Tag Archives: Darron Thomas

24 point underdog Cal looks to “chop down some bamboo” in an ESPN prime time affair at Autzen

LaMicheal James channeling his inner Steve Prefontaine

By Connor Buestad

It all pretty much makes sense to me now. But, for the longest time, I was always searching for answers. Why was Oregon able to attract so many blue chip recruits up to the rain soaked Northwest? How have they been able to skedaddle out of so many NCAA sanctions and allegations? What was their secret to reeling off a perfect regular season in 2010 en route to a National Championship appearance? Oh yes, of course, just “water the bamboo” baby!

Over the past decade, you can be sure that the Oregon football program has been watering the hell out of their bamboo tree. As I mentioned on this site last year, the Ducks have steadily risen from a PAC 10 doormat into a PAC 12 power. A rising momentum that Cal has become all too familiar with, as the two schools have traded blows in various battles over the years.

As it stands in the here and now, Oregon is trying to get back into the National Championship race, while Cal is trying to not to lose a grip of their PAC 12 North title dreams. While Cal is trotting out a transfer QB with Memorial Stadium under construction, Oregon is countering with a prolific offense and the loudest football stadium on the West Coast.

As a 24 point underdog, it is no secret that the Bears will have their work cut out for them when the first whistle blows tomorrow night in Eugene. The bright lights of ESPN’s coverage will surely set Autzen Stadium ablaze with deafening sound. Noise to the point where I’m half-nervous I won’t hear every word of Jesse Palmer’s poignant analysis in the booth and all of Jenn Brown’s stimulating interviews down on the field.

Cal enters tomorrow’s contest coming off a deflating road-loss at the hands of Washington. However, even despite Zach Maynard’s air-mail pass to end the game, solace can be taken in the fact that the run-and-gun quarterback I have grown to love threw for an impressive 349 yards on the day. Moreover, it is becoming clear that Maynard is blessed to have one of the best receiving corps in America in Marvin Jones and Keenan Allen.

Maynard, a transfer from the University of Buffalo, presents Coach Jeff Tedford with his first dual-threat quarterback. Cut out of the same mold as Mike Vick, Dennis Dixon, Darron Thomas, et al, Maynard has that slippery athleticism that shall come in handy as the season wares on. Number 15’s best target this year has been Allen, which comes as no surprise when you consider that the two grew up under the same roof in North Carolina. Allen, was recruited heavily by Alabama, before he ultimately shined on the Tide in favor of late night runs to La Burrita, Top Dog, Kips and Bears Lair.

Keenan Allen hauls in a game winner versus Colorado

Countering the Bears will be an Oregon squad that returns a fabulous quarterback in Darron Thomas and a Heisman hopeful in LaMichael James. Sure, they’ve lost perhaps the best wideout in the past decade with the departure of Jeff Maehl, but the ducks have reloaded with the likes of Lavasier Tuinei and De’Anthony “don’t call me Anthony” Thomas who are proving to be marvelous playmakers in their own right. Aside from an opening game slipup to the number one team in all the land (LSU), the Ducks seem to have picked up where they left off last year. Boatracing teams with a stupid fast offense and stopping the opposition with an underrated defense. Interestingly, both the Bears and the Ducks have allowed 24 points per game thus far in 2011. However the Ducks have scored 52 on offense compared to the Bears 39.

With the over/under set at 66, don’t be surprised if you see some offense tomorrow night. And to be fair, this wouldn’t be the first time these two teams electrified their audience. If I may, let me take you through some of the highlights these two teams have shared in the recent past…

I’ll start in 2004 with the “Drop Game”. A slew of shaky field goal kicking had the Bears on their heels with the Ducks driving down the “Old Memorial Stadium” turf. A deep pass down the left sideline seemed sure to seal Cal’s ill fate, before poor Duck receiver Keith Allen handed Cal the game by dropping a gimmie. Listen in to hear Keith Jackson’s classic, albeit gutwrenching, reaction.

