The best season in the history of Oregon Ducks football is now officially over, ending in a 22-19 defeat – their only loss of the year – to the Auburn Tigers. While the Ducks fell short of the program’s first ever BCS National Championship, they certainly played an incredible season comparable to none other in Oregon football history.
Here are the top ten moments of the greatest year of Oregon football:
10) Cliff Harris and the Lobos, Sep. 4:
Oregon put up a 72-0 victory to burst onto the 2010 college football season. Many looked at the box score and saw a team running up the final tally. Those who watched the game, however, saw a very different story. Coming into the game as the team’s backup punt returner, true sophomore Cliff Harris returned two punts after the team had taken Kenjon Barner out of the game while leading 42-0 in the second quarter.
The result of those two returns: two touchdowns. Harris picked up a 61-yard punt return and a 64-yard punt return en route to a 59-0 halftime lead for the Oregon Ducks – not a bad way to start the season. He had a 3rd punt return TD in that game, but it was called back due to a clipping penalty. [Watch it]
9) Kenjon’s 5 touchdowns, Sep. 4:
Kenjon Barner entered the season as the backup running back to LaMichael James, but he was the featured back in the season opener against New Mexico due to a one-game suspension for James. Barner answered the call to the tune of 5 touchdowns, all coming in the first half. Barner had 4 touchdown runs, including a 41-yarder, a 25-yarder, a 10-yarder, and a 1-yarder. In addition, he caught a 60-yard pass for a score. By the end of the day, Barner was all over television, garnering plenty of national attention. [Watch it]
8) Jeff Maehl’s diving catch, Oct. 30:
Oregon’s senior receiver Jeff Maehl has had his fair share of big games, but his catch with 6:45 left in the first half against USC was nothing short of spectacular. The Trojans held a 17-15 lead following a Marc Tyler TD run. In typical Oregon fashion – two minutes after that score – the Ducks found the endzone themselves. Darron Thomas delivered a 45-yard pass into the USC endzone, with Maehl diving for the catch. His initial contact with the ball caused it to jar loose, but he used amazing concentration to retrieve the ball while still in mid-air for a touchdown that gave Oregon a 22-17 lead. [Watch it]
7) Todd Doxey’s senior day, Nov. 26:
Oregon’s Jeff Maehl played the majority of his NCAA career with a tattoo stretching from his wrist to forearm as a memorial to fallen teammate Todd Doxey. Maehl was with Doxey – and a large group of Oregon athletes – when Doxey jumped off a bridge 20 feet over the McKenzie River, got caught in the river current, and drowned in July of 2008. Doxey was a redshirt freshman defensive back for Oregon at the time of the accident.
During the 2008 season, one player would wear Doxey’s no. 29 jersey for each Oregon home game.
Maehl returns to the site of the accident every July. “I go back on the day that it happened,” he said. “I drop some flowers in there and talk to him a little bit. He’s always on my mind.”
Doxey’s last words before jumping off the bridge, an Oregon football tradition that reaches back to the 1980s: “God is on my side.” Since Doxey’s death, Maehl has recited those five words after every score, tapping his ribs with one hand and pointing to the sky with the other.
Doxey would have graduated this coming spring, and the Ducks honored him during senior day pregame festivities before they took on the Arizona Wildcats on November 26. [Watch it]
6) LaMichael James lightning strike, Sep. 11:
After trailing early in Knoxville, a long lightning delay sparked the Ducks into action. With the game tied 13-13 early in the 3rd quarter, Oregon designed a play for James to run right, but after only a couple of steps he realized that the Tennessee front line had completely blown up the play, forcing him to stop on a dime and turn to the left side of the field. And that’s where the amazing run took off.
With blockers ahead of him, James switched on the afterburners and barrelled down the sideline. Bobbing and weaving, he broke away from a Tennessee tackler at the Volunteers’ 30-yard line before finishing off the run with a dive into the endzone to give Oregon the lead. They went on to win the game by a final score of 48-13. [Watch it]
5) Eddie Pleasant fumble return, Oct. 2:
After Oregon mounted an incredible comeback to tie the game at 31 against the Stanford Cardinal, receiver Chris Owusu took a brain-rattling hit delivered by Oregon DB Javes Lewis. The resulting fumble was picked up by Oregon safety Eddie Pleasant and returned 51 yards to the Stanford 3 yard line. A LaMichael James TD run on the next play gave Oregon the lead, and they never looked back. It was Stanford’s only loss of the 2010 season, and Oregon’s marquee victory. [Watch it]
4) Cliff Harris and the final drive, Nov. 13:
Coming into Oregon’s game at Cal, the Ducks had won only one game by 11 points or less, and they’d won 7 of their 8 games by 20 points or more. They had never been fully tested to the final horn. That’s why, with Oregon trailing 7-0 in the second quarter, Cliff Harris’ 64-yard punt return for a touchdown stands out as one of the biggest single plays of the entire season. A 2-point conversion later, and the Ducks held an 8-7 lead.
The Ducks went on to win 15-13, using short rushes to run out the final 9-and-a-half minutes of the game after a botched Cal field goal attempt. Said Darron Thomas of the final drive: “Coach (Chip) Kelly told us in the huddle before we went out there that this was going to be the drive of the year; this was going to be the drive we remember. Exactly what he told us was, ‘This is going to be the drive you tell your family about 30 years from now.'” [Watch it]
3) Oregon’s game-tying drive, Jan. 10:
With Oregon trailing 19-11, senior linebacker Casey Matthews forced Auburn QB Cam Newton to fumble, giving the Ducks the ball with 4:54 remaining in the BCS National Championship. On 4th-and-five, sophomore QB Darron Thomas completed a 29-yard strike to senior WR D.J. Davis. Oregon scored 3 plays later on a 2-yard shovel pass from Thomas to LaMichael James. A leaping 2-point conversion catch by Jeff Maehl on the next play, and the game was tied at 19. [Watch it]
2) Michael Dyer’s 37-yard rush, January 10:
While it would be excellent to have something positive for the Ducks in the #2 spot, the 37-yard carry by Auburn freshman running back Michael Dyer will go down as the single most memorable play of the Ducks unforgettable season. After running 5 yards to the Auburn 45, Dyer was tackled by Eddie Pleasant.
Only one problem, though: no whistle was blown. 32 yards later, replay officials upheld the play, giving Auburn the ball at the Oregon 23-yard line and setting the Tigers up for the game-winning field goal 5 plays later. Was Dyer down? That’s something that will be debated for a long, long time. Nevertheless, no other play will stand up to the test of time like Dyer’s rush will. [Watch it]
1) Jerry Allen’s emotional call, Dec. 4:
Jerry Allen, the longtime radio voice of the Oregon Ducks, made one of the most emotional calls in the history of sports broadcasting when he choked back tears to announce Oregon’s victory – and the resulting trip to the BCS National Championship – in the final seconds of the 2010 Civil War. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another radio call that will raise the hair on your neck and give you goosebumps like Jerry Allen did on December 4, 2010. Enjoy it Oregon fans, because there’s no guarantee that a moment like this will ever take place again. [Watch it]
- Cliff Harris’ 76-yard interception return for a touchdown against Tennessee.
- Josh Huff’s 85-yard touchdown run against Arizona.
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