One to Go
The Oregon Ducks didn’t get to where they hoped they would be at the end of the season but came awfully close to doing so. Had Zach Ertz‘s controversial touchdown towards the end of regulation been upheld as an incomplete pass (as many officials have come to believe), the Ducks would be priming themselves for yet another Pac-12 Championship game and a likely date with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the BCS National Championship Game.
As it stands, however, that is not the case. The Ducks finished their season with a 11-1 record and will either find themselves in the Sugar Bowl or Fiesta Bowl, playing either Oklahoma, Florida, or Kansas State.
The Ducks made their way to an 11-1 record fairly easily. They vanquished most of their opponents by the third quarter and only had close contests against USC and Stanford, one of which they lost. Their offense did not skip a beat with Marcus Mariota at the helm and De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner in the backfield.
Oregon’s defense also stepped up to fill-in for injured players while posting some of their best numbers in recent history, especially in takeaways.
The best play of the year came in Oregon’s first Pac-12 game of the season when they took on the then No. 22 Arizona Wildcats at Autzen Stadium. Oregon, leading 13-0 in the third quarter and needing to pull away from the dangerous attack of the Arizona Wildcats, managed to get the ball inside the red zone and was threatening to score.
Bringing in a new package, both Bryan Bennett and Colt Lyerla filled the backfield. Snap was taken and then hilarity ensued. Both Bennett and Lyerla took hold of the ball, neither one wanting to relinquish possession, and both waltzed their way into the end zone in one of the strangest plays you will see.
Fast forward to the 0:16 second mark to watch this comical play (Lyerla was credited with the touchdown).
The best moment of the year had to be Oregon’s victory over the USC Trojans, a game where Kenjon Barner dominated a Trojan defense that was looking to take down the ducks for the second straight year.
Though Oregon would lose to Stanford in the following weeks, the win over USC started the legitimization process of a Ducks football team that was questioned until their big victory.
Best Offensive Player
While it is tempting to go with Mariota in this slot, the best offensive player for the Ducks during 2012 was Kenjon Barner. Replacing standout LaMichael James, Barner stated his case for being considered the best runnning back in the nation as he rushed to the tune of 1,624 yards.
More impressive was the fact that Barner accumulated most of these yards in the first half of games. If he had been allowed to play late into games, who knows how ridiculous his numbers could have been.
Best Defensive Player
While Michael Clay, Kiko Alonso, and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu are definitely some of the best players the Ducks have had on defense in the past few years, this award goes to the unfortunately injured Avery Patterson.
Up until his injury against the California Golden Bears, Patterson had been lights out. Replacing senior safety John Boyett, Patterson more than stepped up into his new role and was an absolute ball hawk and monster on defense. The standout junior was one of Oregon’s best defensive players over the course of the season and more than deserves this award. Duck fans should be looking forward to his return in 2013.
Best Special Team’s Player
This one is the toughest of them all. While Oregon did excel in virtually every aspect of their game this year, special teams was one of their biggest weaknesses in every facet. From field goal kicking to punt and kickoff coverage to returns, the Ducks had trouble putting up good numbers on special teams.
Even De’Anthony Thomas, one of the most electrifying players on special teams last season, did not see much action as other teams intentionally kicked the ball away from the versatile sophomore.
We’re going to withhold this award until Oregon’s bowl game is over and see if anything special happens then.
Most Improved Player
The most improved player on Oregon’s team was Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. Forced into playing time last year after injuries to other corners and a young unit, Ekpre-Olomu showed outstanding development in 2012. He developed a versatile presence and was able to break up passes while taking the ball away from the other team.
Ekpre-Olomu showed that he could play with the best of receivers and be one of Oregon’s key players for years to come.
Kenjon Barner dazzled the college football nation in his first season as Oregon’s starting running back. He was selected to the AFCA All-American team and deserves to be the MVP of the Oregon Ducks in 2012.
His NFL draft stock was much improved and this senior’s talents will be missed as he moves on to the next level.
Though the Ducks’ 2012 regular season may be over, Oregon will still play in a BCS Bowl game against either Florida, Oklahoma, or Kansas State in either the Fiesta or Sugar Bowl. By the time the Ducks play they should be fully rested, healed, and ready to wreck havoc on whatever offense and defense opposes them.