Oregon’s 77-6 win over Nevada was impressive, but is that only a mask for biggers questions that came out of Week 1?
We’ve heard much about coach Mario Cristobal and his determination to rebuild the Oregon Ducks football team into an SEC clone. You know, those big-body, big-smelly, bullies.
Indeed, the Ducks have been fattened, but has that only made them a bigger banquet for others to gobble or will they someday actually win the national championship?
For the time being, Ducks fans have mostly bought into Mario’s approach and are hoping things work according to his plan.
Yes, Oregon is bigger. But after the Auburn game, the Ducks ranked 105th for running the football, the sacred stat for measuring power in the trenches. Auburn ranked 60 spots higher. It is good news that after the Nevada game, Oregon’s ground game returned and the Ducks have moved up to 74th in rushing stats.
But, those are just statistics and as Toby Harrah (former Texas Rangers player) once observed, statistics are like girls in bikinis. They show a lot, but not everything.
Remember the Stanford game from last year and how similar it now feels to the Auburn game of this year? In both, Oregon built nice leads only to see them dwindle in the second half. Each turned on a big mistake and ended with opponents scoring game-winners just before the final gun.
Two big games; two big opponents; two big losses—both at the very end.
Did players begin to fade in the heat of the second half against Auburn? Is Cristobal being out-coached during halftime breaks? Is his strategy of full-pedal to the end actually self-defeating? Is he not yet enough of a strategist to win big games?
It doesn’t really matter if it is one of those or all of them, the fingers all still point to coach Cristobal.
And yet, if we stopped with just that, we would be missing the bigger picture—the one of Mario Cristobal as a person; a man of high energy, principled character, and lucid vision. Perhaps he hasn’t yet grasped the finer points of winning big games, but he has great determination and a teachable nature, as evidenced by his recent trip to Alabama to again study at the feet of the self-christened master.
Throughout history, the combination of hard work and teachability has taken persistent people to the summit of success, although their ascents have rarely been rapid.
So, Ducks fans, let me ask you this: If you have a coach who will not rest until he kisses that glass trophy and all he needs is time to get there, then how long are you willing to wait? If a year from now we’re having this same conversation, will you still be on board?
While we don’t know how long it will take nor where it will happen, it seems likely that Cristobal’s journey will someday reach that summit. And along the way, it is likely to be accompanied by this admonition from yesteryear’s Supreme philosopher, Dianna Ross:
“Ain’t no mountain high enough,
Ain’t no valley low enough,
Ain’t no river wide enough,
To keep me from getting to you . . .”
For those Ducks fans whose dispositions rise and fall with the fortunes of lemons and limes, perhaps your steadfastness can be encouraged by these paraphrased words that have thrived through centuries past:
The race is not to the swift, but to those who endure.
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