Autzen Stadium

Duck seniors leaving Oregon football better than how they found it

Duck seniors leaving Oregon football better than how they found it

THE SCENE

In the middle of a media circle ahead of Oregon’s final conference game against rival Oregon State, Oregon senior linebacker Troy Dye stared at Autzen Stadium and stuttered.

In four years of covering Dye, he’s never stuttered.

Oregon’s leading tackler for the past three seasons exudes leadership, confidence and is always good for a sharp comment or mic-drop moment. However, when asked about running out of the tunnel in green and yellow for the final time in Autzen Stadium, Dye got caught up in the moment.

"No matter how it is, man, I'm going to have fun with it one last time in the big and crazy Autzen Stadium,” Dye paused. “I definitely will shed a tear, there is nowhere around that one… It's crazy how fast the time flies and I'm just enjoying every moment of it."

Since the minute Dye arrived in Eugene, Oregon, he’s disrupted backfields and locked down in coverage, surpassing 100 tackles as a freshman, sophomore and junior.

He’s been the heart and soul of the Duck defense through tumultuous times, including three different head coaches (Mark Helfrich, Willie Taggart, Mario Cristobal), three different defensive coordinators (Brady Hoke, Jim Leavitt, Andy Avalos) and countless scheme changes.

SPECIAL CONNECTION

The senior class and Oregon Coach Mario 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.

THE LEGACY

Dye will shed a tear on an expected cold Saturday afternoon in Autzen Stadium and so will senior left guard Shane Lemieux. Lemieux has started 49 consecutive games, earning two Pac-12 offensive lineman of the week honors and first team midseason All-American by the Associated Press this season.

He will play in the 2020 Senior Bowl along with Dye. Lemieux says the senior class has achieved their ultimate goal: leaving the Oregon football program better than they found it.

“It’s bittersweet. I know I will probably cry when I walk out there because I love this program so much and I put so much work into this. The seniors have been through so much,” Lemieux said. “The love I have for these coaches and guys like Penei (Sewell) that I probably will never play with again, until, maybe, down the road hopefully… I feel like this program is headed in the right direction.”

PASS OF THE TORCH

Sophomore left tackle Penei Sewell stands close by answering questions about being named one of three finalists for the Outland Trophy. Sewell joins Oregon legend and five-time NFL pro bowler Haloti Ngata (2005) as the only two players in program history be a finalist for the trophy awarded annually to the nation's best college interior lineman on offense or defense.
Sewell smiles as he locks eyes with his teammate, Lemieux, who he credits as a mentor who helped him adjust to college football.

“Wooooooo, (the seniors) are my brothers, man,” Sewell said. “My man right there, Shane Lemieux! He’s always taken me under his wing and I’m going to miss him, for real. I’m going to make the most of (the games remaining). I’m going to make the most of it.”

HERBERT’S FINAL WISH

At Pac-12 Media Day in July, ahead of the 2019 football season, Washington State Coach Mike Leach made a comment about quarterback Justin Herbert.

“Seems like Herbert has been there forever,” said Leach of the four-year starter. “Somehow they granted him 10 years of eligibility.”

While it may feel like 10 years to coaches who’ve had to game plan for Herbert’s elite arm and sneaky fast wheels, Herbert’s time as a Duck is coming to a close.

Oregon is one win away from its first 10-win season since 2014 with a chance to be crowed Pac-12 Champions. Now that the national title is out of the picture, Herbert said, “It means everything,” to learn from the ASU loss and refocus on finishing the season strong.

“We are coming up on the end of our senior year and playing football here has been the best four years of my life,” Herbert said. “I’d do anything to have a couple more games. I know we are going to do everything we can this week to get better, learn from it and do our best to get ready for Oregon State.”

HATS OFF

Oregon will honor 26 seniors this Saturday, including: Herbert, Dye, Lemieux, linebacker La’Mar Winston Jr., offensive lineman Jake Hanson, offensive lineman Calvin Throckmorton, offensive lineman Dallas Warmack, wide receiver Juwan Johnson, tight end Ryan Bay, defensive tackle Drayton Carlberg, linebacker Bryson Young and punter Blake Maimone. Plus tight end Jacob Breeland and defensive end Gus Cumberlander, who both suffered season ending injuries.

Quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo joined Oregon’s staff after the losing 2016 season. He’s seen how the instability and tumultuous Oregon careers has bonded the special class that stuck it out for the opportunity to turn around the Duck football program.

“Resilient. Tough. Educated in the game off and on the field,” Arroyo said. “Some of the things that have happened off the field, working through different schemes and coaches, my hat is off to this group of guys. They are phenomenal and a resilient group that is passionate about Oregon football.”

