Some Ducks finally talking about the title game

EUGENE — The Game That Nobody Talks About was finally talked about by the undefeated Oregon Ducks.

By some of them, at least.

In one corner of the cramped media interview room, senior center Jordan Holmes did his best to deflect questions about Oregon being one win away from playing on Jan. 10 on Glendale, Ariz.

Beat Oregon State in Corvallis next weekend and No. 1 Oregon is all but assured a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.

"I'm not really going to talk about that right now," Holmes said. "I personally don't like to talk about it."

In another corner of the room, sophomore cornerback Cliff Harris was a bit more forthcoming. Oh sure, Harris was happy that Oregon's 48-29 win over No. 20 Arizona on Saturday clinched a second consecutive Pacific-10 Conference title.

Worst case scenario — a loss in Corvallis — and the Ducks are headed back to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl. Harris didn't even feign excitement about that BCS consolation prize.

"We're lookin' at the Natty now, you know?" Harris said, referring to the national title game. "Ain't about the Pac-10 and the Rose Bowl."

The scene after this season's final home game was a stark contrast to the season finale last season. Both victories clinched Pac-10 titles and Rose Bowl berths, but it was tough to tell on the field after the final horn.

Other than a few young men holding a "Ducks Pac-10 Champions" banner, the atmosphere was no different than after previous home wins. Last season, roses could be seen throughout Autzen Stadium, with The Duck even holding a rose while being carried by the students.

On Saturday night, the belief by fans and players alike was that the celebration should wait until after the Ducks clinch a berth in that certain game that gives a crystal football to the winner.

"Of course you think about it. Who doesn't?" sophomore running back Kenjon Barner said. "But we've got one more game to play. In order to get there you've got to work and you've got to win.

"It's something that growing up you watch on TV and to have that opportunity there, within reach, is definitely something to get excited about."


AS THEIR RED-FACED coach screamed toward the officials in the second quarter, the Arizona players rallied around their leader in an emotion-filled circle.

With helmets raised and voices loud, the Wildcats bobbed and bounced around in a sign that they weren't going to back down from the top-ranked Ducks.

Those Ducks saw the dramatic display and basically shrugged.

"That's their thing," Holmes said. "Certain teams do certain things and they enjoy bouncing around and doing all that stuff. That's their mojo, their chi. If that's what they do, that's fine with me. We just kind of stay laid-back. Don't get too low or too high."

Sophomore safety John Boyett said the attitude on the Oregon sideline remained upbeat despite Arizona leading 14-7 after the first quarter and 19-14 at halftime.

Boyett, who had an interception and a team-high eight tackles, refers to the season as a long boxing match.

"It's exciting to be 11-0 but it means nothing unless we become 12-0," Boyett said. "It's a 12-round fight and we're now in round 12. It's not about what you do on one play; it's about what you do on every play. We're a steady team and when we get it rolling, we really get it rolling."


THE CONFIDENCE EXHIBITED by the Oregon players is carrying over to the Oregon fan base. Even when the Ducks trail early in the games, they've proven to their loyal followers that they'll take control in the second half.

Sure enough, Oregon outscored Arizona 34-10 in the second half. The Wildcats did accomplish the rare feat of scoring seven points against the Ducks in the fourth quarter, when Oregon has outscored opponents 101-14 this season.

After the game, Oregon Ducks blogger Nick Haselwander summed up this special season with a simple tweet:

"Oregon football has never been so relaxing," wrote Haselwander, who runs the humorous Off The Pond blog. "Fun season with one small detail left."

Boyett insists it's not as easy as the Ducks make it look.

"To be great, there's always going to be tough challenges," Boyett said. "We've managed to overcome those bumps and we're still in this thing."


LEAVE IT TO a soft-spoken and extremely talented freshman to steal some of the spotlight on Oregon's Senior Day.

Freshman receiver Josh Huff electrified the 59,990 at Autzen Stadium with an 85-yard touchdown run that gave the Ducks a 20-19 lead in the third quarter.

"I was just praying for a big play to help us get the win," said Huff, who finished with 103 yards rushing on three carries. "Eventually I got that and saw the open field and scored and changed the game."

Huff burst past helpless Arizona defenders and even impressed his teammates.

"It was amazing," Barner said. "He showed a great burst of speed and from then on we knew nobody was going to catch him."


ODDS AND ENDS: The Ducks have 11 wins in a season for the second time, matching the 2001 Fiesta Bowl champion team that finished 11-1. "… Sophomore running back LaMichael James added two more touchdowns to his single-season school-record 19 rushing touchdowns. James, who was hobbled a bit in practice the last couple weeks, looked as healthy as could be while increasing his rushing yard total to a 1,548 yards this season. His 3,094 career yards makes him the second Oregon player to reach 3,000 in a career — with possibly two more seasons remaining. "… Senior receiver Jeff Maehl extended his Oregon record with 12 consecutive games with a receiving touchdown. Maehl tied the school record with 24 career touchdown receptions. "… The Ducks are 3-0 against top 25 teams this season. "… Oregon's set a single-season scoring record with 555 points. The previous record was 545 in 2008. "… Freshman Alejandro Maldonado made his debut at punter in place of Jackson Rice.

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