Ducks

Oregon Ducks on Fiesta Bowl loss: 'That can't happen again'

Ducks

Despite winning a second consecutive Pac-12 Championship, the Ducks 4-3 2020 campaign was viewed as disappointing by many.

When the chaotic season ended dully with a 34-17 thumping to Iowa State in the 2021 Fiesta Bowl, the Ducks locker room knew it had to be better.

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"Once we got back from the bowl game, we were like 'That can't happen again,'" said multiyear starter Verone McKinley III, a veteran voice within the defense. 

Numerous starters transferred out of the program after the defeat, most notably starting quarterback Tyler Shough and Isaac Slade-Mauritania, with only freshmen joining the program after Mario Cristobal elected to not take anyone from the transfer portal.

When those new faces arrived on campus, the message was clear: "We knew we didn't want to repeat last year," said McKinley III. 

"Some guys left, some guys came in and we were like, 'Here are our goals, let's establish our identity now. Let's pick this up.'"

Now with the program in its second week of fall camp, the Ducks starting safety sees his teammates preparing differently than last offseason from the "workouts to player-led practices to even meetings," he explained.

"We're not going to let [2020] happen again."

McKinley III also envisions the team's success brewing from the program's family atmosphere, off and on the field.

"Bond with your teammates," he said. "We go bowling, we go go-karting, we go to Top Golf. We do things off the field, we're all super close. I think that's going to be a big part of our success this year."

 

Also, now Oregon has a new starting quarterback in Anthony Brown who has the full support of the locker room, despite a mediocre showing last year due to the mishandling of his and Shough's playing time.

"I think AB is ready to go," explained McKinley III while raving about the offense's potential in 2021. "I know you hear a lot of talk about AB [such as] 'He didn't really start last year, he's a transfer,' all that. But he understands the position he has, he's just poised and that's going to help him carry this team.

"He's another one of those leaders and it's hard to win college football games without a good quarterback, but I think AB is the guy for us." 

No. 12 Oregon opens the season by hosting Fresno State at Autzen Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 4.