Ducks: Most Fun Games On TV

Marcus Mariota | University of Oregon Athletics photo

Marcus Mariota | University of Oregon Athletics photo

I haven’t changed allegiance to my alma mater USC, but I will admit that my favorite football team to watch on TV each weekend now is University of Oregon. With brightly colored and ever-changing uniforms, a brilliant hurry-up offense and Hawaii’s own Heisman Trophy candidate Marcus Mariota at quarterback (as well as a few other local-grown products, including starting end DeForest Buckner), the Ducks are better entertainment than munching on a giant tub of buttered popcorn at the movie theater.

It wasn’t always so.

Twenty years ago, I was the University of Hawaii radio play-by-play announcer when UH ripped Oregon 36-16 at Aloha Stadium. To be really honest, despite the fact it was a matchup of WAC vs. Pac-10, most of us in the Hawaii camp hardly batted an eye at the result.

Oh, how things have changed.

At the time, the Ducks were mired in a string of one poor or mediocre season after another. Oregon was like the Chicago Cubs of West Coast college football, as the school went nearly four decades (37 seasons) without making a trip to the Rose Bowl. The year 1994 would be the bookend on that long and frustrating period in Ducks football history.

After that loss at Aloha Stadium, Oregon went home and totally turned its program around — immediately. The Ducks, in Coach Rich Brooks’ final season there, won nine games that year to finish at 9-3, and went to their first Rose Bowl since the 1950s. After struggling for decades, Oregon has had only one losing season since, and the Ducks have become one of the strongest college football programs in the nation — with their Sept. 13 romp over Wyoming, the Ducks are the nation’s first team to win 50 games this decade.

Hawaii, on the other hand, has gone mostly in the opposite direction. That 20-point win over Oregon was the last time the two schools played on the gridiron and it marked the third straight time UH had beaten the Ducks, as it also topped

Oregon 24-21 in a 1992 game in Eugene and 41-17 in 1988 at Aloha Stadium.

The September 1994 victory, when Hawaii was coming off a strong previous decade and a half of success, was orchestrated by quarterback Glenn Freitas and a tenacious ‘Bows defense. Freitas earned his first college start that game and ran roughshod over the Ducks with his innate inability to run the option — a skill he learned as a Waianae Searider. He rushed for more than 100 yards and scored two touchdowns. The Hawaii defense did the rest, causing several Oregon turnovers, and running back a pass interception for a touchdown by linebacker Junior Fa’avae.

The next week of that ’94 season, the ‘Bows went on the road and shocked another Pac-10 opponent, whipping the Cal Bears 21-7 in Berkeley. Rodney Glover and two blocked punts returned for touchdowns turned out to be the keys of that game. But after that, the roof caved in on Hawaii’s season and the ‘Bows went winless in the WAC to finish in last place. It was the first of five straight losing seasons for Hawaii.

Since that Hawaii win over Oregon in 1994, while the Ducks have been winners in 19 of the 20 ensuing seasons, including nine years of 10 wins or more, the ‘Bows have had only eight winning seasons since (most of them during the June Jones era).

What’s the difference, you ask?

1) Funding: Oregon has become one of the nation’s leaders in funding its athletic program while Hawaii has fallen on hard times.

2) Coaching: Mike Bellotti, Chip Kelly and Mark Hellfrich have put together great systems at Oregon.

3) Recruiting players who perfectly fit the system: Mariota is a perfect example of a player who essentially was not recruited by anyone else except Oregon.

It’s time for Hawaii to take notice of what can be done. It’s not 1994 anymore.