Rose Bowl

Oregon Football: Pac-12 champs and Rose Bowl victors has a nice ring(s) to it

Oregon Football: Pac-12 champs and Rose Bowl victors has a nice ring(s) to it

The 2019-2020 Oregon Football season was one for the history books.

The Ducks finished with a 12-2 overall record, 8-1 in the Pac-12 conference, Pac-12 champions and Rose Bowl victors.

On Friday, the players and staff received their championship rings:

[Listen and download for free ‘Sports Uncovered: The uniform craze that revolutionized college football].

Here's how the Ducks earned these rings.

First, a dominant 37-15 win over Pac-12 south champion Utah in the Pac-12 championship. Running back CJ Verdell obliterated the Utes defense that was ranked No. 1 in the nation in run defense (allowing 70.2 yards per game on the ground) with 18 carries for 208 yards and three touchdowns. Verdell was named the MVP of the Pac-12 championship game.

That earned the Ducks a trip to the 2020 Rose Bowl against the Wisconsin Badgers. Oregonians Justin Herbert and Brady Breeze scored all four of Oregon's touchdowns in a 28-27 win over the Badgers; three from the legs of Herbert and one special teams touchdown from Breeze.

These rings are well-deserved.

[Listen to the latest Talkin’ Ducks Podcast with host Jordan Kent and former Oregon Track & Field star and Olympian Galen Rupp].

Oregon's chrome helmets at the 2012 Rose Bowl were very controversial

Oregon's chrome helmets at the 2012 Rose Bowl were very controversial

Oregon football has been known for cutting edge uniforms for years now, but it hasn't always been that way.

In The Uniform Craze That Revolutionized College Football, an NBC Sports NW podumentary on the Sports Uncovered podcast feed, we break down how Nike utilized branding to help Oregon compete with the upper echelon of college football.

By the early 2010s, Oregon's brand was in full force. With a new uniform combination every game, a national audience was always eager to see what Nike and Oregon had up their sleeves.

On January 2, 2012, they did not disappoint, debuting the new chrome football helmet against the Wisconsin Badgers in the 2012 Rose Bowl. 

When the Ducks came out onto the football field in Pasadena in front of a national television audience of 11.7 million, ESPN 's announcers couldn't stop gushing over the new helmet.

"I'll tell you what, it's not necessarily the uniform as much as the helmet," said Brent Musberger. "That's what strikes everybody right now and you know when I look at it as much as it's nice and flashy you wouldn't know it's an Oregon helmet because you can't see anything... It looks like a lightbulb is going on inside of it, it's so bright!"

"I had to put my sunglasses on a minute ago because the Ducks came out of the locker room with their shiny new helmets," responded Kirk Herbstreit. "Those things sparkle in the Southern California sun."

"They are chromed up although it's liquid metal, it has wings, it has the O. It looks [like] different colors [depending] what it is around." 

But not everyone was a fan of the new helmets. Specifically Wisconsin Badgers head coach Bret Bielema. 

It got into the head of the coach at Wisconsin. He started complaining right away, I was on the field when Oregon came out and he's like "They can't do that.' - Tinker Hatfield 

They were a huge hit with everybody else, including Joey Harrington, or should I say Joey Heisman.

[RELATED]: The Times Square billboard of Joey Harrington had nothing to do with Joey Harrington

"It was just wow and I think it complemented what Oregon was about at that time, which was speed and explosiveness," said Harrington. "I'll never forget De'Anthony Thomas taking that, breaking down the sideline right in front of us and you just saw this blur of chrome going by and was like, yep. I think I'm going to like these."

As the game went on, the color of the helmets changed.

"It started with this incredible sunshine but by the time the third quarter rolls around, the sun's starting to set. And you get the colors and you get a different reflection all throughout the course of the game, the look of the helmet changed," remembers Harrington. 

The helmet was such a success that Oregon brought them back for the 2020 Rose Bowl earlier this year. 

Back-to-back bowl losses to top-ten opponents in 1995 and 1996 spawned a conversation between Mike Belloti and Nike founder Phil Knight about what the program needed to win.

