Oregon Ducks Football: Finding The Open Door
When one door closes, another door opens.
Every cloud has a silver lining.
Look at the glass half-full, instead of half-empty.
These three idiomatic phrases, as well as many others, can represent the Oregon Ducks' season so far.
Who would have thought that, after being completely embarrassed and out-classed by the now-No. 5 Boise State Broncos, the Ducks would respond by winning five straight games for the first time since 2005?
After the Boise State debacle, a solid oaken door was slammed right in the face of Oregon Ducks fans as LeGarratte Blount was suspended for the remainder of the 2009 season after sucker-punching Boise State defensive end Byron Hout.
But as Duck fans were rubbing their bruised faces, another door opened for the other Ducks running backs.
Since Blount's suspension, redshirt freshman LaMichael James has literally carried this Ducks team on his back, rushing for 581 yards so far this season.
Other running backs Andre Crenshaw, Remene Alston Jr., and Kenjon Barner have stepped up big. Why, just this past Saturday Kenjon Barner provided the spark that the Ducks' sputtering offense needed, returning the kickoff to start the second half 100 yards for a touchdown.
On the opening kickoff of the Ducks' 42-6 slaughter of then-No. 6 California, starting cornerback Walter Thurmond III tore all the major ligaments in his left knee, and thus was lost for the season. Talk about another slammed door in the face.
And yet, another door opened for the Ducks, as Thurmond's backup—Willie Glasper—played the entire game, helping the Ducks' defense give up only 207 yards.
The next week, Glasper himself succumbed to the injury bug, hurting his knee during a non-contact drill so badly it would require season-ending knee surgery.
This door seemed much heavier than others. The Ducks would have to travel to Pasadena to face the UCLA Bruins—who up until the previous week had been undefeated—without three of their best athletes in the secondary: T.J. Ward, Walter Thurmond III, and Willie Glasper.
Yet, again, the Ducks managed to find another open door. Sophomore Javes Lewis took over where Glasper left off, helping the Ducks' defense to another great performance, holding the Bruins' offense to 211 yards.
During the Washington State game, starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli sustained a sprained MCL injury, which would require him to sit out the UCLA game. However, the open door was once again found. Backup Nate Costa, in his first collegiate start, performed admirably—save for an unnecessary turnover that gave the Bruins seven free points.
Specifically looking at Masoli's injury, the half-full side of the glass (the silver-lining to the cloud) is he was not needed during the UCLA game, giving him more time to let his knee heal. The Ducks' first bye week also couldn't have come at a better time.
The Oregon Ducks have started their Pac-10 campaign 3-0 for the first time since 2001. That season would result in the Ducks slaughtering the Colorado Buffaloes in the Fiesta Bowl and an outright Pac-10 championship.
No matter how many doors have been slammed in the faces of this year's Oregon Ducks squad, the Ducks are finding the open doors.
For the first time in awhile, I see an Oregon Ducks team that isn't a group of individual heroes, but an entire team—playing as a team, winning as a team, and losing as a team.
Thanks to bitter-rival Oregon State's 38-28 victory over the Stanford Cardinal, the Oregon Ducks remain the only unbeaten team in conference play.
The Pac-10 is ripe for the taking for the Oregon Ducks. First-year head coach Chip Kelly has a mature, disciplined, team-oriented group of young men.
Oregon is in prime position to knock the USC Trojans off of the jewel-encrusted throne that they've been atop for the last seven years.
As long as the Ducks keep finding the open door and playing together as a team, they will find themselves in Pasadena for the second time this season.
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