scary defense.”


Following the 2003 Sun Bowl, Dorsey trained for the NFL and had an adventurous run as a pro.


A. (Dorsey’s interview comments as follows:)


A.  (Dorsey’s interview comments as follows:)


Quinn Dorsey is back in his hometown of Denver.  Wanting to continue work in the athletic field, he is employed by Fitness 19 (a national fitness-club chain) as a successful athletic trainer.  Aside from that, he has two children: daughter Jayana (12) and son Quentin (5).  All in all, Dorsey is a good man and very happy to be where he is today.  The difficult times he faced made him all the bigger man he is today.  “Being able to go through hard times and come out on top is a tribute to perseverance.  In life, you’re either going forward or backwards; I don’t believe in going backwards.”  He certainly is going forward to this day as a successful trainer, father, and inspiration to those he comes to contact with day to day.  There is no doubt at all that being an Oregon football player changed Dorsey forever into a big man and inspirational leader.


“I’d just say keep Autzen rocking.  If you ask me, it’s one of the greatest fan bases college football has to offer.  Lots of ESPN commentators have never been, and if they ever went, they’d understand why it’s the best place to play on the planet!  If only I could strap up one more time just for those fans to listen to the ‘O’ and that Harley rev up in the tunnel!  That was good stuff.”

Personally known to me since his playing days, Dorsey has always been one of my favorites.  His inspirational leadership on the field, work ethic, and kindness & appreciation for his Oregon fans (especially kids at the time) always made Dorsey a fan favorite.  At practices, he always took the time to greet his fans, and would always ask how I was doing and thank me for my loyalty to the program.  I wrote Quinn a farewell letter following his departure from Oregon.  To my surprise, the following year I ran into him at an Autzen home-game during his NFL bye week.  He (previously knowing me by sight but not name) guessed it was I who wrote, and how much it meant to him, even giving him chills to read. Special thanks to Quinn for dropping everything and taking the time for this interview on a moment’s notice; as well as always welcoming my support of Oregon football and your career.  Bravo, Mr. Dorsey!

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Recruiting Update: The Week After the War


photos by Craig Strobeck


OL Haniteli Lousi (4-Star/San Mateo, CA) (Left) and LB Jimmie Swain (4-Star/Olathe, KS) (Middle) pose with Oregon commit DL Jalen Jelks (3-Star/Phoenix, AZ) (Right) and "The Duck" following Oregon's Civil War win.

OL Haniteli Lousi (4-Star/San Mateo, CA) (Left) and LB Jimmie Swain (4-Star/Olathe, KS) (Middle) pose with Oregon commit DL Jalen Jelks (3-Star/Phoenix, AZ) (Right) and “The Duck” following Oregon’s Civil War win.

Oregon may have won more than a football game this past Friday.  On the recruiting trail, linebacker Jimmie Swain (4-Star/Olathe, KS) is committed elsewhere (TCU) but his time amid the Autzen Zoo may have shifted his future plans.

“I really loved seeing the team and the coaches interact together and how close they are,” said Swain.  “That was something that made a big impression on me.”

At 6-foot-3, 219 lbs., Swain is an athletic second-level defender with excellent anticipatory instincts.  Capable of lining up against stretched players, Swain would be quick to find a niche in Oregon’s linebacking corps.

Coach (Don) Pellum told me again I’m his No. 1 guy.  He’s told me that before, but he really let me know I’d have a chance to come in and compete early.  [The Ducks] like my versatility and the fact that I can play inside or outside linebacker.”

Like on the field, Swain also brings a strong work ethic into the classroom.

“I’m very confident in the academics . . . at Oregon.  I just felt very comfortable there, and that’s something you can’t force.  It was a great feeling.”

Expect Swain to flip his commitment in the very near future, as his weekend at Oregon had him closely examining his options.  Stay tuned!

To view Swain highlights, please click here.

Joining Swain on the Oregon sidelines, JUCO offensive lineman Haniteli Lousi (4-Star/San Mateo, CA), is a late but quality prospect on O-Line guru Steve Greatwood’s big board.

“My visit went really well,” said Losui.  “I like how they do things at Oregon.  I love how close the players were; there weren’t any real clicks or groups like you see at a lot of D-1 schools.”

Standing an imposing 6-foot-5, 295 lbs., Losui’s trip was highlighted by an invitation to don Lightning Yellow and Thunder Green.

(Oregon) offered me on the trip and now they are waiting on me to make a decision.  After coming here, my mind is clearing up on where I want to go . . . they had me visit now because I’m one of their top guys.  I really like how the coaches handled things and kept things real with me.”

