Alamo Bowl victory would put seniors in history book

by: COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY OF OREGON - Daryle Hawkins is one of 19 players in a senior class looking to score their 47th career victory when Oregon meets Texas in the Alamo Bowl.The 53rd and final game for the University of Oregon seniors will be Dec. 30, when the Ducks take on Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

With a win, the seniors would set the UO standard — which has been set each of the previous three seasons, by the way — with their 47th win. With a loss, the 2013 senior class would only tie for the most successful senior class in UO history.

Getting the 47th win is a motivator.

“It’s something that we’ve talked about and heard about, going back to the Oregon State game,” safety Avery Patterson says. “It’s something that us seniors, we want to leave a legacy here at Oregon, have our class cemented in the history of Oregon. If we can pull out this win, we will be. We do want to leave a lasting impression. Nobody ever wants to be forgotten. This game’s huge for us.”

Adds Brian Jackson, of being the best senior class ever: “It’ll be a lot of fun for us to have that title. At least we’ll leave our legacy. We have to go win this game. It’s going to be a lot of fun, to play over there (in Texas), and if we come away with a victory and end this entire thing with a bowl ring.”

Then again, the Ducks still have to beat the Longhorns, who possess some talent and should be motivated to send out resigning coach Mack Brown victorious. It’s a pseudo home game for the Longhorns at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.

The Ducks have been in big games before — lots of them, such as four consecutive BCS tilts before the program took a step back under coach Mark Helfrich and ended up in a non-BCS affair. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Ducks, led by their seniors and sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota, rally to the challenge of playing Texas in Texas and play inspired and motivated football.

Senior receiver Josh Huff, who is returning to play his final game in his home state, says the Ducks have overcome the disappointment of not being selected to play in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama — Oklahoma got the nod — and will be ready for the Longhorns. The Stanford and Arizona losses, and poor play in November, have been left behind, he claims.

“It’s pretty disappointing, with the high expectations we had coming into the season, and then being so close to our goal of the national championship,” Huff says. “I’m pretty sure everyone is over it. The way we practice and attack the weights, watch film and have carried ourselves since then, I can tell we have moved on. All we can do is move forward and make the best out of the situation and go out with a bang.”

The Ducks could have had a better record, “but we didn’t handle our business,” he says.

The UO seniors, with a win, would finish 47-6, besting last year’s seniors by one game.

The 2012 seniors, simultaneously with Chip Kelly’s four years as head coach, went 46-7.

A loss, of course, and the 2013 and ‘12 seniors would be tied at 46-7.

The 2011 seniors went 44-9, and the 2010 seniors went 41-11.

For perspective, the previous four-year best by seniors was 38-10 from 1998 to 2001 — Joey Harrington’s group.

The makeup of the 19-player senior class features eight fifth-year players who redshirted (Patterson, Jackson, Taylor Hart, Karrington Armstrong, Everett Benyard, Bosoko Lokombo, Daryle Hawkins and Wade Keliikipi), four fourth-year guys who played right away in 2010 (Huff, Ricky Havili-Heimuli, Alejandro Maldonado, Drew Howell), one junior-college transfer (Jared Ebert) and six walk-ons (Chad Delaney, Brian Teague, Mana Greig, Dustin Haines, Ben Butterfield, Ryan Hagen).

Interestingly, the 2009 recruiting class that landed the eight outgoing seniors saw almost half of the eligible signees not make their senior seasons with the Ducks — 13 of the 27 signees. The list included Cliff Harris, former defensive back and return man.

So, the players who persevere should be congratulated, especially given the competitive environment and accountability that Kelly instituted and Helfrich presumably continued as his successor. Not only will fifth-year seniors be playing their class’ 53rd game, just think about all the practices — including during the redshirt year, 2009 — and all the repetitions, given Kelly’s (and now Helfrich’s, presumably) affinity for ripping off as many plays as possible in practice.

“You can’t be tired of it,” Hawkins, a receiver, says. “The guys who get tired of it don’t really last. When you’ve been here five years, you embrace the grind. Like Coach Helfrich preaches about all the time, embracing the grind.

“If you don’t like working hard and driving every single day, then you’re just not going to make it. The players that come here and succeed are the ones who enjoy that grind every single day.”

The first game current UO seniors saw was Kelly’s debut, the debacle at Boise State in 2009. Some good things have happened in the program since then, huh? Two Rose Bowl appearances and one Rose win (against Wisconsin), a BCS title game, a Fiesta Bowl win (against Kansas State). The Ducks won Pac-10/Pac-12 titles in 2009, ‘10 and ‘11 and fell short to Stanford in ‘12 and ‘13.

More so, the seniors saw the elevation of the Ducks to national consciousness — and eventual drop, this season — and the construction of the enormous and extravagant football center, the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex.

“It’s incredible, unbelievable, something I never imagined I’d be a part of,” Patterson says. “Even when we were in the (Casanova Center), I didn’t know it could get much better.

“I was shocked, when I first walked into the building. It felt like walking into a mall, that the food court was straight ahead and I could ride up and down on the elevators and be at a store. It’s an incredible place.”

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