[RELATED]: How a conversation after a bowl game loss led to the Oregon Ducks uniforms craze to take flight

Among the decisions was to reinvent the Oregon brand.

After back-to-back BCS Bowl losses in 2010 and 2011, some wondered if the Chip Kelly led Ducks could get over the hump and take down an elite, out-of-conference opponent.

On January 2, 2012, the Ducks broke through defeating the Badgers to win the program's first Rose Bowl since 1917. They did so with that iconic Oregon swagger that helped spawn a new power in college football. 

Listen to the full episode here and Subscribe to “Sports Uncovered” for free wherever you listen to podcasts.

[RELATED]: The moment Phil Knight fell out of his chair and changed Oregon history

[RELATED]: Roboduck showed Oregon it may have tried too hard to reinvent itself

[RELATED]: The Times Square billboard of Joey Harrington had nothing to do with him

The results of the NFL Draft tell you one important thing about Oregon's Ducks

The results of the NFL Draft tell you one important thing about Oregon's Ducks

You have to give the Oregon football team credit -- to be anywhere near the national championship chase this season and to have won the conference and the Rose Bowl, was a great achievement, given the Ducks’ talent level. The players and the coaches may have overachieved.

The NFL completed its seven-round draft Saturday and Oregon had only four players selected and just one -- quarterback Justin Herbert -- in the first three rounds, which is where the true stars are taken.

And yes, I understand a lot of the Ducks’ talent was young. But that only serves to enhance the achievement. Yes, Oregon had a terrific senior quarterback, but it helps a great deal to have seasoned veterans on your team and the Ducks didn’t have a lot of them.

And neither did the Pac-12.

The SEC had 63 players drafted, the Big Ten had 48 and the Pac-12 just 32. And on top of that, the SEC had 40 of its picks in the first three rounds. The Pac-12 had a dozen over the first three rounds -- a huge disparity in top-end talent.

And make no mistake, the number of players drafted is a pretty good indicator of how good a conference or a team was during the season.

Here’s a look at the schools with the most players selected during the draft:

LSU: 14

Michigan: 10

Ohio State: 10

Alabama: 9

Clemson 7

Florida 7

Georgia: 7

Utah: 7

Auburn: 6

Notre Dame: 6

I do expect, given the recruiting success Mario Cristobal is having in Eugene, that the Ducks will climb the ladder of teams featuring future NFL players.

And if they want to chase a national title or just do well outside of a mediocre conference, they better.

Some things I learned this year while covering the Rose Bowl

Some things I learned this year while covering the Rose Bowl

PASADENA – The 15 things I learned while at the Rose Bowl this year, not necessarily in order of importance:

  • Whoever wins the battle at the line of scrimmage doesn’t always win a football game. Take Wisconsin, for instance. The Badgers dominated Oregon in every statistical department, including holding Oregon to 204 total yards, yet lost to the Ducks. Three fumbles, an interception, a missed field goal and nine penalties – and they lost by a single point. That had to be painful.
  • Shake Shack has better burgers than In-N-Out. Really.
  • Wisconsin Coach Paul Chryst looks nothing like a classic Big Ten football coach. His nickname of “Coach Dad” is quite appropriate. And he seems like a great guy.
  • LA Live is cool. And to think Portland passed up an opportunity to do a similar development in the Rose Quarter.
  • The Rose Bowl experience is as good as it gets for players, coaches, media and fans. First-class treatment, almost always great weather and an iconic venue.
  • A lot of people are still holding onto that gothic, all-black fashion statement in LA.
  • The team that has lost the Pac-12 championship game is 0-9 in bowl games. Wow.
  • Police escorts on media buses to games should be mandatory.
  • Pre-game flyovers should be mandatory, especially from Stealth bombers.
  • It’s a little bit unsettling to see a couple of trucks full of FBI and police people in camo, carrying heavy-duty assault weapons, entering a stadium four hours prior to a game.
  • Mario Cristobal is taller than you’d think.
  • After all these years, the Goodyear Blimp is still cool.
  • The Ducks’ “green” uniforms are very close to being black uniforms. Which is probably the idea.
  • So nice to see a couple of young men from the state of Oregon run away with the offensive and defensive honors in the Rose bowl. It’s a tribute to their families and all the great high-school coaching in the state.
  • When you play a Big Ten team in the Rose Bowl, there’s a very good chance that team is going to bring more fans to the game than you will. At least that’s what history tells me.

