Oregon Football from the 2001 season to the 2010 season has had its ups and downs. It has given duck fans so many great games—from appearances in the national championship game to appearances in what should have been the national championship game. The Ducks have come a long way in the past 115 years. This slideshow is a breakdown of the past decade, and the greatest Duck games and why.
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We start our list with a great come from behind victory against the Fresno St. Bulldogs. A year after the graduation of Heisman finalists Joey Harrington for the Ducks and David Carr for the Bulldogs, the two teams battled in Autzen Stadium in a game that came down to the wire. Making his first career start for the Ducks, quarterback Jason Fife led a masterful victory against the struggling Bulldogs. Down 24-22, the Ducks marched 43 yards downfield and running back Onterrio Smith punched a two-yard touchdown with little over a minute remaining. Oregon victorious, 28-24.
A nationally televised game on ABC, and the hosting of ESPN’s College Gameday, set the scene for the critical Pac-10 showdown between the Ducks and Cardinals. Stanford, led by Heisman finalist Andrew Luck, came into Autzen ranked ninth nationally. While the score would indicate a blowout, a late run by the Ducks was needed to preserve the perfect regular season. Down 21-3 in the second quarter, quarterback Darron Thomas piloted the Ducks to a 21-point victory. LaMichael James led the Ducks in rushing with 257 yards and three touchdowns. The final score reading Oregon 53, Stanford 31.
Onterrio Smith ran for a school record 285 rushing yards as the No. 11 Oregon Ducks upended then-unbeaten, Washington State. What was expected to be a showcase of the Pac-10’s premiere quarterbacks became a day of defense and bad run-stopping by both sides. Oregon totaled 423 yards on the ground, and Smith scored all three of the team's touchdowns. The win opened up the Pac-10 race between the Ducks, then No. 4 UCLA and No. 20 Stanford. Oregon walked away with a 24-17 victory.
Another game in which the Ducks played host to ESPN’s College Gameday. Oregon battled with the undefeated No. 4 Sun Devils, and welcomed hated coach Dennis Erickson to hostile Autzen Stadium. The game was a clash of titans, with Oregon emerging victorious. The Ducks, led by Heisman frontrunner Dennis Dixon, cruised to an easy win and jumped the next week to No. 2 in the polls behind the Buckeyes of Ohio State. Oregon winners, 35-23.
In a game that came down to the last play, and for the second consecutive year, UCLA kicker Chris Griffith came up short on a kick that would likely have given the Bruins the win. The No. 7 Ducks escaped the grasps of the No. 25 Bruins in front of a crowd of nearly 69,000 fans. The Ducks left with a 31-30 win.
In what would probably be the greatest comeback in the history of Oregon football, Oregon’s win over No. 15 Oklahoma will always be remembered by many fans as the win Oregon got unfairly. After an onside kick recovery by Oregon late in the fourth quarter, instant replay seemed to show an Oregon player illegally touch the ball before it reached the required 10-yard minimum. The call was not overturned and Oregon proceeded to score a late touchdown and take the lead. With one last chance, Oklahoma attempted a 44-yard field goal for the win. Coming up with a big block, Oregon prevailed 34-33.
California opened the game with a 47-yard field goal by kicker Vince D’Amato, but the game belonged to the Ducks. The Bears came in undefeated and ranked No. 6, but Oregon looked in control early on and never looked back. Ed Dickson had his coming-out party, recording three touchdowns and pulling 148 receiving yards. The Ducks skyrocketed to 16th in the polls the next week after previously being unranked. An Oregon victory, 42-3.
The No. 16 Ducks travelled to West Lafayette, IN to take on the unranked Boilermakers of Purdue. In a game that the Ducks probably should have easily won, a late rally in the fourth quarter and overtime were needed. After Purdue failed on their opportunity in overtime, the Ducks relied on Legarrette Blount to carry the team to a win. With a dive into the end-zone, Blount gave the Ducks the score they needed. An Oregon win, 32-26.
No. 7 Oregon pulled out a victory in Pasadena, CA against the No. 17 Bruins of UCLA. For the ninth time, quarterback Joey Harrington brought the Ducks back from a deficit to lead them to victory. UCLA kicker Chris Griffith missed a 50-yard field goal as time expired, preserving the Ducks' chances for a berth in the Fiesta Bowl. Oregon winners, 21-20.
On Halloween weekend, the No. 4 Trojans, led by freshman quarterback Matt Barkley, made their way to Eugene for a battle of Pac-10 supremacy. A close game through the first half, but the much better Ducks proved too much for USC to handle. With College Gameday in Eugene for the game, the Ducks played excited and prepared as they routed the favorite Trojans, 47-20.
A game that might have been the final nail in Lloyd Carr’s coaching coffin, Oregon put the hurt on a Michigan team fresh off of the biggest upset of the century. Heisman Trophy candidate Dennis Dixon, under the guidance of then-offensive coordinator Chip Kelly, had their way with an atrocious Wolverine defense. Images of crying Michigan students summed up the game, as Oregon walloped Michigan, 39-7.
The No. 7 Oregon Ducks opened the 2001 season with a classic victory over the Badgers. The Badgers came back from a 10-0 deficit to the Ducks and took the lead at three different points, but were never able hold the lead for long. The Badgers got a final chance to make a comeback, but a pass over the middle was dropped by receiver Nick Davis with 58 seconds left. The Ducks emerged the victors, 31-28.
LeGarrette Blount’s 3-yard touchdown run with only six seconds left gave the unranked Ducks a win. Fresh off a loss from the Bears of Berkeley, Oregon needed a win to propel them back into the rankings. Down 28-27, Jeremiah Masoli, in his first year running Chip Kelly’s offense, led the Ducks in a final drive to gain the lead, leaving Stanford no time to come back. A 25-yard run from Masoli in his typical bruising fashion kept the final drive alive and gave the Ducks a much needed victory. The final score with Oregon on top, 35-28.
