After the Alamo and After the Announcements, It's Time to Recap the 2013 Season
The 2013 season didn't end the way many Oregon fans had been counting on after an 8-0 start. It did end with a third consecutive bowl win, which secured win No. 11 for head coach Mark Helfrich and the Ducks.
There were some questions regarding the leadership and the heart of the team after seeing their national title hopes disappear with an early November loss to Stanford, but the Ducks showed plenty of heart and desire in the regular season finale against in-state rival Oregon State.
Sure, the Ducks allowed over 200 yards on the ground to one of the nation's worst rushing attacks. The Ducks played flat on Senior Day, but in the end, the team rallied behind quarterback Marcus Mariota and senior Josh Huff.
The end result was a breathtaking drive in the final minute of the "Civil War." The last-minute win gave the Ducks their sixth consecutive win over their in-state rivals and secured another season with double-digit wins.
After being skipped over by the BCS in favor of Oklahoma, the Ducks were sent to San Antonio for their first appearance in the Valero Alamo Bowl against the Texas Longhorns.
With news and rumors about coaching changes and players leaving for the NFL, the Ducks came together and put on a defensive clinic in longtime defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti's final game as a coach.
The way things turned out, the Ducks finished with 11 wins for just the fifth time in school history. The win total allowed Mark Helfrich to surpass Chip Kelly's 10 wins for the most victories for a first-year Oregon head coach.
The Ducks received news that Aliotti would retire and that running back De'Anthony Thomas and cornerback Terrance Mitchell would leave school early for the NFL.
It isn't all bad for the Ducks who also learned that Mariota, center Hroniss Grasu and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu will all return to school for another season with the program.
It may not have been the fairytale ending that many had hoped for, but the Ducks are primed for another run toward the top in 2014. Ending the season on a high note was a good start to the offseason.
Now comes the task of finishing off another stellar recruiting class, which will help build added momentum as the Ducks head into spring practice.
The Ducks started the Mark Helfrich era as well as they could have hoped for by winning four September games by an average of 49 points.
As expected, the Ducks dominated the FCS Colonels from the jump and behind the running of De'Anthony Thomas, Byron Marshall and Marcus Mariota. With all three players topping the 100-yard mark, the Ducks amassed 500 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
Oregon traveled to take on Virginia in its farthest trip East in decades. The early kickoff did nothing to slow the Ducks as they rolled to a 59-10 win behind Mariota and Thomas.
Freshman running back Thomas Tyner made his collegiate debut and ran for 51 yards and scored twice on just four carries.
After a sloppy start allowed the Vols to take a 7-0 lead, the Ducks flipped the switch and outscored the Vols 59-0 over the next 35 minutes of game time. When it was over, Mariota had firmly cemented himself as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate by having a career day against a competitive SEC team.
He was 23-of-33 for a career high 456 yards. He threw for four touchdowns and ran for another score.
Starting in place of Colt Lyerla, freshman tight end John Mundt stole the show in his collegiate debut. Mundt had five catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
In monsoon-like conditions, the Ducks forced Cal into four turnovers in the first quarter and jumped out to a 41-3 halftime lead. WR Bralon Addison was the breakout star for the Ducks as he had punt returns of 75 and 67 yards for touchdowns.
The Ducks moved to 1-0 in the Pac 12, but lost De'Anthony Thomas for the next three games after he injured his ankle on the opening kickoff.
The Ducks moved to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the conference with another blowout win. It was the fifth consecutive game in which the Ducks scored at least 55 points.
They did so on the strength of seven total touchdowns from Mariota, who became the Heisman front runner despite playing just two-and-a-half quarters. Two of his five scoring passes went to Bralon Addison, who continued to emerge as a star at receiver alongside Josh Huff.
Playing in place of the injured Thomas, Marshall showed he could be the main ball carrier by rushing for more than 120 yards for the second game in a row.
In the biggest game of the year at the time, the Ducks traveled to Seattle to take on their bitter rivals, who were ranked No. 18 despite losing at Stanford the prior week.