Oregonians Justin Herbert and Brady Breeze become Duck legends with Rose Bowl win

Oregonians Justin Herbert and Brady Breeze become Duck legends with Rose Bowl win

The closest bowl game of the season, yet.

The highest attendance of this season’s bowl games, yet.

66 degrees and a blue clear sky at kickoff.

A pink sunset glittering from Oregon’s chrome helmets.

Green and yellow confetti falling from the sky.

Nike co-founder Phil Knight grinning from ear to ear.

A tear rolling down the face of senior linebacker Troy Dye on the victors stage.

Coach Mario Cristobal dancing to “Shout” out of the Stadium with his sons by his sides.

Two Oregonians (who scored all of UO’s touchdowns) crowned offensive and defensive most valuable players.

A complete and totally emotional scene.

No. 6 Oregon's 28-27 win over No. 8 Wisconsin lived up to the name, ‘The Granddaddy of Them All’.

The senior class earned the best win of their careers in their last games as Ducks. Senior linebacker La’Mar Winston Jr. took the win as an opportunity for a teaching moment, hugging junior Nick Pickett as photographers swarmed, reiterating that Pickett must carry the torch to continue the legacy to get the Ducks back to the Rose Bowl (or beyond) next season.

Winston Jr., a Central Catholic graduate, was an integral part of why Oregon finished eighth nationally in scoring defense and couldn’t have been happier for the Rose Bowl Offensive Most Valuable Player, Justin Herbert. The four-year starter had the chance to be the hero and he sprinted towards it with shocking speed. Herbert wow’d with his legs, rushing for three touchdowns, including a 30-yard rushing touchdown that won the game. 

I’m going to be honest with you, we’ve been telling him to run all year! All year, we’ve been telling him to run! He runs in practice and torches us. So I told him, ‘Pull that thing and get loose! Stiff arm them dudes, juke them dudes. Is he a running back or a quarterback? We don’t know. –Winston Jr.

It was not only Herbert’s first career game with three rushing touchdowns, but he also became the first quarterback to have three rushing touchdowns in the Rose Bowl since Vince Young in 2006. A storybook ending for the quarterback who grew up idolizing Marcus Mariota and Joey Harrington from down the street at Sheldon High School in Eugene, Oregon.

It's legendary. I think (Herbert) is a guy that you can't – it's hard to even script this kind of Hollywood story, right? Right down the road, born and raised, just like Brady (Breeze), been watching Oregon Duck football forever. And they're sitting here in front of you as Rose Bowl champions -­not only as Rose Bowl champions but as MVPs of the Rose Bowl after winning the Pac-12 Championship. –Coach Mario Cristobal

Coach Cristobal became the fifth Oregon coach to reach 12 wins in a season with large part to Defensive Most Valuable Player, Breeze.

Breeze, who is also a graduate of Central Catholic, badgered Wisconsin constantly, providing Oregon with drive saving tackles multiple times on deep passes and leading the team with 11 tackles. With the offense sputtering, Breeze provided momentum-shifting plays when the Ducks needed it most: scoring on a fumbled punt and forcing a fumble late in the fourth quarter that turned into the game-winning score.

Before the game, Breeze warmed up with his teammates and took the time to sign autographs and take photos with kids before heading into the locker room to suit up in uniform. Breeze, whose uncle Chase Cota started at safety for Oregon’s Gang Green defense in the 1995 Rose Bowl, knows what its like to be in the stands with a dream.

It's cool to see all these people waving at us in the stands... Just like I was when I was at the game watching Ohio State play Oregon and watching Florida State play Oregon. I was just a fan, dreaming of playing in these type of games. –Breeze

With two hometown kids making the difference in Pasadena, the 106th Rose Bowl could be considered a Disney Movie plot or a chippy 15-round fight for the title. It’s really in the (teary) eye of the beholder.

