“I’d had it,” Ducks guard Mark Asper said. “I tried to keep my composure when people talked about it in interviews and stuff, but I had had it. I’d had it the first time around, after the Ohio State game, or leading up to the LSU game or the Auburn game. I’d had it.”
Oregon Ducks fans can rejoice and relax, because the Ducks have won the team’s first Rose Bowl since 1917; the drought is over. This team lost the National Championship last year and the Rose Bowl two years ago, but they beat the Wisconsin Badgers 45-38 yesterday. Forget the controversy to end the game, the clock ran down, and the likelihood of Wisconsin scoring a touchdown on the play was very low. It’s hard not to feel for a team that came so close, but the Ducks were the better team in this one.
In my preview, I took the Ducks over the Badgers and listed timely turnovers as one of the key factors in this game. Jake Abbrederis’s fumble on a long pass that could have resulted in a touchdown was huge. Terrance Mitchell and Michael Clay really came up big on that turnover.
The highest scoring game in Rose Bowl history actually yielded three impressive defensive performances. Clay had 13 tackles including two for losses, John Boyett set a Rose Bowl record with 17 tackles, and Kiko Alonso rose the occasion and was the Defensive MVP of the game with 1.5 sacks and an important interception in the third quarter. I admit it; I goofed up when I didn’t mention him in my preview of the game. Go ahead, now is the time to ridicule me over this embarrassing gaffe.
The Badgers, however, allowed 9.7 yards per play and 8.6 yards per carry. One of the reasons why I picked Oregon in this game is because of the difference in each team’s quality on defense. The Ducks are able to make the necessary plays, but the Badgers showed that they don’t have enough star power on defense. They have one solid end, two great linebackers, two very good safeties, and a quality corner. However, they lack depth and have only one legitimate pass rusher.
Abbrederis and Nick Toon where, as expected, the two main sources of receiving yardage for Wisconsin. Abbrederis had four catches for 119 yards and a touchdown, while Toon hauled in nine passes for 104 yards and also had a TD. The formerly disappointing Lavasier Tuinei was the Offensive MVP and had a huge game with eight catches for 158 yards and two touchdowns. Tuinei disappeared during his senior season for stretches, but he showed up in the most important game of the season.
At the end of the day, it was the flashy yet humble De’Anthony Thomas’s two touchdown runs that will be forever etched in our memories. He broke free on his only two carries of the game that went for 91 and 64 yards respectively. Thomas left defenders baffled all night long, and he dazzled in those sick helmets. Defenders think they have a good angle on him, but Thomas shows that otherwise with a burst of speed and a quick six.
Elsewhere on the ground, LaMichael James put up 159 yards on 25 carries and also had a touchdown. My projection-based on recent performance and production against similar run defenses- had him at 156 yards and a touchdown. He slightly bested those numbers and gave Turner a run for his money for the Offensive MVP slot.
I thought Mark Asper and the line did an excellent job in this game, and Asper has turned into a very good offensive lineman. Before the season, some listed him as a question mark on the line and viewed him as a liability. Not so, and his legend goes beyond the football field after he saved a man from choking. Carson York is another star lineman, and the guard’s right patella was severely injured in the third quarter. York tackled Aaron Henry after an interception by the safety, and he landed awkwardly on his knee. He will undergo surgery soon, and I really hope he gets through it okay. All knee injuries are extremely serious.
Russell Wilson and Darron Thomas put in two very efficient performances at quarterback, and Wilson averaged 11.8 yards per pass attempt. Thomas was a hair behind him, as he put up an average of 11.7 yards per attempt to go with three passing touchdowns. His 33 touchdowns are a school record, and Thomas is a solid, efficient quarterback that does a lot for this team. He is able to effectively give the ball to the skill position guys, and he doesn’t need the staggering passing yard totals to be regarded as a star quarterback.
That Montee Ball guy tied Barry Sanders total of 39 rushing touchdowns in a season after a three yard TD early in the second quarter. However, it should be noted that touchdowns in bowl games were not counted to the overall tally back in Sanders’ day. If we take into account his five TDs in the Holiday Bowl, Sanders actually had 44 rushing touchdowns. Still, Ball has had a very special season and gained 164 yards on 32 carries yesterday. He is a workhorse back who has a bright future for sure; he truly has a real nose for the end zone.
Things are looking up for the Oregon Ducks, even if the Pac-12′s second leading rusher in history goes to the NFL Draft. The Ducks will still have Darron Thomas, Kenjon Barner, and De’Anthony Thomas. That’s a pretty good core of offensive players if I do say so myself. These guys are poised for more, and it’s great to see Chip Kelly get that chip off his shoulder. This was a great win for Duck Nation, and a Rose Bowl victory is surely one that this team will cherish. All the players who were a part of this fantastic season should be given their due, especially the stars who vaulted this team to the top and the unheralded offensive line that just kept blocking for the skill position guys who hog the spotlight.
Topics: Aaron Henry, Carson York, Chip Kelly, Darron Thomas, De'Anthony Thomas, Jake Abbrederis, Kenjon Barner, Kiko Alonso, LaMichael James, Lavasier Tuinei, Mark Asper, Michael Clay, Montee Ball, Nick Toon, Oregon Ducks Football, Rose Bowl, Russell Wilson, Terrance Mitchell, Wisconsin Badgers