Ahead of the meaningful Civil War rivalry with Oregon State, the senior Ducks will have a moment with their families- families of blood, teammates and their chosen Duck football family.

So what do you say fans of Autzen Stadium, a farewell and hats off to the seniors who persevered to leave Oregon a better place than when they arrived?

10 numbers to know: Ducks vs. Beavers in meaningful civil war

10 numbers to know: Ducks vs. Beavers in meaningful civil war

Saturday’s Civil War rivalry game is what college football is all about. Oregon (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12) and Oregon State (5-6, 4-4) occupy the top two spots in the Pac-12 North Division. The Ducks look to finish conference play unbeaten at Autzen Stadium for the eighth time since it opened in 1967.  

Here are 10 numbers to know if you want to be the fan dropping knowledge on your friends at the tailgate.

A DUCK WIN WOULD...

Give Oregon its first 10-win season since 2014, making Mario Cristobal the fourth head coach in program history to win 10 games in a season.

A BEAVER WIN WOULD...

Be their sixth victory, making Oregon State eligible for its first bowl appearance since the 2013 season. Also, it’d guarantee a winning conference record for the first time since going 6-3 in 2012.

BETTING LINE

Oregon opened as 20.5-point favorites over Oregon State. The total over/under is set at 66 points.

THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME

In six home games (6-0) this season, Oregon has outscored its opponents 245-60, including 127-21 in the second half.

CRUNCH TIME

At home, Oregon’s defense has allowed two touchdowns in 38 second half drives, while coming away with six interceptions in the final 30 minutes.

HISTORY

Saturday is the 123rd meeting between the two programs. Oregon has won 10 of the last 11 meetings, including five-straight in Autzen Stadium against Oregon State. 2007 was the last time OSU won in Eugene. Over the last 11 games, Oregon is averaging 47.2 points with a scoring margin of +20.7 (519-291).

SMITH’S SUCCESSES

As an Oregon State player, OSU coach Jonathan Smith was 2-2 against Oregon. In the Beavers’ victory in 1998, Smith passed for 303 yards, which at the time was the most ever by an OSU quarterback vs. the Ducks. Smith and the Beavers won again in 2000 in Corvallis.

VERDELL ETCHING HIS NAME IN UO HISTORY

Sophomore running back CJ Verdell needs 87 yards rushing to becomes the fifth Duck with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons (Maurice Morris, Onterrio Smith, LaMichael James, Royce Freeman). With 87 yards rushing, Verdell will join Freeman and James as only Oregon running back to rush for 1,000 yards as both a freshman and sophomore.

A SHOW ON THE ROAD

The Beavers are 3-1 on the road in Pac-12 play this season.

SENIOR DAY

26 Oregon seniors will play their last games in Autzen Stadium on Saturday in Oregon’s final conference game, including quarterback Justin Herbert, linebacker Troy Dye, linebacker La’Mar Winston Jr., OL Shane Lemieux, OL Jake Hanson, OL Calvin Throckmorton, OL Dallas Warmack, WR Juwan Johnson, TE Ryan Bay, DT Drayton Carlberg, linebacker Bryson Young and punter Blake Maimone.

“You only have a certain amount of snaps in your career…” said Cristobal. “With every snap that you play you show in the way that you play that this thing means more to you than it does the people you are playing against. And that’s the way this senior class is defined… I’m super proud of them. More than anything, I’m just really focused on them having the best performance they can on Saturday.”

Oregon Ducks perplexed by Mike Leach's "Middle Earth" comments about Autzen stadium

Oregon Ducks perplexed by Mike Leach's "Middle Earth" comments about Autzen stadium

Another week, another Mike “Leach-ism”. The Washington State coach described Autzen Stadium as “Middle Earth” he continued to say he likes the unique atmosphere and considers it one of the loudest in the nation.

Middle-earth is the fictional setting of British writer J. R. R. Tolkien's books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

[RELATED: Preparing for Autzen's crowd noise is just another Thursday for Mike Leach]

Not sure what to make of that comparison? The Ducks are with you. I asked junior wide receivers Jaylon Redd and Johnny Johnson III, who were perplexed but agreed that there is nothing like Autzen Stadium. 
Enjoy his response in the video above. 

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Numbers to know: Oregon vs. Washington State

Numbers to know: Oregon vs. Washington State

Oregon hosts Washington State in a Pac-12 After Dark special at 7:30 p.m., Saturday in Autzen Stadium. 

The No. 11 Ducks (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12) look to stay atop the Pac-12 North Division, while the Cougars (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) are coming off their first conference win, defeating Colorado 41-10 in a strong offensive showing. 