And as always, the deafening roar of Autzen Stadium had its own impact.

“That was a crazy game atmosphere.  There were rows full of people and it was insane.  They were all screaming and yelling.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to play in front of all of them.”

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Coach – Don Pellum


Few coaches have as daunting of a task as Oregon Ducks linebackers coach Don Pellum. The Ducks must replace three legendary linebackers in Kiko Alonso, Michael Clay and Dion Jordan who will all be taking their talents to the next level.

But losing key linebackers is no new thing for the Ducks. Following the 2010 season that ended in a national championship game appearance against the Auburn Tigers, Oregon had to replace two stars in Casey Matthews and Spencer Paysinger. With the Ducks’ liberal rotation on defense, they were just fine. The same should be the case in 2013 when Oregon will look to its young stars to step up.

While the Ducks’ offense seems to get most of the national attention, few realize how much pressure is put on the defense. Due to the offense’s quick drives, Oregon’s defense is constantly on the field. The Ducks have built a trend of rotation across all units on the defense, particularly within the linebackers and defensive linemen.

Pellum has been with the team for 20 seasons with positions as linebackers coach, recruiting coordinator and more. HIs contributions have led to the increase in Oregon recruiting, landing some of the most high-profile athletes to Eugene over the past decade.

As an Oregon alum, Pellum has been able to keep the tradition of Oregon football alive while continue its growth and development. Pellum completed his time with the Ducks in 1984 as a starting linebacker. He immediately began his coaching career right out after his college career as a graduate assistant with Oregon.

Since joining the team in 1985, Pellum has been with the Ducks for all but a few years. He spent one at Willamette University (1987) as an assistant and three at the University of California Berkley (1990-92) spent as recruiting coordinator.

His efforts and contributions to the team have not gone unnoticed. Pellum was awarded recruiting coach of the year in 2011 by several national publications.

Some of the impressive players Pellum has coached include Matthews, Paysinger, Anthony TrucksPeter Sirmon, Wesley MallardJosh Kaddu, Dion Jordan and more. What’s impressive is the consistency in the talent level during his time with the Ducks. It seems the Ducks are never without great linebackers.

Oregon hopes to continue to build over the Mark Helfrich era with continued talent in the middle of the defense. Oregon will be building on young linebackers Joe Walker, Rahim Cassell, Tyson Coleman and Torrodney Prevot. Pellum is known for getting the most out of his players, and 2013 could be another telling season of this.

ESPN Releases 2014 Class top-150, No Oregon Players Listed


ESPN recruiting services released their top-150 for the class of 2014 and, disappointingly, not a single player from the state of Oregon was listed in the initial rankings.

espn150_display_imageHere’s how the top of the class looks:

  1. Leonard Fournette, RB, New Orleans, LA
  2. Jabrill Peppers, CB, Paramus, NJ
  3. Andrew Brown, DT, Chesapeake, VA
  4. Da’Shawn Hand, DE, Woodbridge, VA
  5. Adoree’ Jackson, CB, Gardena, CA
  6. Myles Garrett, DE, Arlington, TX
  7. Cameron Robinson, OT, West Monroe, LA
  8. Speedy Noil, ATH, New Orleans, LA
  9. Marlon Humphrey, CB, Hoover, AL
  10. Lamont Gaillard, DT, Fayetteville, NC

Of the top-150 players listed by ESPN, 11 are from the state of California, 16 from the state of Texas and four from the state of Arizona. All three states have been recruiting hotbeds for the Oregon Ducks over the past few years.

According to ESPN, Adoree Jackson, Myles Garrett, and Speedy Noil have interest in the Ducks. Jackson is being primarily recruited by linebackers coach Don Pellum, and Noil by offensive coordinator Scott Frost. With Noil’s athletic abilities, it’s safe to assume that he could play either offense or defense with the Ducks. Garrett, unlike the others, has not been offered a scholarship from the Ducks.

ESPN’s rankings are pretty accurate to both Rivals and Scout’s initial recruiting rankings. The highest rated player from the state of Oregon, according to the three sites, is linebacker Joey Alfieri from Jesuit High School in Portland. Alferi is listed as the No. 221 overall prospect by Rivals.

Other local talents include Connor Humphreys of Central Catholic in Portland. Rivals has Humphreys listed as the No. 232 prospect overall.