After a 2005 tilt in which the Ducks ravaged the Bears in Eugene, 2006 turned out to be DeSean Jackson’s national coming out party. As a Cal fan, you really can’t watch this highlight of Desean “hitting a seam” enough. You had dusk pouring over Strawberry Canyon with announcer Brent Musburger tossing out a “Touchdown Bears” as Jackson runs wild over the San Andreas Fault. Does it get any better than that? I think not.

2007 gave us another see-saw battle between the Bears and Ducks. Coming in, Cal had lost seven consecutive times up at Autzen Stadium, spanning over a 20 year stretch. This meant little to DeSean, Marshawn and the rest as Cal defender Marcus Ezeff jarred the ball loose on an Oregon game winning TD attempt.

2008 gave Bears fans a rain soaked victory in Berkeley, while 2009 ended up being a 42-3 beat down up in Oregon. Last year’s game, meanwhile, stirred up the rivalry once again. Oregon strolled into Berkeley as the #1 team in the nation, only to leave town with a narrow 15-13 win. Maehl’s second half TD proved to be the difference for the Ducks, in a game steeped in controversy. Much to Jesse Palmer’s dismay, Cal perhaps took some good-natured gamesmanship a bit too far in an attempt to slow down Oregon’s speed offense.

No doubt, the stage is set for what many pundits expect to be a blowout. But as the Swami Sayz, there is a reason why you play the games. And with so much speed at quarterback and wideout, coupled with some clean new white helmets, it appears California might try to beat Oregon at their own game…

I've already purchased my Allen Iverson Arm Sleeve for my Thanksgiving Day two-hand-touch game

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“War Eagle” vs. The Ghost of Steve Prefontaine…For All The Marbles

Painting the town Blue and Orange

By Connor Buestad

When 82 year old broadcasting legend Keith Jackson lays his head to rest each night, I suppose this is the type of game he dreams about. Undefeated PAC 10 stalwart Oregon pitted against undefeated SEC behemoth Auburn, for the chance to claim the all elusive National Championship Trophy. A Heisman Trophy winner, 92 points per game of combined offense, Nike inc., sanctions and allegations, 40 days and 40 nights worth of hype… this game really has all the fixings.

Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Mr. Jackson will not be in the booth come January 10th. Moreover, the game won’t be played under the sun splashed San Gabriel Mountains of the Rose Bowl, nor will you hear the best hangover cure known to America, “Whoa Nellie”.

What you will get in Glendale, Arizona is one of the most anticipated offensive matchups in recent memory, coupled with two fan bases that possess a sopping wet appetite for national supremacy in the college football world. This insatiable appetite for winning has been a long time in the making for Oregon and Auburn, and this clash is in some senses a perfect storm for college football fans.

When you talk about the University of Oregon athletic department, you shouldn’t go too far without mentioning Nike, and subsequently, Steve Prefontaine. The late Prefontaine (1951-1975) is the subject of two movies, “Prefontaine” (1997) and “Without Limits” (1998), both of which I highly recommend. The reason Pre is so important to this whole equation is his influence on Nike. The runner from Coos Bay, Oregon who was always “too small” and “not fast enough”, ended up turning himself into the most captivating long distance runner of our time, all the while wearing a pair of Nike’s on his feet and OREGON across his chest.

Bill Bowerman, who died in 1999, started Nike with current CEO Phil Knight in the 1960’s. His big technological breakthrough came in the form of a waffle iron, with which he made running shoes for his brash pupil, Steve Prefontaine. Pre left an indelible mark on the “U of O” and gave the Nike brand all the athlete endorsement direction they needed (see Jordan, Michael).

It is rumored Jeff wore a #19 Tennessee Titans jersey to his first day of HS

The road to prominence for the Duck football team has been a long and winding one indeed. Oregon did manage to make the Rose Bowl in 1995, but it wasn’t before Coach Mike Bellotti and Quarterback Joey “Captain Comeback” Harrington came along when things started to pick up steam. In 2001 the Ducks made it all the way to the Fiesta Bowl behind Harrington’s arm, where they defeated Colorado. The next year, Autzen Stadium was renovated, Harrington found himself on a billboard in Manhattan, and it seemed as though Phil Knight and his checkbook were “all-in” for the years to come.