Oregon St. entered the 2008 Civil War only one win away from a berth in the Rose Bowl. The two-headed running-back tandem of Jeremiah Johnson and LeGarrette Blount “carried” the ducks to the most dominant offensive performance in Civil War history. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli had one of the best games of his career, and the Beavers had no prayer of stopping the Duck offensive attack. The Ducks spoiled the Beavers' Rose Bowl dreams with an emphatic romping. An Oregon win, 65-38.
The Ducks entered the Civil War 11-0, needing only one more win to solidify a perfect regular season. This game had huge implications for both teams; for the Ducks a trip to Glendale, AZ for the “Natty”, and the chance of playing in a bowl game for the Beavers. Corvallis held host for College Gameday in front of a split crowd of green and orange. The Ducks were dominant from the get-go and finished with an easy win, 37-20.
After a Civil War win denying the Beavers of their Rose Bowl dreams, the Ducks flew South to San Diego for the 2008 Holiday Bowl. The Ducks faced off against an offensive power in Oklahoma St., led by standout WR, Dez Bryant. The game started out as a shootout, but Oregon began pulling away after a brutal hit delivered by T.J. Ward to OSU’s quarterback. A Jeremiah Masoli touchdown run, featuring the trucking of an OSU defensive-back, gave the Ducks an extended lead and the Ducks never looked back. The final score, Oregon 42 and Oklahoma St. 31.
The No. 15 Oregon Ducks needed overtime against the visiting No. 23 California Golden Bears, both coming off byes. The Ducks (8-1) played their first game without starting quarterback Kellen Clemens, who was lost for the season after breaking his ankle against Arizona. Dennis Dixon started the game, but it was Brady Leaf who ended it. Led by the third-string Leaf, Oregon scored the go ahead score in overtime on a 4-yard pass to James Finley. The Ducks winning, 27-20 in overtime.
The Ducks hosted the visiting men of Troy in Eugene in what was one of many gut-wrenching games for the Ducks in 2001. Oregon ranked No.7 and USC unranked, squared off in an epic Pac-10 showdown. USC, led by eventual Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, led the Ducks late in the fourth quarter, but Joey Harrington (Captain Comeback) brought the Ducks back into field goal range with one final chance. Kicker Jared Siegel nailed a 32-yard field goal, giving the Ducks a 24-22 victory over the Trojans.
In a game the Ducks weren’t hoping to be in, the No. 2 Ducks faced off against the No. 3 Colorado Buffaloes in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl. Hoping to play in the national championship game against the University of Miami, the Ducks unfortunately fell behind Nebraska in the BCS poll, granting the Cornhuskers the other spot. The Ducks routed the Buffaloes with strong performances by Joey Harrington, Maurice Morris and Onterrio Smith. The Ducks won 38-16, and finished the 2001 season ranked No. 2.
The only loss on this list, but it wouldn’t do the game or season justice to not include it. Oregon finished the regular season a perfect 12-0 and faced off against Heisman Winner Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers. A 37-yard run with less than a minute remaining, and a play that Duck fans will remember in infamy, essentially sealed Oregon’s fate. The Ducks fell to the Tigers 22-19 in what may be considered the greatest college football national championship of all time.
What was on the line for this game? A Pac-10 championship, a chance at playing in the national championship game, and a winner over their rival. A lot was riding on the 2001 Civil War for the Oregon Ducks, and they came through big when it mattered most. A 70-yard punt return by Keenan Howry gave the Ducks a big boost in coming away with the "W." Maurice Morris added an 8-yard scoring run with 4:36 left, as the No. 4 Oregon Ducks beat the Beavers, 17-14.
The No. 5 Ducks needed a late stop to defeat Mark Sanchez and the No. 9 Trojans at Autzen Stadium, and the defense delivered. With USC on the march, trailing by only a touchdown and less than a minute remaining, Oregon’s Matthew Harper came up with a pick that ended the Trojan’s chances. In one of the loudest moments in Autzen Stadium history, the Duck fans cheered as their chances for a national title stayed alive. Oregon’s Dennis Dixon kneeled the ball for a 24-17 victory.
The No. 4 Michigan Wolverines had no idea when they arrived in Eugene that they were on serious upset alert. Michigan’s powerful offense, led by explosive back Chris Perry, only managed to record negative three yards of total rushing. Oregon, led by quarterback Jason Fife, took an early commanding lead over the visiting Wolverines, and kept the lead until the end. In one of Autzen’s greatest upsets, the No. 22 Ducks held on to beat the Wolverines by a final score of 31-27.
The No. 11 Ducks travelled to Tucson, AZ to play the Arizona Wildcats with College Gameday broadcasting before the game. Oregon trailed late into the fourth quarter, and the student section had already stormed the field when the impossible happened. A pass by Jeremiah Masoli to Ed Dickson, with mere seconds remaining, and an almost-botched snap on the extra point, had the game heading to overtime. With the Pac-10 title up for grabs, Oregon needed a win to set up a Civil War for the Pac-10 title the following week. Oregon prevailed in double-overtime, winning 44-41.
In what is arguably the best Oregon football game of all time, the Ducks were host to the 2009 Civil War on a Thursday night on national television. Both teams only needing a win to clinch a spot in the Rose Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Oregon St., led by receiver James Rodgers, were a force offensively and nearly impossible to stop. On the final drive of the game, Oregon needed two fourth down conversions to continue to burn out the clock. A scramble by Jeremiah Masoli and an outside run by Kenjon Barner, sealed Oregon’s victory and sent them to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 15 years. An incredible Oregon victory, 37-33.