UO Coach Mario Cristobal: 'Our guys just found a way to keep swinging'

UO Coach Mario Cristobal: 'Our guys just found a way to keep swinging'

PASADENA – It didn’t work out quite the way the Oregon Ducks expected it would. But they’ll take it – as well they should.

Oregon didn’t beat the Wisconsin Badgers Wednesday in the Rose Bowl quite as much as the Badgers beat themselves. But that’s football. You fumble the ball three times and lose all three, you throw an interception, miss a field goal and then you get nine penalties for 79 yards, you’re going to lose – no matter what else happens.

“We didn’t overcome ourselves,” chagrined Wisconsin Coach Paul Chryst said.

Wisconsin outrushed the Ducks 136 yards to 66. The Badgers outpassed Oregon 186 yards to 138. And they got a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. In all, the Ducks had a season-low 204 yards of total offense – which won’t win you many games. But, oh my, did the Badgers make mistakes.

And Oregon took full advantage of those miscues.

The Ducks opened the game with a 12-play, 75-yard drive for a touchdown. They then scored three more TDs after turnovers. The Ducks got an interception at Wisconsin’s 33 and scored three plays later. Wisconsin’s punter fumbled a snap and Brady Breeze returned it 31 yards for a TD. Then the Ducks recovered a fumble at the Badgers’ 30 and Justin Herbert dashed for a score on the next play.

Herbert, who didn’t run the ball very often all season, rushed for three TDs.

It was a monster win for the Ducks. It was their third straight Rose Bowl win. It was the fifth time in school history they’ve won 12 games. And forcing turnovers was not a one-game deal -- Oregon finished the season with a plus-16 turnover margin.

“I think the offensive line and the defensive line deserve a ton of credit,” Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal said. “Because, again, and I think Wisconsin is an excellent football team. They are. They’re physical. They’re tough. They’re well-coached. All the respect in the world to them.

“Our guys knew this was going to be a 15-round fight, right? And rounds 10 through 15 usually decide which heavyweight walks away with the hardware. And our guys just found a way to keep swinging, get up one more time. Throw one more punch. And it’s a testament to what they are, what their DNA is. And I really believe that these guys are just getting started.”

This was a victory very important to the Pac-12 Conference, which was in danger of having another sub-.500 season in bowl games. It has been left out of the national playoff three seasons in a row and to see its champ go down in this bowl would have been a big blow, feeding the perception that it’s not a very competitive conference on a national level.

But Cristobal didn’t see it that way.

“The outside noise never really becomes part of our process,” he said. “I mean, to us, anything outside is, with respect to everyone, really irrelevant because it’s not there with us at 5 in the morning when we’re training, it not there late at night when we’re getting extra treatment.

“We know we have a good football team and we know we’ve done all the things in regards to becoming physical, disciplined, tough, to execute at a high level, with so much room to grow.

“But I think Oregon is, all the respect – we’ve warranted any and all respect that we’ve received… if that’s the question we’re asking, if we represented the conference well, I would say that we did.”

And to sum it up, Cristobal talked about the path the Ducks have taken to get to this point.

“We go hard now,” he said. “What we do is not kind and cuddly, and it’s certainly not for everybody. So we all stuck to a blueprint that is as demanding as it gets and that will push you right to the edge until you get a breakthrough. That’s what these guys had.”

Relive the Oregon Ducks winning the 106th Rose Bowl

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USATI

Relive the Oregon Ducks winning the 106th Rose Bowl

It was a great day to be a Duck.

The Pac-12 champion Oregon Ducks (12-2) defeated the Wisconsin Badgers (10-4) 28-27 to win the 106th Rose Bowl, their first Rose Bowl win since defeating Florida State 59-20 in 2015. 

The program has undergone a lot of transformation since that victory. Then-head coach Mark Helfrich only lasted two more seasons after a disastrous 4-8 season that was also Justin Herbert and Troy Dye's freshman seasons. Then, after one season, Taggart left for his 'dream job' leaving Mario Cristobal to be promoted. In just his second season as head coach of Oregon football, the Ducks are Pac-12 champions and Rose Bowl champions. The senior class completely turned around the program from missing a bowl game to finishing the season ranked inside the top five. 