What followed was a decade of dominance by the USC Trojans of Troy. No matter what uniform scheme Oregon seemed to try, Southern Cal’s high powered offense and slimy recruiting practices were always one step ahead. It wasn’t until Reggie Bush had his Heisman confiscated and Uncle Pete fled north to the NFL, that Oregon had a chance to truly spread its wings in the PAC 10.

Oregon’s first chance at being BMOC came last year, Coach Chip Kelly’s first year. The 2009 campaign started off about as rocky as one could imagine. After week one, Oregon was 0-1, LeGarrette Blount was suspended for throwing haymakers, Running Back LaMichael James was suspended for domestic violence, and QB Jeremiah Masoli was being investigated for stealing laptops and hippie lettuce from a Eugene frat house. Despite all these setbacks, Chip Kelly somehow led his troops all the way to the Rose Bowl where they lost to Ohio State.

The 2010 version of the Ducks has been a sight to behold. Founded on speed, the Ducks offense rarely huddles and routinely strikes for big scores. With Darron Thomas at QB, LeMichael James in the backfield and Jeff Maehl at Wideout, Oregon has a triple threat in the truest sense of the word. The Ducks closest call came this autumn in Berkeley, where my Bears executed an extremely “smart” gameplan that came this close to setting off bedlam in Berkeley (Never trust a Campolindo High School kicker, btw).

Darvin Adams could give the Oregon secondary fits

On the other side of the ball, the Auburn Tigers have earned the right to play for the Natty by navigating through the toughest conference in football without a blemish. Of course, the Tigers are led by the LeBron James of college football. An athletic specimen that goes by the name of Cam Newton, aka “The Second Coming”, aka “$cam Newton”. Perhaps the best compliment you could grant Cam is that he has many an Alabamian believing he is the best athlete Auburn has ever seen, Bo Jackson and the “Round Mound of Rebound” be damned.

Newton grew up in good ‘ol Fulton County, Georgia (I suspect he saw his fair share of Braves games at Fulton County Stadium). Upon graduating, he packed his bags and set off to Gainesville, Florida to play ball for the Gators and Urban Meyer. Unfortunately, Cam found out real quick he was stuck behind Tim Tebow on the depth chart and that wasn’t soon about to change. Undiscouraged, Cam decided to take the JUCO route and take his talents to Blinn Junior College in Texas. In just one season, Newton led his squad to the JUCO National Title, while breaking pretty much every Junior College record they bother to keep track of.

Meanwhile, Cam’s Dad, Cecil Newton, was busy shopping his son’s services around the SEC. At one point Cecil “allegedly” called up Mississippi State and asked for $180,000 in exchange for his son’s letter of intent. In the end, Cecil and MSU couldn’t come to terms with said pay-for-play scheme, and Cam ended up in Auburn, Alabama quarterbacking the Tigers.

Coming from the college football crazed South, Auburn surely has a more storied football history than Oregon. Three Heisman Trophy winners, a National Championship in 1957, Bo Jackson, and an impressive track record in the ultra competitive South Eastern Conference all add to Auburn’s lore. The school is also known to have an epic tailgate scene that is second to none. The “Tiger Walk” in which thousands of Auburn supporters line the streets leading up the stadium was the first of its kind. Today, countless college football teams have copied this tradition of cheering on the players as they walk from the bus to the locker room.

It is also worth noting that Auburn’s battle cry is “War Eagle” or better yet, “War Damn Eagle”. This is an ode to one bad-ass eagle that was found during the Civil War and later proudly flew above an Auburn v. Georgia football game in 1892. It just doesn’t get more American than that, now does it.

In a sport that thrives on hype and speculation, this Auburn-Oregon clash will benefit from roughly a 40 day layoff. The spread for this game has already swayed 6 points, from Oregon (-3) to Oregon (+3) and there’s no telling how much that line may change in the coming days. Barring any unforeseen developments, Cam Newton will be free to play with no NCAA restrictions or penalties. Luckily for Oregon there are no Frat Houses in Glendale, so they should stay out of trouble as well.

So for now, join me in enjoying the hype, and lets all hope this game lives up to it. Something tells me it will.

If you golf, live in Eugene, and are 40+...you own this visor

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