Abby was my favorite niece, a red-haired sparkler with a twinkle in her eye and a firecracker personality, She her own style and a sneaky sense of humor. When she was eight she did a comedy routine for the school talent show. Everyone was a little worried. Comedy can be cruel. Abby took the stage and told her classmates, "I was going to wear my camouflage pants, but I couldn't find them."
She had her own way of looking at the world, fiercely independent. One morning she made her own breakfast: three pieces of bacon and a marshmallow. Sassy and funny, doing things her own way. One morning she called Grandma and Grandpa's house. Grandpa Stan answered. Abby said, "let me talk to Grandma." Stan, an optometrist who studied at Walter Reed, a robust man with a booming laugh, told her solemnly, "Grandma's busy." Abby shot back, "I'm busy too, let me talk to Grandma."
Getting busy: Josh Huff snares a pass in traffic against Virginia earlier in the year. The senior became a fan favorite in his four years at Oregon, though sometimes he got himself in hot water over outspoken statements in the press. He was recently named to the West squad for the Senior Bowl All-Star Game, along with defensive tackle Taylor Hart (Bob Donnen, USAToday Sports Images.)
This winter the Ducks were like Abby, brassy, entertaining, a bunch you couldn't help but root for. They had moments of brilliance and times things just didn't work out for them. At the end of the season they missed out on the big rewards, but did manage to earn three pieces of bacon and a marshmallow, a reminder of the more nutritious repast they could have earned in an incomplete season.
Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu made the second-team All-America squad, chosen by the Walter Camp Foundation.
Josh Huff and Taylor Hart were tabbed for the West squad in the Senior Bowl All-Star game.
Marcus Mariota, center Hroniss Grasu, and Ekpre-Olomu earned 1st team All-PAC-12 honors from ESPN.
247 Sports picked Tailback Thomas Tyner for their Freshman All-America squad.
Grasu was a finalist for the Rimington Award, given to the nation's top center.
Among recruits, Arrion Springs and Royce Freeman were award 5-stars by Scout and 247, and Springs, Freeman, quarterback Morgan Mahalak, offensive lineman Tyrell Crosby, wide receiver Jalen Brown and running back Tony James made All-America games. Mahalak, a relative unknown before the season due to playing behind an FBS starting quarterback at Marin Catholic, vaulted into the Rivals 250 after leading the Wildcats to a 12-1 season, throwing 35 tds and just four interceptions, 139-226 passing (61.5%) for 2,494 yards. He also ran 66 times for 551 yards, an 8.35-yard average, with 7 more touchdowns.
There were other prizes the Ducks missed out on. They finished #10 in the country but were passed over for a BCS bowl. Mariota led in the Heisman race most of the year but lost favor in November. In the final balloting voters left him out of the Top Ten. Austin Sefarian-Jenkins of Washington won the John Mackey Award as the nation's best tight end after a senior season in which he caught 33 passes for 413 yards, with 7 tds, middling numbers, and Duck fans can't help perhaps wonder if Colt Lyerla, had he righted himself and completed his junior season, couldn't have exceeded them. Instead he found legal trouble, leaving the team and getting arrested for possession of narcotics. He's currently negotiating with the court to be released to train in Las Vegas, but his request was denied this morning.
Another Duck found legal trouble also, further tainting the season. Troy Hill was arrested this weekend for assault, suspended from the team indefinitely. It was Hill's second suspension of the season, after missing the Civil War for a violation of team rules.
For the Ducks, the three pieces of bacon would be a 10-2 season that ranks among the best in school history even if it is a little disappointing. The marshmallow would be a win in the Alamo Bowl over Texas.
When kids disappoint you, you just go on loving them; it's the only thing to do. Discipline, when necessary, has to fit the circumstances. Sometimes the decisions are tough.
On another front, I'm nearly inconsolable over the potential state of the Ducks secondary. Troy Hill, WTF man? I don't expect, nor would I advise (if that was my charge) Ifo to stay. But god, I hope he has a nostalgic moment, realizes that the college experience is once in a lifetime, looks at the roster, and comes back for the glory of a potential "playoff" run. With the way the run defense looked at the end of the season, and the apparent possibility of the secondary going from all-America to unknown... Deep breath. I'm keeping the faith. Hopefully some linebackers step up too.
Forget the awards! I am starting to like the Alamo Bowl. Lets go beat Texas who are effectively playing at home. I saw a guy at the gym this morning wearing a Longhorn T-shirt and I think my nostrils flared. This season is not over and we can end it on a high note!
The Ducks just need a tune up, not a motor overhaul. Coaches, and
players, need to learn from their mistakes and their play calling needs
to constructed around the talent they have on the field. That's what
made Kelly so good. I believe the Ducks will take care of business and
win the bowl game, which will set them up for a very good 2014.
Hopefully, DAT and Ifo will return. Love the Abby stories.
It's possible that this season's 8-0 start and visions of a national championship, then the November slide, could be the perfect set-up for a supremely focused, and more mature, 2014 season. With MM and Grasu returning, and possibly one or both of Ifo and DAT, the team leadership gets a major boost. I agree with you and others that this Alamo Bowl could indicate the beginning of a 2014 resolve for the whole team including the coaches, and especially Helfrich. Even if they lose while playing smart and with heart for the whole game, I'd take that as a good ending and beginning. But a resounding win against a $130,000,000 Texas team, at home and wanting badly to 'win this one for the Macker', would be just about perfect. (The Blazers ended last year on a much worse down and look at them now with their 2nd year coach!)
Abby's got talent, I already shared that joke with my wife - and it worked. Speaking of talent, you should write a book, Dale.
Good points. In my column tomorrow for Duck Sports Authority I talk about the secondary. They return a lot of young talent. Hill could be a starter next year if he turns things around. The guy is a pound-for-pound hitter and a tenacious cover corner.
Thanks prez. This time of year the news is scarce, and I have to mix in some new angles.
It's a good matchup for the Ducks in term of testing their ability and setting the tone for next year. Texas has a good running game, a fearsome pass rusher in Jeffcoat, and plenty of speed and athletic ability. They'll have to play well to win.
Reading conflicting reports on Ifo and DAT. DAT is almost certainly gone. He has a 2-year-old child and three younger brothers. May be a mistake as he's projected for the 6th round. Ifo seems genuinely torn, but HE'S projected for the first round, anywhere from 13th-20th, and that is a lot of money. Mitchell may even go.
Good point about the November slide being a good set-up for next year. That squad should have a thorough understanding of the need to bring it every week and prepare for every game. Really looking forward to seeing the level of focus and preparation they bring to this one.
Kids can be an inspiration and an amazement sometimes, and Abby more than most. She has her own unique way of looking at the world. I love writing and doing this blog has been a great experience. I've written a novel before, and one day soon I just might start another one. Great to get all this practice.
@Dale Newton@duckified The very real possibility of playing for the NC next year would be a huge reason for them to stay one more year plus they could always use more experience, conditioning and preparedness. The NFL will always be there but the diploma probably won't as once they leave, they most likely won't return for it.