Comment below if you think there should or shouldn’t be an Oregon prospect listed in the top-150 overall. Keep the conversation going on Facebook and Twitter @EugeneDailyNews

Ducks Receive First 2014 Commitment

Jordan Hoeim
Jordan Hoeim

Head coach Mark Helfrich and the Oregon Ducks football team received its first verbal commitment from the 2014 class, and boy was it a good one. 4-star linebacker Jordan Hoiem Of Baldwin High School from Hawaii has made his intents known, verbally sating his intents of playing his next four seasons with the Oregon program.

Hoiem has offers from the University of Hawaii, UNLV, Utah and Utah State to go along with the Ducks. The 6’4″ 207 lbs linebacker/defensive end brings a big body and burst off of the edge. 247 Sports lists Hoiem as the No. 11 OLB in the country and the No. 1 prospect from the state of Hawaii.

Defensiv coordinator Nick Aliotti is the primary one recruiting the stud defensive playmaker, but Helfrich and linebackers coach Don Pellum are also working with the recruit. Hoiem has elite burst, which will be a nice addition to the Oregon defense. Listed below are the individual results for various drills.

40-Yard Dash 4.84 20-Yard Shuttle 4.34 Vertical Jump 27.8

Comment below on when you think the Ducks will receive their second commitment. Make sure to follow the conversation on our Facebook page and Twitter @EugeneDailyNews

A Very ‘Rosey’ Victory


— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

A lot has happened in 95 years. No, I’m not going to give you a big dissertation on what’s occurred since Woodrow Wilson was president. (You can go to the History Channel for that one).   But 1917 was the last time Oregon won the Rose Bowl. That is, until Monday.

For once, the Ducks did more than show up for a big game, defeating Wisconsin 45-38 in Pasadena. As a result, Oregon can discard some critiques about their football team.

Chip Kelly can officially call himself a big-time coach now. (Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

They can’t win a BCS Bowl? Just did it. Same goes for beating a ranked non-conference opponent away from Autzen Stadium.

All that talk about how Chip Kelly was just an offensive gimmick coach? By winning this Rose Bowl, that perception will change things dramatically. You can also officially say Oregon is an elite college football program without a scoff here and there. There is more to this squad than a multiple choice of fancy uniforms.

However, this victory was not only crucial for validating the present. It was important for assuring an even brighter future. With USC primed to wrestle back the Pac-12 next season, it would’ve been a lot tougher to sell Oregon to potential five-star recruits without winning a game the Trojans used to take regularly.

Now you can expect that for the next few years, the Ducks and SC will battle for conference supremacy. Those games will be worth the price of admission.

De'Anthony Thomas went 91 yards untouched for a score in the Rose Bowl. (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

But that’s a conversation for another day. Right now, let’s look at some of the great stories that came out of a milestone moment.  Before we get to any of the great plays, I think you have to tip your hat to some of the fine assistant coaches like Nick Aliotti, Gary Campbell, Steve Greatwood, and Don Pellum.

These guys have been involved with the program since Rich Brooks was head coach and can remember the days when Oregon fans would be happy to get to any bowl.  With their hard work, they set the foundation that made the program what it is today. Without what these guys put together, you never would’ve seen someone like De’Anthony Thomas set foot in Eugene.

Speaking of De’Anthony, he did a lot on only two carries, didn’t he? A 91-yard run for a touchdown in the first half (which set a new Rose Bowl record) followed up with a 64-yard dash early in the third quarter.  I thought he might be the X-factor due to his athleticism, and the Badgers simply couldn’t match his speed when tested.

Lavasier Tuinei saved his best game for last as the Rose Bowl Offensive MVP. (Photo Credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

In fact, his spectacular day made LaMichael James’ 159-yard performance seem bland in comparison.  If this was the last time he put on a Duck uniform, then he’s going out in style.

Ditto for Lavasier Tuinei.  The senior wideout has been criticized for not playing up to his full potential.  Yet he earned the offensive MVP honors with clutch catch after clutch catch, including two touchdowns. Having talked to him a couple of times, I’ve found him to be a decent fellow and I always like good things to happen to good people.

Of course, Tuinei can’t do that if quarterback Darron Thomas hadn’t played with great poise during the contest. True, he threw a pick and fumbled a ball that resulted in six points for the Badgers.  But Thomas shrugged off his miscues and managed the game well enough to win.  You remember how people were calling for Bryan Bennett earlier this year? They won’t be doing that going into 2012.

