September 4, 2009
Last night I was totally embarassed!
As a staunch Oregon Duck fan I have waited anxiously for the 2009 season to begin. I have followed faithfully every tidbit coming out of spring camp, my family and I even attending the Spring Game. Summer camp comes and, honestly, every day I scour the internet for reports on the progress of my team and of the other teams on our schedule for this year. I am satified that we seem to be gelling as a team. The huge necessity of filling the spots vacated by departed key players appears to have gone, if not great, at least adequately. Our new coach, Chip Kelly, is optimistic and I am buying into it all.
Opening day is coming soon and I am pumped and excited and confident as any true fan would be. I exault most of my family members scattered across the west to be sure to watch the nationally televised game touted to be one of the most highly anticipated opening day games in recent history. Co-workers, friends, grocery store clerks, gas station attendents, everyone I come into conact with leading up to this September 3rd evening I urge to be sure to watch this game, guaranteed to be a barn burner.
Alas, I am totally embarrassed.
We were beat soundly. Boise State is the better team tonight. Better prepared. Better coached. More desire. They scouted us well. Game films evidently showed our strengths and weaknesses and tendencies to a very good coaching staff who knew how to adjust and exploit to their favor. Hats off and congratulations to the team, staff and fans of the Boise State Broncos!
PART I THE GAME
Inept...this is the first thought that comes to mind regarding the Oregon offense. And quickly following is thought #2, stagnate. Then, wound too tight followed by deer in the headlights.....My appraisal of the first half for the Duck team. But much of this must be alluded to the Oregon coaching staff not adequately preparing the young men in their charge and not doing their job in scouting, filmwork and gameplan. I kept telling myself that most games start with a predesigned 15 plays (or thereabouts).('Take it easy, we'll get on track next series'.) But 3 and out for six series doesn't bode well for a predesigned gameplan. I saw, what seemed like, three plays tried over and over again with the same outcome. Where are the adjustments? Where is the offensive prowess of this highly recognized "offensive guru"? Thank God for our defense. Much work to be done with this unit still but they stepped up and kept the contest close and made some must stops when we were in real jeopardy of getting blown completely out of the game. They,and some help from miscues by the Broncos themselves. And a very good performance by our true freshmen punter and longsnapper, Jackson Rice and Michael Clay respectively. Some bright spots by tazer back LaMichael James and tight end Ed Dickson helped me through the dismal 3rd and 4th quarters. A scary moment when DB T.J. Ward had to be helped off of the field. Ward, a big hitter and leader in tackles last year, was all over the field trying to help stop the bleeding caused by the Broncos yardage gulping drives.
Win or lose, I will not abandon my Ducks. I've seen too many games change outcomes in the blink of an eye, with the quick striking capability of our Oregon offense and the aptitude of our defensive backs for causing fumbles or snatching the ball from the grasp of opponent receivers and returning the length of the field for 6 points. But not tonight. Final score..Boise State 19 and Oregon 8.
I must add that I was quite disappointed with the broadcast by ESPN. Too many times they cut away for some "facetime" and incidential anecdotes for their announcers at the most inopportune times. We missed parts of plays being run, no replays on many, (in my mind), questionable penalties and/or non-penalties. No follow-up on injured players. I guess, as well as both Boise State and Oregon, ESPN was suffering first game glitches and blunders and should be held exempt from too much criticism by me. However I still have more to say about the media in the following segment.
Part II THE AFTERMATH
Who, in this country or even possibly the world, did not see either live or on the multitude of replays by a myriad number of networks, the shocking, disgusting and insidious aftermath of this game? It was the news today on sports channels on both television and radio. I have yet to see the printed media, however I am sure this will be 'Sports' page one news. A sad end to a demoralizing (for this Duck fan) game.
As I watched the live broadcast my first initial response was one of outrage at the actions of LaGarrette Blount. I wanted him immediately cast from the Oregon team and university. He not only tarnished the name of the Oregon Ducks, he also jeopardized the season for his teammates, coaching staff and fans. There will be many repercussions coming for his brief loss of reason and control. Certainly not only for him, but for the team, the university and possiblly even the PAC-10 conference. Yes, I was angry!
But even with that knee jerk reaction of anger I knew I must let this digest. I needed to see more, analyze the information, follow the trail of clues as to why this all happened. Where did the responsibility lie? Of course I know that the responsibility ultimately lies squarely on the shoulders of young Mr. Blount. However, that is not truly the beginning nor the end of this saga.
