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'Special group' of seniors finishes with big win

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: MEG WILLIAMS - Kenjon Barner, Oregon running back, fields questions after the Ducks' 35-17 Fiesta Bowl triumph over Kansas State.GLENDALE, Ariz. — The University of Oregon senior class, which includes Michael Clay, Kenjon Barner, Kiko Alonso, Jackson Rice, Jeff Palmer and Dion Jordan, finished 46-7 — all with coach Chip Kelly.

The group enjoyed two BCS wins, over Wisconsin (Rose Bowl) and Kansas State (Fiesta), with BCS losses to Ohio State (Rose) and Auburn (national championship).

It's the best stretch of UO football ever. The seven losses came to powerhouse teams that were a combined 82-12.

"A special group of guys, that senior class," Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich said after Thursday night's 35-17 Fiesta Bowl triumph over K-State. "Just incredible guys that have seen a lot of ups and downs. The amazing thing about those guys is their resiliency, their constant effort, constant 'Win The Day' mantra. A lot of people have slogans, but not a lot do the work needed to achieve that. That's what's so amazing."

Quarterback Marcus Mariota said of Barner and the other seniors: "They meant the world to me. As a freshman, to be able to look at them and learn a lot from them, and then lean on them when times were rough ... I'm going to miss their leadership and all those things. It'll be a little different. I'm thankful I was able to play with them."

Clay called it a "blessing" to go out with a win.

"We were the first class under Coach Kelly. He's meant the world to us," Clay said. "We bought into whatever he said. For everyone in that locker room, everyone's bought in. It shows throughout the past four years. ... It's kind of surreal because it's our last game."

Added Barner: "Definitely sadness ... now I've got to get ready for the next chapter of my life."