By the same token, kudos have to go to the Oregon defense. Yes, they gave up a lot of yards, particularly to Montee Ball. However, if you watched closely, it was clear that the Ducks weren’t afraid of the big running back or their super-sized offensive line. Look at the numerous times they’d answer one of Ball’s 10-yard bursts by knocking him on his keister on the next down. In the end, they made enough plays to contain a high-powered offense.

Terrance Mitchell and the Oregon defense made plays when needed in Pasadena. (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Honestly, I wasn’t surprised by how they performed, based on how they grew as the season progressed.  Look at the freshman cornerback Terrance Mitchell.  At the start of the year, he had to endure a trial-by-fire against LSU when he started in place of (no-longer-on-the-team) Cliff Harris. Could you have envisioned then that he’d be the one who forced Jared Abbrederis to fumble late in the game?

Or how about linebacker Kiko Alonso? He’s been a troubled young man the past couple of years, and he started the year suspended. Without rehashing any incidents, it appears Alonso has put his transgressions behind him and he played out of his mind against Wisconsin.  Where would they have been without his interception? That play was just one of many reasons why he was named the defensive MVP.

There are so many things you can talk about why the Ducks were able to pull out this amazing win. But you don’t have all day to read them, and I don’t have all day to write them. I will simply offer a couple more items before moving on.

Kiko Alonso came up with a critical interception against the Badgers. (Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

First, enjoy this victory, Duck fans. It took a long time to get to this point and you’ve endured many years of heartache in similar situations.

Second, this win is not the end of a journey. It is the beginning of another quest of even greater achievements.  Does this mean Oregon will win the Pac-12 every year from here on out?  No.  As stated earlier, USC is going to win a couple here and there, and schools like Washington will be formidable if they can get a defense.

But you won’t see the drop off that followed Joey Harrington’s departure in 2001. These guys will be in the hunt for BCS Bowls for a long time to come. Right now, I can’t wait for spring football to arrive.

Since it will take awhile before football rolls around again, let’s talk a little Oregon men’s basketball before I wrap this one up.  As I’ve said many times, it’s hard to get a read on how good these guys can be this season.

The Ducks started off the Pac-12 slate in fine fashion by spanking Washington State 92-75 in Spokane last Thursday. Unfortunately, they ran into a buzz saw in Seattle, losing 76-60 to Washington on Saturday.

There have been reasons for optimism with solid play from Devoe Joseph, E.J. Singler, Olu Ashalou, and Brett Kingma. What the Ducks have to do now is get a little more consistent and toughen up on defense.  If they can do that, they might have as good a chance to win the conference as Cal, Oregon State, or UW.  There is no front-runner in the Pac-12 at the moment, and one who cleans up their mistakes the quickest will likely take the title.  Should be fun to watch, and we’ll know a lot more about Oregon after they play Stanford and Cal this week.

With that in mind, I’m tired after keeping up with all the stuff that has happened recently. You’ll hear from me in a couple of days, as I begin to ramp up the college and prep basketball coverage.  I should also note that you will hear me talk about the Oregon women’s basketball team in the next column, and why they’ll need Amanda Johnson and Nia Jackson healthy to have any chance of finishing with a winning record this year.

So until next time, I’ll see you in the bleachers.


The Stakes Are Even Higher Now…


By Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor

Let’s get this one out of the way: Lindsay McCormick and I were right. We said in last Friday’s column that Oregon would topple Stanford in Palo Alto. Sure enough, the Ducks stunned the nation by spanking the Cardinal 53-30 on Saturday.  Before the contest, a lot of ‘experts’ claimed that Stanford’s power game was mightier than Oregon’s quickness. Most of those guys forgot about two little words: speed kills.

LaMichael James rushed for 146 yards against the Cardinal, but don't talk to him about the Heisman. (Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

The Ducks set the tone when linebacker Dewitt Stuckey intercepted an early Andrew Luck pass, (who may have tossed his ‘inevitable’ Heisman with it). Shortly thereafter, the Ducks were up 8-0. True, the Cardinal kept it close for three quarters, but they showed the weakness of their ball control style of play.

In order for that kind of offense to work, your team has to have a slight lead, so you can smash the running back at the defense for a few yards (or get another five with a play action pass) while taking a few minutes off the clock in the process.

Against Oregon the Cardinal found themselves in the position of having to play chase. The Ducks would zip down the field and score in 60 seconds or less, and Stanford was puffing and wheezing just to keep it a one-posession game.  Eventually they got worn out, and that’s when the roof caved in on their BCS title hopes.

