Wise Quacks: Season review, Mariota return
The Oregon Ducks will go for their third consecutive bowl game victory when they face the Texas Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30 in San Antonio, Texas.
Texas (8-4) has been down lately but is one of college football's most recognized and successful programs.
“Our guys will be very excited to take on an iconic program and an iconic coach in Mack Brown,” Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said Sunday night during a conference call.
This will be the first time Oregon has faced Texas since the 2000 Holiday Bowl when the Ducks won 35-30. In that game quarterback Joey Harrington caught a touchdown pass and ran for another in the fourth quarter to lead UO to the victory.
Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and center Hroniss Grasu said Sunday that they consider it an honor to be invited to play in the Alamo Bowl and look forward to facing a program like Texas.
Both said that the team will be excited for the game and not take it for granted because it’s not a BCS bowl game.
Oregon held out hope of receiving an at-large BCS berth but were denied despite being 10th in the latest BCS standings.
Oklahoma (11th) and Clemson (12th) received bids. However, Missouri (eighth) and South Carolina (ninth) did not.
Some projections had Oregon maybe going to the Orange Bowl to face Alabama.
As it turned out, Alabama will face Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. Clemson plays Ohio State in the Orange. Baylor faces Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl. Michigan State plays Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
“It was tough and it is unfortunate,” Mariota said. “But we kind of put ourselves in this situation. We didn’t give ourselves a lot of room to get a shot at (Alabama).”
Grasu said the Ducks have nobody to blame but themselves for losing to Stanford and Arizona but added that the Ducks would rally around the challenge before them.
“Getting a bowl win in the Alamo Bowl will be big momentum booster in the offseason and getting us ready for next season,” Grasu said.
Both players said that the offense must improve its execution for Oregon to win. The Ducks' offense struggled in both of the team's losses producing just 27 total points.
Mariota pointed to his turnovers (four interceptions in final two games) as a main culprit. Grasu said the offensive line must improve.
“It all comes down to the way the offensive line plays,” Grasu said. “We set the tone and we just have to be more physical.”
Mariota, who has been fighting a knee injury for six weeks, said he hopes to be 100 percent by Dec. 30.
“Finishing the season off right and on a high note would do a lot for our program and build a lot of confidence around the community,” he said.
Oregon's win over Texas in 2000 gave the Ducks their first 10-win season. Now, after four consecutive BCS Bowl game berths, some fans and players view 10 victories as a disappointment. Mariota said the Ducks who played 13 years ago deserve credit for setting the course for where the program is today.
“Those guys kind of set the foundation for what we’ve done around here,” he said. “They set the tone. They set the culture. It says a lot when a team that does 10-2 and is disappointed. Says a lot about where we’ve come as a program and where we want to be. As we continue to grown as we continue to become better as a program I think the ceiling is sky high and we can always get better.”
Oregon has never appeared in the Alamo Bowl, which began in 1993. The Pac-12 Conference is 2-3 all-time in the bowl game having won the first two and lost the last three.
Texas defeated Oregon State 31-27 in last year's Alamo Bowl.