It used to be that Oregon fans made light of the other teams in the Pac-12 for their roller coaster seasons. You know the ones I’m talking about. Where they have pre-season hopes, maybe some hype around a returning quarterback...
Spoiled. Of the hundreds of words spoken on that show, it was the one that resonated. Yet, unlike most sports talk shows, that label wasn’t thrown at a player, but this time aimed at fans. Not the fans of the...
At the University of Oregon, football is a great tradition. The Ducks are now known to be a powerhouse in the Pac-12, finishing second with a record of 9-3 last year. The Ducks have produced special players since the beginning of the football...
Once again Oregon is heading into a pivotal matchup with Stanford. Oregon is going to be unranked in this game for the first time since 2008, but the same story line between them remains. In games with Stanford there is...
Vernon Adams was given an impossible task — be the quarterback who replaces Marcus Mariota. Media and fans tried to temper expectations, but it was clear from early on; no one said they expected Adams to be Mariota, but secretly...
The Oregon Ducks are sitting at 3-3 headed into Week 7. Duck fans didn’t see this coming, the college football know-it-alls didn’t see this coming and I definitely didn’t see it coming. Usually, my articles focus on other teams around the...
Back before Marcus Mariota, Darron Thomas, and even before Dennis Dixon, Oregon had another famous quarterback or two. Of this lot, only Joey Harrington had Oregon’s interest from birth.
Born to former Oregon quarterback John Harrington, Joey’s potential was recognized immediately by his dad’s old head coach Len Casanova. Casanova sent his congratulations to his former quarterback on becoming a father with a letter that was jokingly written as a letter expressing his interest in signing Joey – 18 years later, Joey accepted a similar offer from coach Mike Bellotti.
In his sophomore season Harrington got his shot to fight for the starting job, replacing Akili Smith who went into the NFL draft. His competition was junior quarterback AJ Feeley, a man who had much more raw arm talent than Harrington and similar accuracy. Despite a close race, Feeley wound up winning the job on the field in a strong performance against Michigan State.
Feeley kept the job through a few more games, blowing out cupcake opponents Texas-El Paso and Nevada and winning a triple overtime game against USC.
The following week Feeley injured his elbow in a loss to Washington. After another close loss to UCLA, in which his injury was likely to blame for an underthrown pass that could have won the game, he lost the starting job to Harrington.
After taking the job, Harrington led the Ducks to five straight wins to close out season, culminating in the team’s first Sun Bowl appearance since 1963. In that game, Harrington ran for two TDs and threw for a third, in what would be the first of three straight bowl victories for Oregon and Harrington.
Oregon started Harrington’s junior season with a win over outmatched Nevada before being brought back down to earth by Wisconsin in a 27-23 loss.
Harrington and the Ducks went on to win their next eight games, including a 56-55 marathon against Arizona State, a game where a few lucky bounces and Harrington’s greatest Captain Comeback magic led them to a double-overtime victory.
Although the Ducks lost the following week to the Oregon State Beavers, in the only Civil War game to feature both teams ranked in the top 10, they still qualified for the Holiday Bowl where they faced the No. 12 ranked Texas Longhorns.
The Holiday Bowl was an unusual game that featured Harrington catching a touchdown on a trick play as well as Oregon deliberately giving the other team a safety to get better field position. Ultimately Oregon prevailed over the Longhorns in a 35-30 nail biter.
While Oregon had done well under Harrington through his sophomore and junior seasons, going into his senior year the expectations were sky high — the athletic department paid for a New York billboard declaring Harrington as “Joey Heisman.”
Oregon began the season by winning 9 of their first 10 games, some in typical Captain Comeback fashion and some in blowouts against cupcake opponents.
Harrington and the Ducks went into the Civil War in the interesting position of being alive for the BCS National Championship game while the Beavers were coming in at 5-5 attempting to salvage a winning record and a bowl berth.
After a first half of trading field goals amid a winter deluge, junior Keenan Howry scored the game’s first TD on a 70-yard punt return.
After trading a few scores, Harrington lost control of the ball on a quarterback keeper play and nearly gave the game to the Beavers. In the end, though, the Duck defense was able to make a play and hold on for the win, although the closeness of the game unfortunately kept Oregon out of the BCS championship game.
And while that game also cost Harrington his Heisman chances, he really doesn’t seem to care, saying today, “The thing that made me the most upset was that stupid computer saying we didn’t beat our in-state rival by enough in a monsoon in December, and because of that we don’t get to go to the national championship game. That was ridiculous.”
While Harrington was not Mariota or Norm Van Brocklin, he was still one of the most impressive quarterbacks in Oregon history. Always exciting to watch, Captain Comeback led Oregon to wins in many games that they really shouldn’t have won.
The fact is, while he might not have been as flashy as other quarterbacks, Harrington elevated the level of play of everyone around him and made Oregon into a much better team than they would have been without him.
With a career record of 25-3 and only one loss in Autzen Stadium, Harrington was a winner, especially in the fourth quarter where he led Oregon back from behind on 10 different occasions.
Top photo by Kevin Cline
Article inspiration from Tales From The Oregon Ducks Sideline by Brian Libby.
It’s the perfect gift for yourself or loved one, get your copy here
When talking about the head coach who started Oregon on its winning ways in the modern age, people often think of
Oregon quarterbacks do not have the best track record when it comes to production at the NFL level. Since 1999 and prior to Marcus Mariota, Oregon had five quarterbacks taken in the NFL Draft, two of which were 1st-round picks…