Feeling Ducky

By Jeff Petersen, The Observer January 05, 2012 09:03 pm

The year 1917 got off to a roaring start for the University of Oregon Ducks. The United States was ending its search for José Doroteo Arango Arambula, better known as Mexican general Pancho Villa, and completing purchase of the Danish West Indies, now the Virgin Islands, for $25 million and a mule.

The draft was starting for World War I. Suffragettes were marching for women’s rights.

On Jan. 1, the Ducks defeated the University of Pennsylvania Fightless Quakers 14-0 in college football’s third annual Rose Bowl. The Ducks, 5-0-1 under coach Hugo Bezdek that year, shut out all their opponents except the California Golden Bears, back when California really had bears, not just suburban streets named for bears.

It was the UO’s only win in the Rose Bowl until Monday, when the Ducks beat Wisconsin 45-38 in Pasadena.

The win gets the 800-pound gorilla off the Ducks’ back. After losses in the 1995 Rose Bowl to the Penn State Nittany Lions and the 2010 Rose Bowl to the Ohio State Buckeyes, Duck fans were beginning to wonder if the Big 10 teams had their number.

Unlike the 1917 team, the 2012 version of the Ducks no longer has defense as its specialty. Now it is a shooting star offense that draws national attention — and space age helmets.

After beating Wisconsin, the Ducks move on in the playoffs to play Oklahoma State, winners over Stanford. No wait, Division 1 has no playoffs, just 33 bowl games night after night relatively meaningless to all but sports fans suffering cabin fever.

The Ducks have come a long way since the low point in the program, the 1983 Toilet Bowl versus Oregon State. The game was played in a rainstorm. But that’s not news. It was November. It was Western Oregon. It was raining.

It was a line out of John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley.”

The Toilet Bowl game, which included 11 fumbles, five interceptions and four missed field goals, was the last NCAA Division 1 football game to end in a scoreless tie.

The Ducks have also come a long way since Chip Kelly’s first game as head coach in September 2009. Perhaps you remember the 11-point loss to Boise State. Or LeGarrette Blount, now a star running back with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers, punching a taunting Byron Hout on national TV.

It was the punch heard around the nation.

That was then. This is now. Kelly is 34-6 during his tenure, and now flies with the slogan “Win the Day.”

It may not be original. But it works.

The Ducks won the day Monday. The rest of us can put our personal Toilet Bowls behind us and Win the Day, too.

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