After 95 years, the Ducks win the 2012 Rose Bowl
The third times the charm for Oregon head coach, Chip Kelly. After reaching his third BCS game in three years last night, the Ducks bring home the trophy and the right to call themselves one of the best football teams in the country. For the Ducks, this game was the chance to prove they could win a BCS game. It was a chance to prove they could compete with powerhouse football teams.
The Ducks have had an unlucky break when taking on teams from the Big 10 and SEC. In 2010, the No. 7 Ducks lost the Rose Bowl game to Jim Tressel, Tyrelle Pryor and the No. 8 Ohio State Buckeyes. It was a year the Ducks really began its rise to the top, and a Rose Bowl victory was attainable and in sight. But Ohio State prevailed leaving the Ducks heartbroken.
Last year, the Ducks did not let the Rose Bowl loss affect them and dominated the then Pac-10 to a 12-0 season that ended in the National Championship game against Heisman winner Cam Newton and No. 1 Auburn. Again the Ducks suffered a heartbreaking three-point loss after holding Newton to two passing TDs, forcing an interception and sacking him twice.
The first game of this season was a rough one for the Ducks. Their first game was against the SEC’s LSU in neutral territory at Cowboys Stadium in Texas. Oregon had lost several defenders to graduation, including linebacker Casey Matthews, defensive tackle Brandon Bair, defensive end Kenny Rowe, cornerback Talmadge Jackson III and linebacker Spencer Paysinger. The Ducks also lost its go-to wide receiver Jeff Maehl. Sophomore cornerback Cliff Harris was out with a suspension, as well. In the end, LSU dominated Oregon leaving fans to wonder if the Ducks could beat anyone outside of the now Pac-12.
The Ducks struggled the rest of the year finding a solid groove on defense and filling the shoes of Maehl. Harris never started a game after serving several suspensions for various traffic violations, and when he entered the games, he fell far short of expectations that had been set the previous season. Eventually, coach Kelly dismissed him from the team. Although the Ducks upset Stanford at home, they could not hold off sanctioned USC, a game that dashed any hopes of a National Championship berth. The Ducks destroyed UCLA in the Pac-12 Championship, a game that should have been played against USC under normal circumstances. If the Ducks had played USC again, who knows who would have prevailed and who know if the Ducks would have made a BCS game.
But they did, and the 2012 Rose Bowl was the chance to prove the Ducks could beat great teams. Wisconsin had a dynamic quarterback in Russell Wilson and a strong powerful running back in Heisman finalist Montee Ball. The game was predicted to be highly offensive, and it did not disappoint. Oregon and Wisconsin traded TDs throughout the first half. Wilson showed how deadly he was with his arm after completing a 38-yard TD pass to wide receiver Jared Abbrederis. Ball showed his power as he broke tackles and rushed for 128 yards and one TD in the first half.
Darron Thomas, who had been less affective this year than last year, stepped up and made some big plays including a 54-yard pass to Kenjon Barner for a TD. WR Lavasier Tuinei, whom many said would be the one to step into Maehl’s big shoes but also had a disappointing season, was Darron Thomas’ go-to guy in the air. Tuinei caught a 38-yard pass to set up a one yard TD run by RB LaMichael James in the first quarter.
James was predicted to match Ball on Oregon’s side, and while he rushed for 77 yards and one TD in the first half, he did not match the power or yards Ball had in the first half. True freshmen running back De’Anthony Thomas stepped up and did what he did best this season. He blew past everyone and completed a 91-yard TD run in the first quarter, the first of three records to be set that game. The first half ended with a record high 56 combined points.
The second half slowed down significantly. The first half was filled with high octane offense and very few defensive stops. Wisconsin and Oregon had scored on almost every possession of the first half. In a game (and season) where defense was lacking for Oregon, it was defense that won the game. Oregon was down 38-35 in the third quarter, and Wisconsin was on a drive that was sure to end with a score when Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso laid out to intercept Wilson on Wisconsin’s 39-yard line. The decisive play led to an 11-yard TD pass to Tuinei, who finished the game with eight receptions, 158 yards and two TDs. Oregon had a 42-38 lead and the Ducks would not look back. The game ended with Wisconsin on a drive, out of timeouts failed to spike the ball before the clock stopped. Oregon defeated Wisconsin 45-38, a Rose Bowl record setting total score.
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Alonso received the well-deserved defensive MVP of the Rose Bowl with five tackles, two sacks and an interception that led to the go-ahead score for Oregon. Tuinei received offensive MVP honors with his impressive receiving night, easily his best of the season. Other notables include James, who carried 25 times for 159 yards; De’Anthony Thomas, who carried twice for 155 yards and two TDs; and Darron Thomas who went 17-of-23 with 268 yards, three TDs and one interception. Wisconsin notables include Ball, who carried 32 times for 164 yards and one TD; Abbrederis, who had four receptions for 119 yards and one TD; and Wilson, who went 19-of-25 for 296 yards, two TDs and one interception.
After waiting 95 years since the last Oregon Rose Bowl win and after its third straight BCS game, Oregon won the gran’ daddy of them all last night giving Oregon its just reward for all the team’s hard work over the past three years.