The Huskies kept it close for most of the game, but Mariota and his weapons were too much for Bishop Sankey and Co. Mariota threw for 366 yards and three touchdowns and added 88 yards and a score on the ground.
Marshall eclipsed the century mark for the third straight game, helping the Ducks defeat the Huskies for a 10th consecutive year.
Oregon hammered the Cougars despite playing a sloppy game, including two fumbles by Mariota. One of those fumbles was returned for a touchdown, which helped the Cougars put up 24 points on the Ducks in the first three quarters.
It didn't matter as the Oregon offense rolled over Wazzu behind 192 yards and three touchdowns from Byron Marshall.
With the game out of hand, Mike Leach kept his starters in and unleashed quarterback Connor Halliday, who broke an NCAA record with 89 pass attempts. By throwing all over the field against Oregon's backups, Leach angered Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti, who had this to say after the game.
No matter how it went down, the Ducks were still sitting pretty at 7-0 as they entered their toughest two game stretch of the season.
The Ducks got De'Anthony Thomas back after missing the better part of the four previous games. It didn't do much for them as the Bruins' rugged linebackers manhandled Thomas, putting him back on the bench for the second half.
After being tied at 14 at the half, Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner took over in the second half and helped the Ducks outscore the Bruins 28-0 after the half.
Oregon fell flat on its face in the Pac-12 game of the year and walked away with a November loss to Stanford for the second year in a row.
Marcus Mariota was playing on a sprained MCL, which he suffered during the Ducks' previous game against UCLA. His physical limitations hampered the Oregon offense due to his inability to run the ball.
The Ducks went away from their normal zone-read and rolled out a vanilla game plan, which Stanford quickly realized and took full advantage of.
The Cardinal defense attacked the wounded Ducks all night, but it's best defense was a series of long, time-consuming drives by the Cardinal offense. The Ducks had no answer for the power sets the Cardinal used to pound bruising running backs directly at the Ducks for a mind-numbing 45 carries.
The Ducks finally woke up late in the fourth quarter and cut the lead to six after a touchdown, a blocked field goal return for a touchdown, an onside kick and another Mariota touchdown pass.
Had the Ducks recovered their final onside kick attempt, they might have pulled off one of the greatest rallies of all time. Instead, the Cardinal recovered and the Ducks lost control of the Pac-12 lead and their national title hopes.
After struggling in the first half against the Utes, the Ducks poured it on in the second half and ran away with a nice bounce-back win.
Coupled with Stanford's loss to USC, the Ducks regained control of the Pac-12 North and looked to be on track to host the Pac-12 Championship Game.
Having control of the division didn't last long as the Ducks were embarrassed by the Wildcats in surprising fashion. Arizona blew out the Ducks and it all started on the game's first play.
Mariota threw his first interception in a year when a dropped pass became a miracle tipped interception. It never got any better as the Ducks played their worst game in years.
The Ducks once again came out flat and allowed one of the nation's worst rushing attacks to have its best performance of the year. The Beavers gained nearly six yards per carry and racked up 231 yards on the ground against the lifeless Oregon defense.
On the shoulders of Mariota and Huff, the Ducks scraped and clawed their way to a last-minute victory over their in-state rivals. The two connected on a pair of 12-yard fourth quarter touchdowns, including the game winner with just 29 seconds remaining in the game.
In the end, the Ducks pulled off the rally, but left many wondering what had happened to the once unstoppable Ducks.
For the first time since 2008, Mike Bellotti's final season as Oregon's head coach, the Ducks failed to make a BCS game. When healthy, they were clearly one of the top teams in the country, but the way they ended the season, they didn't deserve to make a January bowl game.
As it worked out, the Ducks were able to play a high profile team in a bowl game in which they had not played before.
The Ducks won the game, allowing them to finish off the season on a positive note by reaching the same win total that only four Oregon teams had ever reached.
The Ducks finished at No. 9 in the final AP and coaches' polls, marking the fourth consecutive year and fifth time in six years that the program has finished ranked among the Top 10 in the final rankings.