Oregon Football: Quarterly Report Part II
The Oregon Ducks are off to another 3-0 start despite the loss of former head coach Chip Kelly. There were many questions regarding how the Ducks' new head coach would handle his first job as the head of a program.
Three games into Mark Helfrich's head-coaching career many of those questions have been answered emphatically, but with the entire league schedule ahead, many still remain. The Ducks offense has been as good as ever and the defense looks like it could be among the best in program history. The schedule will provide a bigger challenge with a much-improved Pac-12 lying in wait to clip the Ducks' wings.
Coming off of their third straight dominating performance two weeks ago, a 59-14 smashing of Tennessee, the Ducks had a bye this past Saturday. The second-ranked Ducks open the Pac-12 slate tomorrow in Eugene when they play host to Cal, the league's only team with a losing record.
Only time will tell if the league is beginning to close the gap on the Ducks. As the Ducks are faced with improved competition that is familiar with their offense, it remains to be seen if Helfrich can guide the Ducks through a nine-game league schedule when the pressure is on.
For now, this is what we know.
The Ducks are 3-0 for the eighth time since 2000 and the 13th time in the past 20 years. Not all of those seasons turned out the way the Ducks would have hoped after starting off with three straight wins.
Here is a look at how the Ducks have fared in recent years when beginning the season with three straight wins.
2001: The Ducks Were 6-0 Before Losing and Finished 11-1 and No. 2 in the Polls.
After finishing in a three-way tie for the Pac-10 title with Rose Bowl champion Washington and Fiesta Bowl champion Oregon State, the Ducks finished 10-2 and ranked seventh to finish the 2000 season. With huge expectations and a loaded roster, the Ducks bolted out to a 6-0 start in 2001.
Ranked fifth in the country and riding high, the Ducks blew a big lead in the fourth quarter by making one mistake after another. They fumbled, they were picked off, they couldn't recover onside kicks and they couldn't stop Stanford. In the end, the Cardinal walked out of Autzen Stadium having ended the Ducks' national best 24-game home winning streak.
The Ducks recovered and finished the season winning four straight and earning a spot in the Fiesta Bowl against third-ranked Colorado. The Duck ignored all the hype about the red-hot Buffaloes and smashed the country's hottest team, 38-16.
With their first BCS win, the Ducks finished ranked second behind Miami and set the tone for the Ducks' rise over the next decade.
2002: The Ducks Were 6-0 Again Before They Came Crashing Down from Their High
Coming off of the best season in program history that had them finish the season ranked second after the dominant win in the Fiesta Bowl, the Ducks started 6-0. Once opponents realized Oregon's weakness in pass defense, they were shredded by opposing quarterbacks. The rest of the way, the Ducks lost six of their final seven games. Only one of those games was even close as the Ducks lost by three, 11, 11, 28, 21 and 21, including a blowout loss to Wake Forest in the non-defunct Seattle Bowl.
The Ducks defense was their big downfall as they were picked apart by Arizona State's Andrew Walter and USC's Carson Palmer in back-to-back weeks at home in Autzen Stadium.
2003: The Sports Illustrated Jinx Makes an Appearance in Eugene
In 2003, the Ducks started out 4-0 and looked to be back on track after an awful finish to the 2002 season. The hot start, which included a win at home against third-ranked Michigan, earned the Ducks a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Whether it was the result of the dreaded Sports Illustrated "cover curse" or something else, the Ducks were annihilated at home 55-16 by Washington State the following week.
They followed up that loss by losing three of four before recovering to win three straight games to end the regular season. They ended the season losing a 31-30 heart breaker in the Sun Bowl to Minnesota.
2005: The Ducks Only Loss Was to USC Before Falling to OU in the Holiday Bowl
In 2005, the Ducks started out 3-0 and even led top-ranked USC 13-0 in the 1st half at Autzen Stadium until USC ran off 45 straight points. After the disappointing loss to the Trojans, the Ducks won seven straight to finish 10-1 in the regular season. They did so in spite of losing All-American QB Kellen Clemens in a late October matchup at Arizona.
After Clemens went down, the Ducks turned to a pair of freshman in Dennis Dixon and Brady Leaf. Despite the loss of Clemens, the Ducks won that game and the final three games of the season before falling to Oklahoma in the Holiday Bowl.
2006: The Phantom 4-0 Start and the Ensuing Karma?
Depending on who you ask, the Ducks started out 4-0 in 2006. Ask the Pac-12 referees and they'll say the Ducks won. Ask anyone with eyes or basic reasoning skills and they'll tell you that Oklahoma was robbed of a victory in one of college football's all-time debacles. Regardless, the schedule said it was a win for the Ducks and after defeating Arizona State the following week, the Ducks sat at No. 11 in the polls.
After that promising start, the Ducks were throttled by Cal in Berkeley and wound up losing six of their last nine games. The last of which came at the hands of BYU in a 38-8 thumping in the Las Vegas Bowl.
2007: The Season of Destiny Became the One That Got Away
In 2007, the Ducks once again started 4-0 before falling at home to Cal in Week 5 in a game that will long be remembered by both Cal fans and Oregon fans alike. Cal was ranked second after defeating the Ducks in an epic battle, but wound up losing six of their last seven before rebounding to win the Armed Forces Bowl.
The Ducks went on to defeat ninth-ranked USC and sixth-ranked Arizona State en route to four straight wins that pushed their record to 7-1. Despite losing a handful of starters to season-ending injuries, the Ducks climbed to number two in the polls. That was before Dennis Dixon, the leading Heisman Trophy candidate, went down with a torn ACL. That put the Ducks in a tailspin that had them lose three straight before regrouping to blowout South Florida, another team that had also been ranked No. 2 earlier that season, in the Sun Bowl.
2010: The Ducks 3-0 Start Became a 12-0 Regular Season Before Falling to Auburn
The Ducks also started 3-0 in the 2010 season en route to a 12-0 mark and a berth in the BCS National Championship Game. The Ducks had a perfect season up until the BCS National Championship Game. Running back LaMichael James took home the Doak Walker Award and the Ducks finished off all of their goals except winning the whole thing.
They made it to the big dance but ultimately lost the game to Cam Newton and Auburn on a last-second field goal.
2012: Super Mario Takes the Ducks to a Whole New Level.
After the 9-0 start, the Ducks were ranked second in the country and likely headed for the BCS National Championship Game. The Ducks rode an undefeated streak until the third week in November, when they ultimately fell to Stanford at home in a heart breaker, 17-14.
In the end, the Ducks went on to wipe out fifth-ranked Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl, 35-17.