"Oregon is soft."
We've all heard it before no matter how uneducated the statement is.
When the program entered the nation's elite under Chip Kelly, they constantly got criticized for winning games the "wrong way". For being too "finesse".
Former Ducks running back Kenjon Barner joined The Brian Noe Show and discussed what Oregon thought about being called "soft" by the national discourse.
We got tired of hearing it. We knew who we were. We were 'finesse' because we were blowing everybody out and made it look good, so of course they would label us as finesse.... We weren't having to grind games out... because we were done by halftime in the majority of our games. - Kenjon Barner
Barner played for Oregon from 2008-2012, but the Ducks were in the national championship conversation his final three seasons in Eugene. Those years, Oregon outscored their opponents by 24.9 (2010), 19.3 (2011) and 26.2 (2012) points per game. While other teams were grinding out games in the fourth quarter, the only drama those at Autzen Stadium saw was if the walk-on quarterback would take a snap.
But when the Ducks did play teams that could challenge them, they always stepped up to the occasion.
When it was time to be physical and compete with those guys, with those teams that were considered the most physical teams in college football... We did well and surpassed what people thought we could do. - Kenjon Barner
Two opponents, in particular, stand out to prove Barner's point: Auburn and Stanford.
You look at the National Championship Game we had against Auburn. SEC school. Known as a physical defense, physical offense. Cam [Newton] running the ball at the time. And I don't think Cam had been hit like that all year long. There were plays where Cam literally laid on the ground after he got hit... You could see it in his face.
Oregon ultimately lost to Auburn off a walk-off field goal, but if Dyer was called down the game probably enters overtime with Oregon having all the momentum. The Ducks, going up against Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, held the Auburn offense to 22 points, its second-lowest scoring output of the season.
The Ducks also blew out top-ranked Stanford teams led by Andrew Luck in 2010 and 2011.
You look at our games against Stanford. We had some physical battles, especially those 2010, 2011 years where Stanford's defense was really Stanford's defense.
The Cardinal prided themselves on winning games in the trenches and being the more physical team on the field but walked off the field losers against the Ducks. In 2010, the Ducks fell behind early 21-3 but finished the game on a 49-10 run to win 52-31 against No. 9 Stanford in Autzen Stadium. The following season, a change of field didn't matter as the No. 7 Ducks blew out No. 4 Stanford on the road, 53-30.
So no, the Ducks were not soft. They were elite.
We heard it all the time and it was never something that we put emphasis on because we knew who we were as a team. We knew who we were as players and when it came time to be [tough] we knew that we could.
Now with Mario Cristobal at the helm, that idea has shifted as Oregon now wins games in the trenches and has been one of the country's most physical teams. But football has been played like that in Eugene for a long time, not just the past few seasons.