Here are 10 stats and numbers you need to know to be the fan dropping knowledge at the tailgate:

HOME DOMINANCE

In Autzen Stadium, Oregon has outscored its four opponents 174-19. The Ducks have allowed only one touchdown in 53 drives by its opponents.

LEACHISM

After WSU’s victory against Colorado, Coach Mike Leach looked ahead to the “tough” Ducks and referred to Autzen Stadium as a “great looking stadium that looks like Middle Earth”on the WSU postgame radio show.

Middle-earth is the fictional setting of British writer J. R. R. Tolkien's books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

COUGS ARE STREAKING

The Cougars have won the last four meetings with Oregon including a 34-20 victory in Pullman last season. WSU has left Autzen victorious the past two seasons: 45-38 (OT) in 2015 and 33-10 in 2017. Oregon has never lost to WSU five-straight times.

IT’S JOHNNY JOHNSON III’S TIME

Junior wide receiver Johnny Johnson led the Ducks vs. Washington with 90 receiving yards and five receptions, all which resulted in a first down. His 30 catches this season is already more than his sophomore season total (17) and freshman season total (21).

CAREER HIGHS GALORE

Sophomore running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio has scored six rushing touchdowns in the last three games. He has set a new career high in each of the past three games. Against Washington, all 81 of his rushing yards came in the second half.

FROM PULLMAN TO EUGENE

Four members of the Oregon coaching staff have ties to the Washington State football program: Associate Head Coach/Defensive Line Joe Salave'a coached the WSU defensive line (2012-16), Linebackers coach Ken Wilson coached the WSU linebackers (2013-18), running backs coach Jim Mastro coached the WSU running backs (2012-17) and offensive analyst David Gilbertson was a WSU quarterback (2009-12).

AERIAL ATTACK

WSU leads the country in passing (440.7 yards per game), is 4th in total offense (532.7 yards per game) and 8th in scoring (42.7 points per game). Quarterback Anthony Gordon has 2,981 passing yards with 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

INSANE RATIO

Oregon senior offensive tackle Calvin Throckmorton has allowed just one sack over last 38 games (2,766 snaps). In his 45th consecutive start, Throckmorton earned Pac-12 Conference offensive lineman of week for his performance against Washington on Saturday.

THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE AUTZEN

A win on Saturday night would mark Oregon's eighth-straight win at Autzen Stadium, good for the longest streak since a 10-game run from 2013 into 2014. A victory would improve Oregon to 11-1 at Autzen Stadium under coach Mario Cristobal.

A WIN WOULD…

Give Oregon its first seven-game Pac-12 win streak since 2014. It’d also be Oregon’s first 5-0 start to Pac-12 play since 2013.


WSU Coach Mike Leach calls Autzen Stadium 'Middle Earth'

WSU Coach Mike Leach calls Autzen Stadium 'Middle Earth'

Washington State Coach Mike Leach hardly disappoints when it comes to giving a good quote. That sentiment held true when Leach was asked about the Cougars upcoming matchup against No. 11 Oregon on Saturday, October 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Washington State (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) is coming off their first conference win on Saturday, defeating Colorado 41-10 in a strong offensive showing. After the victory, Leach looked ahead to the “tough” Ducks and referred to Autzen Stadium as a “great looking stadium that looks like Middle Earth” on the WSU postgame radio show.

Middle-earth is the fictional setting of British writer J. R. R. Tolkien's books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

In his Monday press conference, Leach continued his analysis of Autzen Stadium.

“I’ve always like Autzen Stadium. It is one of my favorites in the country. Most people have it as the loudest, I would agree with that,” Leach said.

Then, Leach moved on to preview the Ducks (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12), who have control atop the Pac-12 North Division. The Cougars have beat the Ducks four-consecutive times.

On Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert:

“He’s a talented guy, but, you know, I am very pleased we have ours instead,” Leach said.

How does he plan to stop Herbert?

“The same way we have for the past four years,” Leach said.

 On Oregon’s success:

“The surprising thing to me is that people are surprised,” Leach said.

Leach continued to say the Ducks’ recruiting classes have been one of the best in the country in recent years, why would anyone be surprised that four and five star athletes are playing well?

Oregon football traditions ranked from 1-10

Oregon football traditions ranked from 1-10

Traditional may not be the word that comes to mind when thinking about Duck football. However, any Oregon fan knows that there are traditions galore on game day in Eugene, Oregon. I’ve ranked my Top 10 best Oregon football traditions from 1-10. Do you agree or disagree with my list? Would you rearrange it?

10. “The Pick”

In 1994, Kenny Wheaton made what remains the most iconic play in Oregon football history, when he intercepted a pass and ran 97 yards for a touchdown to help UO beat Washington and reach the Rose Bowl. Before each home game, the play is replayed on the video board, causing the crowd to erupt. 

