The No. 6 Oregon Ducks (11-2, 8-1 Pac-12) punched their ticket to their eighth Rose Bowl by handedly beating Utah in the Pac-12 Championship game. Ironically, on his two-year anniversary of being promoted to head coach, Mario Cristobal officially learned that the 106th Rose Bowl will be a classic physical battle between Oregon vs. No. 8 Wisconsin.
From a 7-6 record topped with Las Vegas Bowl loss in 2017 to an 11-2 record with a chance to win the “Granddaddy of them all” in 2019, the improvement is substantial and Cristobal is only getting started on this trajectory. Cristobal’s comments when he was reminded of his anniversary:
Just indebted and gratitude beyond what words can describe for that day, the opportunity from Rob Mullens and the administration and, of course, the players who really -- you know, they fought and spoke strongly about it. So it's been -- it's been everything and more that one could ever ask for, and I do feel like we're just kind of getting started and going on a trajectory. The program is what we want it to be. So it's hard to stop and think about it, right, with all the stuff we've got to do, especially in the middle of recruiting. But, again, it's all of those things and more and just looking forward to playing in the Rose Bowl.
Can’t Believe its been 2 years...My Family and I are Grateful Beyond what words can describe to be a part of this AWESOME FAMILY-THANK YOU OREGON!!! #GoDucks— Mario Cristobal (@coach_cristobal) December 8, 2019
The senior class (quarterback Justin Herbert, linebacker Troy Dye, offensive lineman Shane Lemieux, etc) and Cristobal have a special bond and connection. As freshmen in 2016, they played on a team that finished 4-8 and left out of a bowl game. In 2017, Cristobal joined the coaching staff and brought discipline with him. Later that season, more than 70 Duck players signed a petition to UO Athletic Director Rob Mullens, lobbying for Cristobal to take over the program when former coach Taggart departed for Florida State. Oregon’s current seniors and a few juniors are the only remaining players who signed that petition.
For that, Cristobal is deeply thankful.
In his two seasons, Cristobal has coached Oregon to 20 wins, including: four victories (undefeated) against rivals Washington and Oregon State, a RedBox Bowl win and Oregon's first conference title since 2014. The Ducks have gone from unranked to No. 6 and have landed the program's best two recruiting classes in history. Not bad.
The Ducks have 23 days to prepare for the Badgers, who have an impressive resume with three top-25 wins. What will Oregon’s bowl game prep consist of?
We'll use every day allotted to us… We have final exams now. So those guys will take a deep dive in academics and handle all their business now. And then while we have some strength and conditioning sessions and some rehabilitation, mobility sessions, get the bodies back. But we came out of the game healthy, and we really want to take advantage of these practices, not only from a preparations standpoint, which is the most important part, but also from a player development standpoint. We still have some guys that haven't used their four games. They haven't red shirted and we feel that could help us a little bit. So, it will be business as usual. It really will. After a week off, we feel that we can go back to our regular routine and not really off too much.
So, the Ducks have three weeks to tune up their already healthy roster, develop underclassmen, ace their finals and get back to routine practice for Wisconsin.
With Cristobal’s stamp so deeply engraved on the Oregon program, it’s hard to believe that just two years ago he got the call to be at the top.