When the clock hit zero, the Ducks celebrated more than a large victory. The program has been officially returned to national relevance, and they celebrated like it. 

Even the band got into it.

Check back later for updates

Ducks or Badgers? Rose Bowl will be decided up front and the winner is...

Ducks or Badgers? Rose Bowl will be decided up front and the winner is...

PASADENA – Trying to figure out how a football game will go before it’s played is a difficult business. People who think they can figure it out so well that they bet on the outcome have my admiration.

I will try in this space to tell you what I expect from Oregon and Wisconsin Wednesday afternoon in the Rose Bowl, but will do so with the warning that if you are silly enough to make a bet based on my advice, you probably deserve to lose your money.

But that won’t stop me from giving you my opinion and telling you that I’m usually pretty good at this sort of thing.

I expect it to be a real battle in the trenches as two teams attempt to flex their muscles and prove their physicality. Wisconsin has been good at ball control, run defense and wearing down its opponents. Oregon is physical, has a balanced attack, solid defense and is capable of beating teams with the pass.

Two very good football teams.

First, a quick look at Wisconsin:

  • The Badgers had four shutouts this season and rank 10th in the country in scoring defense, eighth in total defense and eighth in rushing defense.
  • Wisconsin lost three games, but two of them were to Ohio State – one of the best teams in the country. You get better by playing, and even losing to, good teams.
  • The Badgers have won five straight bowl games.
  • Wisconsin’s running back Jonathan Taylor is a two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s premier running back. With 1,909 yards this season he’s the only runner in FBS history to top 1,900 yards three years in a row. With 91 yards he can become only the third player to rush for 2,000 yards in multiple seasons. This man is special.

And now a few tidbits about the Ducks:

  • This is the 14th time in the last 15 seasons Oregon has made it to a bowl game. It is 14-18 in bowl games, all time, but has won its last two games at the Rose Bowl, including a 45-38 triumph over Wisconsin in 2012.
  • The Ducks held six teams under 10 points this season, tied for the most in the country.
  • Justin Herbert’s 95 touchdown passes are the most among active FBS players and sixth-most in Pac -12 history.
  • Oregon is ninth in the country in scoring defense and 15th in the country in scoring offense.

So, what does it all mean?

I believe the Ducks are going to have their hands full. Taylor is going to get his yards and if Oregon stacks the line of scrimmage too much to stop him, the Badgers are quite capable of hitting play-action passes for big yardage.

If Oregon struggles with its running game, this game could end up being decided by the arm of Herbert – and his receivers, who haven’t always been dependable. But he will likely have to run for his life part of the game – the Badgers had a school-record 49 sacks this season. I do expect Herbert to throw the ball well in his final collegiate game and it could be the difference.

But the deciding factor in this one is likely going to be at the line of scrimmage. Oregon has been as physical as it has been in years. Wisconsin takes pride in its own brand of physicality.

Is “Pac-12 physical” the equal of “Big Ten physical”? If it is, the Ducks will win.

If not, this one goes the other way.

I have it 24-21, Wisconsin.

College football playoff expansion? Mario Cristobal supports adding more teams

College football playoff expansion? Mario Cristobal supports adding more teams

The current College Football Playoff contract expires in 2026 and the desire for an expanded bracket is intensifying by many.

This year, NCAA coaches were polled to see if they were in favor of a larger playoff system. The results showed that 30 of the 62 head coaches that answered (LSU's Ed Orgeron, Alabama's Nick Saban and UCLA's Chip Kelly declined to vote) were in support of an eight-team bracket.

Both No. 6 Oregon and No. 8 Wisconsin likely would have been in an eight-team playoff, vying for the national title. Instead, the Pac-12 Champion Ducks (11-2) and the Badgers (10-3) are battling for the 106th Rose Bowl Title. The 'Granddaddy of Them All' is, of course, is a great bowl game with long standing tradition and an opportunity for both teams to end the decade with a substantial win.