These athletes that we hold in such high esteem are but young men and women, barely in their 20s', and away from their homes and families for probably the first time in their lives. The universities and colleges try to accommodate them and help them find the way to success in what they pursue. They are surrounded with the best teachers, mentors, coaches and staff available. All of these resourses to help guide these kids on a path to excellence. So here, I feel, lies part of the responsibility. I believe even Coach Kelly would admit that the behavior of a player or players on his program is his responsibility. This is part of the duties of a head coach. What could have been done differently? I don't really know. But no one was blind to the fact that there was bad blood between these teams. The attempt by NCAA to force pregame handshakes may have looked good on paper but, as one could see on highlights, when both programs came together near the middle of the field after warm-ups the coaches of each team had to come and separate players. Trash talk and posturing. No love lost between these teams. This brings me to another possible culprit in this recipe for disaster.
While much can be said about the feud between Boise State and Oregon precipitated by the beat down Oregon suffered at home by these same Boise State Broncos last year and the notion of unsportsmanlike Bronco hits on our quarterback and tightend by most Ducks and Duck fans, much of this had actually died down over the course of the year. And while Oregon was obviously looking to this years game to repay the home loss at the expence of Boise State, I suspect neither head coach would condone trash talk and threats as a way to motivate their teams. Quite the opposite I would believe. These two teams have very close ties to one another at the coaching level. Friendships and mutual respect for each program. So how did this meeting become so malignant? Media, be careful of what you wish for. One day you may be held accountable!
Much was being said during the ESPN broadcast by the announcers of LaGarrette Blounts' unfortunate remark concerning the "ass- woopin" deserved by the Bronco team. I have even heard of one individual stating how LaGarrett had been saying this for months. Of course, once the wheels had fallen off for the Oregon offense and things were going bad, this was more banter for the announcers. Researching where this remark actually originated I found that this came out of an interview with a Sports Illustrated reporter. Sitting down with this young man, Oregons powerful, emotional and competitive running back, they viewed game film of last years meeting and in particular the so called cheap shots on his teammates and asked for a response. It seems this was a one time remark goaded from Mr. Blount by a seasoned media reporter seeking to sensationalize the upcoming contest. Thus the fuel for the fire.
PART III THE MELEE
I may be accused of slanting this version in favor of LaGarrette Blount. This is not my intention. I am trying to see this for what it was, every aspect, every angle. But I must admit I probably cannot remove myself entirely from my long standing bias as a Duck fan, however I shall try.
After a very humbling and dissapointing football game for the Oregon Ducks, finally the last play. Jeremia Massoli throws a pass well over the head of LaGarrette Blount. Time runs out on the game clock. Happy and victorious Bronco players rush the field as a dejected LaGarrett Blount heads toward his teammates for the long walk to the locker room. One of the giddy and exuberant Bronco players (no blame here, this was a huge game for the Broncos) comes up and slaps Blount's shoulder pad (some media reports tapped, touched) and gets in LaGarrettes' face, laughing and taunting. At about this time Broncos' coach Peterson realizes his player is instigating a possible confrontation and tries to restrain that said player,...oops, just alittle too late. A powerful Blount right hand strikes the Bronco athlete squarely on the chin, buckleling his knees. The player quickly regains his feet but it appeared to me that his eyes were now glassy. Reports later said that he was fine and mostly uninjured. Thank God for this.
Whomever is in charge of the stadium big screen monitor chooses to quickly put the replay of the altercation up for the fans to see over and over again inciting the Boise fans.
It looked to me that a better exit for the opposing team could have been chosen than the route in which they were ushered, within arms lenth of the Boise fan sections. Of course this escalated the situation with fans swearing and apparently threatening LaGarrette as he was being restrained and ushered to the locker room. This was just ugly.
Now maybe in a perfect world we could expect that athletes freshly off a hard fought battle would be able to turn off their emotions with switch like efficiency. But in the real world it is hard to control ones emotions that quickly. Both for the young Bronco player and for the dejected Oregon running back, not to mention the loyal Boise State fans. This was unfortunate for all. That powerful punch that was thrown possibly had the least effect on the intended victim, most of the damage will fall on the aggressor and much damage will fall on the Oregon football program, the university and the Oregon fans, myself included.
Word has come that LaGarrette Blount will be suspended for the rest of the year, bowl games included. As he is a senior this is the end of his collegiate football career. This could possibly and will probably hurt his chance for a high draft in the NFL, if any draft at all. Coach Kelly fought for some leniency in the disciplinary sanctions and was able to retain his scholarship at the university and the ability to practice with the team. What LaGarrette does with this opportunity is now in his hands. I personally feel that this punishment is too harsh given the overall extenuating circumstances. I would have given something such as indefinate suspension with a roadmap of how he could have shown true remorse and changed to the expectations of the coach, athletic department, university and NCAA sanctioning body and if all was acceptable could have rejoined his team. I do not forget what he has done for this team in the past and I won't throw him under the bus under pressure from the very media that helped to fuel this debacle.
In closing I must appologize to you all for the length and breadth of this article. This started as an objective observation of the game and I can see now how it turned into self therapy for this heartbroken, disillusioned and loyal writer. While most east of the Cascade moutains could care less about the Oregon program, I feel we will rebound. The mantra out here is "In Chip we trust".