9. The vroom vroom introduction

Some stadiums light fireworks, while others blare loud rap music to announce the team’s arrival to the field. At Autzen, they rev up a motorcycle driven by a guy wearing a football helmet, along with the Duck, and lead the team onto the field. It’s loud, it’s unique. It’s tradition.

8. Uniforms

Known for some of the most unique uniforms in college football, it’s always all eyes on the Ducks’ swag. Since Mario Cristobal has taken over as head coach, the program has decreased the amount of uniform combinations and moved to a more simple, big numbered look. Even with less combinations, the uniforms are still a major part of the identify of Oregon football.

7. Throwing your O

Throwing your O became a tradition when former quarterback Joey Harrington made the "O" sign with his hands after beating the Beavers in to 2001 Civil War en route to the Fiesta Bowl. Now, the gesture is cemented into Oregon culture and is a sign to show support.

6. It Never Rains at Autzen Stadium

You have to live in Oregon to really understand the irony behind this iconic statement; and only true fans truly believe it. Before the start of every home game, PA Announcer Don Essig leads the entire Autzen crowd in letting the visitors know that “It never rains in Autzen Stadium."

5. Deafening noise

Although Autzen’s seating capacity is only 50,000, you’d never know it if your eyes were closed. Most speculate that because of its shape and construction, Autzen’s noise level can reach crazy high decibels.

4. Tailgate

Whether it be in the parking lot, at the “Mo” or at Taylor’s bar on campus… The tailgating options are endless on Oregon football game day.

3. The Autzen footbridge

Over the river and through the woods, you go! Not to grandmother’s house, but to Autzen Stadium. On game days, fans flock together over the Willamette River on the beautiful path to Autzen. Excitement builds as scattered “Go Ducks!” chants break out.

2. Shout

Yes “Mighty Oregon” is the Oregon fight song, but “Shout” is the unofficial tune of Duck football. Picture this, the third quarter dwindles and the energy rises. Students, children and season ticket holders sing and dance to the catchy tune roaring through Autzen Stadium. To add further to the tradition, Nike recently remade the scene from the Animal House movie with famous University of Oregon Alumni and of course, the Duck.

1. The Duck

One of the most recognized and iconic mascots in the nation, the Duck is the official mascot of the University of Oregon.  Truly one-of-a-kind, the Duck rides a motorcycle, does push-ups, takes selfies and will certainly make you laugh.

 

Honorable mention

The addition of Eugene-native singer Mat Kearney's "Coming Home" after the first quarter certainly adds to the aura of Autzen.

Ducks top Huskies, again

Ducks top Huskies, again

Autzen Stadium, home of the loud, proud and rabid Duck fan.

But just how deafening does Autzen stadium get when it gets rocking?

Crowd noise hit 127 decibels in a 2007 game against USC, loud enough for a human being to start experiencing pain in his or her ears.

Where does this rank in the FBS among other decibel recordings?

Autzen ranks fourth behind; Husky Stadium (Washington), Death Valley (Clemson) and Tiger Stadium (LSU) according to CFB Kings.

Before you start yelling at your screen because the Huskies have topped the Ducks, consider the capacity of each stadium:

Husky Stadium - 70,083

Death Valley - 81,500

Tiger Stadium - 102,321

Autzen Stadium - 54,000

Which means if you average the decibel per person, Autzen has the loudest fans ever recorded:

Husky Stadium - .0019 decibel per person

Death Valley - .0016 decibel per person

Tiger Stadium - .0012 decibel per person

Autzen Stadium - .0023 decibel per person

The Autzen environment is infamous among opponents, including new UCLA coach Chip Kelly. Kelly, who led Oregon to its most successful four-year run in program history from 2009-12, spoke of the Autzen magic at Pac-12 Media Days, “Even though it’s not the biggest stadium in college football, it’s the loudest stadium in college football.”

[Circle these dates: The most important games for Oregon]

Employees that work inside Autzen have to sign a waiver saying they won’t sue the university over the raucous sound coming from the Eugene stadium. Yes, that includes coach Mario Cristobal and his staff.

[READ:Changes coming to Autzen Stadium next season]

What makes the stadium different? Autzen’s stadium’s seating bowl shape matches a curvature of a Pringles chip. The sidelines sweep taller than the low-strung end zones which lends to a roaring setting, and the north side suite serves to bounce back and concentrate the sound to the bowl.

The design and one of college football’s most booming fan bases gives the Ducks a one of a kind home-field advantage.

What is the most deafening game you’ve experienced in Autzen Stadium?