While coaches do not have the power to change the current six-year-old format, here is where Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal and Wisconson Coach Paul Chryst, stood on a new format:

I think there's a lot of teams worthy of playing it out… I think anytime you could include more, right, in that particular – in that party, I think it's a good thing. –Mario Cristobal

You'd love to have obviously a six-year cohort and get all the data and see how it worked out and how it really played out. –Mario Cristobal

I wouldn't trade this experience for anything. So I want to make sure that part is clear. –Mario Cristobal

I think there's a lot that goes into it, and we're fortunate there's a ton of people that care about it. And so I'm going to let them figure it out. And like Mario said, this experience that our players get to be a part of, I think if you asked every one of the players, this is very unique, and I know both teams were grateful for it. –Paul Chryst

But just tell us what the rules are, and we'll work and try to do all we can to be the best team we can be. And if we earn the right for whatever it is, you're grateful for that. –Paul Chryst

In the current 12-year, $7.2 billion contract between ESPN and the CFP, nine of the 12 semifinals have been lopsided games. Most recently, No. 1 LSU steamrolled No. 4 Oklahoma, 63-28 in the Peach Bowl semifinal. Maybe two-loss, Pac-12 champion Oregon would have given the Tigers a better game. Maybe not.

So, whether adding more teams is a good decision based on the eye of the beholder, it appears that Coach Cristobal is in favor of the eight-team expansion.

With a chip on his shoulder, CJ Verdell isn’t done yet

With a chip on his shoulder, CJ Verdell isn’t done yet

PASADENA, CALIF.- Oregon running back CJ Verdell plays football with one motto in mind, something his Dad told him when he was young: Be the hammer, not the nail.

Which would explain the edge the sophomore runs with that caused Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, the nation’s top running back, to say that Verdell “runs like he’s angry.”

Mad or not, Verdell is not done. He’s made that much clear, by saying he is “definitely” returning for his redshirt-junior season. It never crossed Verdell’s mind to test the NFL waters because he feels he has a lot more to give to the Oregon football program. Now, he’s got a Rose Bowl date with No. 8 Wisconsin and their 8th ranked rushing defense.

[RELATED: Bonded as Oregon greats, LaMichael James says CJ Verdell's Pac-12 title performance tops his own]

When facing that nation’s No. 1 rushing defense in Utah, who allowed an average of 56 yards per game, Verdell rushed for 208 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns to become the Pac-12 title MVP.

Junior wide receiver Johnny Johnson III smiled as he shared a story about his teammates relentlessness:

We leaned on him, we knew someone was going to have to make a big play. CJ Verdell came through. He’s never satisfied. Even after he makes a huge play, I’m coming up to him on the sideline, I’m talking to him about it and all he ever says is ‘I’m not done yet… We just started.’ -Johnny Johnson III

Verdell felt like he had something to prove against Utah and he feels the same underdog mentality heading into the “Granddaddy of them all”.

Let the other guys get all the attention. That way when we do make noise, it'll be a big surprise to everybody… I’d gladly take that title of underdog.- CJ Verdell

This season, Verdell became the fifth running back in Oregon history to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. His impact on the offense isn't overlooked by quarterback Justin Herbert, who singled him out when asked about how the Duck offense finds success:

That guy sitting right there (points at Verdell) is special, and I know any time we hand him the ball, throw him the ball, he's going to do something really special about it. Especially having an offensive line like we have blocking for him and leading the way for him, it's been a lot of fun, and it's been an honor to play next to him. –Justin Herbert

Herbert, Verdell and the entire Duck football team spent a day at Disneyland as part of their pre-Rose Bowl tour of Southern California. Verdell, the Mater Dei High School graduate, hadn’t been back since his grad night, but identified his favorite ride immediately: The Guardians of the Galaxy (formerly the Tower of Terror). It’s a high-speed elevator attraction with g-forces that will make your voice hoarse the next day. Verdell said “you can’t beat” that butterfly feeling in your stomach.

The combination of the chip on Verdell’s shoulder and his love for adrenaline serve him well on the football field. The downhill runner excels at making defenders miss with great change of direction and can be patient in the hole.

Verdell can do it all, which is what the Ducks are counting on come January 1, in the 106th Rose Bowl.