Meanwhile, with this victory, the fourth-ranked Ducks are clearly back in the national championship hunt. A couple more dominoes have to fall, but now a January trip to New Orleans (as opposed to Pasadena) doesn’t seem as far-fetched as it did after the opening loss to LSU. That being said, don’t expect Oregon head coach Chip Kelly to spend his time lobbying for a higher ranking in the next three weeks.

“It doesn’t work that way,” said Kelly. “You all have your opinions and you’re going to formulate them based on what you see on the field and how the game is won. I don’t think anyone votes LSU as number one because Les Miles is standing on top of a soapbox saying so. I’ve never seen anybody get a ranking because the coach lobbied for it.”

Terrell Turner and the Oregon defense has been getting better every week. (Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

Nor should you place any bets on running back LaMichael James to talk up any possible Heisman Trophy honors. Some might argue that he got himself back in the race by rushing for 146 yards against Stanford. But his priorities are elsewhere.

“I don’t care about the Heisman at all,” said James. “I only care about winning games.”

And that’s how it should be when the stakes are now higher than ever for this season. If the Ducks lose one game from worrying about potential honors, then any arguments will become a very moot point. Remember, they haven’t even won the Pac-12 North yet.

“It’s wasted energy for us,” Kelly explained. “Our energy is solely focused on getting ready for a really good USC team. That’s the one thing we can control.”

Indeed, USC comes to town this weekend and will be fired up. Although the Trojans are currently atop the Pac-12 South standings, they can’t play in the inaugural conference championship game nor can they go to a bowl – they still have a little thing called ‘probation’ to contend with. So, for the Men of Troy, this is their BCS game. Knocking off the Ducks would send a message to the rest of the nation that they’re still a force to be reckoned with. While Stanford might’ve been the best overall conference foe Oregon has played this year, USC could be the most talented.

“They may have the fastest receivers we’ve faced,” said linebackers’ coach Don Pellum. “Matt Barkley is a really good quarterback. They’ve got a really talented line. Is it the best we’ve faced? It’s the best this week, because that’s who we’re playing.”

“They’re better than they were a year ago,” Kelly stated. “Barkley is playing at another level as a junior. They’ve also improved on the defensive side of the ball, and have a better understanding of what their coaching staff is doing.”

USC's Matt Barkley has become one of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12. (Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

Then again, USC having a solid squad is nothing new in the college football world.

“What I see is another talented USC team,” claimed Pellum.  “They’ve got hard-running backs, like Marc Tyler, that break tackles. They always have blocking tight ends, and they’ve got a great scheme. It’s been the same USC formula since I started my college career.”

By the same token, the Oregon defense should be up for the challenge. The defensive line, led by Terrell Turner, has delivered some key sacks in recent weeks. The secondary has finally started getting takeaways. And linebackers Stuckey and Michael Clay are playing at a much higher level than when the season started.

“We’ve gotten a little better as group every week,” Pellum explained. “One guy has performed well in one game a little better than another guy. But the nice thing is, overall, the group has been consistent. We’ve simply achieved this through hard work.”

It will be up to the defense to slow the Trojan attack down, which might be easier said than done.

“You’d better tackle the tailbacks,” said Pellum. “Historically, that’s the way it has always been. You’ve also got to pick and choose when to pressure them and you’ve got to find a way to limit explosion plays.”

So how does this one play out? Maybe it is appropriate that the opponent is from Los Angeles, because there will be plenty of drama between now and Saturday. Will James run for over 100 yards again? Can De’Anthony Thomas run wild against a stacked USC defense? Can the Kardashian family please go away? Whoops, wrong story.

Marc Tyler is the featured back in the USC attack. (Photo Credit: Harry How/Getty Images)

In the end, while the Trojans may have the weapons to hang with the Ducks for four quarters, I don’t think it’ll be enough to spoil the party (especially at Autzen, where the crowd will be even more amped than usual). Oregon will win a wild 52-35 shootout over the boys from Southern California.

Now onto some other quick items, starting with high school football. You have to tip your hat to Sheldon head football coach Lane Johnson. After years of serving as an assistant to his brother Marty, he has done an outstanding job of continuing the Irish’s winning ways this season. Last week, Sheldon ripped up Clackamas 50-0 in the first round of the 6A OSAA playoffs. It’s safe to say that Lincoln High will be a stiffer joust in the second round game on Friday. But win or lose, it’s clear Johnson has the program on the right track and we should be seeing them in the championship game.

Staying on prep sports, we’ll be ramping up our high school basketball coverage within the next three weeks, stay tuned as they say.  Until next time, I’ll see you in the bleachers.


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