Throughout Oregon Ducks football history, there have been some monumental moments and big games that have taken place, either at Autzen Stadium or on the road. In the very long history of Ducks football, though, which games stand out as the best in school history? Here are our picks for the top five, with all of them coming in the 21st century when Oregon became established as a national power.
5. Time to Fiesta
Before Colorado joined the Pac-12, they were a member of the Big 12 and represented the conference in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl against Oregon, with the teams ranked third and fourth, respectively. Oregon came in with a chip on their shoulder as the team would have been in the BCS Championship based on the coaches and AP polls.
The Ducks played like a national title team as they thoroughly beat Colorado by a score of 38-16 with Joey Harrington and Steve Smith winning the offensive and defensive MVP awards. In the end, the Ducks were ranked number two in the AP poll behind champion Miami, and we’ll never know if they would’ve defeated the Hurricanes.
4. Seminole Smash
The 2014-15 NCAA season marked the first time that the FBS champion would be decided with a playoff, and Oregon was included after winning the Pac-12. Oregon went up against undefeated Florida State and Heisman winner Jameis Winston, but the Seminoles weren’t prepared for the onslaught that would come their way.
The game was tight in the first half with Oregon holding an 18-13 lead, but the second half was all Ducks. Up 25-20 halfway through the third quarter, Darren Carrington finished the quarter with two touchdowns of 56 and 30 yards, then Winston fumbled, leading to a Tony Washington scoop and score. Marcus Mariota and Thomas Tyner would add touchdowns in the fourth to give Oregon the 59-20 win and stamp their ticket to the title game.
3. Shootout at the Shoe
While Oregon was considered a strong team and ranked number 11 in the nation heading into the 2021 season, they had squeaked by Fresno State in week one and not many gave them a chance on the road against number three-ranked Ohio State. Oregon ran the ball early and often, wearing down the Buckeyes’ defensive line, and took a 14-point lead into the fourth quarter.
The Ducks salted the game away and walked out of Columbus with a 35-28 win, and their first against Ohio State after going 0-for-9. C.J. Verdell finished with 195 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns with the Ducks going on to win their Pac-12 North and playing Oklahoma in the Alamo Bowl.
2. Upset at the Big House
In 2007, the Michigan Wolverines came into the NCAA season ranked in the top five, and had national championship aspirations. In their September schedule were games against Notre Dame and Penn State that they had perhaps looked forward to too much as they were upset by FCS team Appalachian State in the first week.
Many thought the Wolverines would rebound against Oregon in week two, but the Ducks proved to be the better team that day. Dennis Dixon ran wild and the Ducks routed Michigan by a score of 39-7 in front of nearly 110,000 people. The Ducks would go on to finish the season 9-4 and won the Sun Bowl over South Florida.
1. 2012 Rose Bowl
Coming into the 2011-12 NCAA football season, Oregon hadn’t won a Rose Bowl in 95 years. That would change on January 2, 2012, when the Ducks arrived as the number five team in the nation, taking on the Big Ten representative Wisconsin Badgers. The game was a shootout in the first half as the teams went into the locker room tied at 28.
Oregon trailed by three points going into the final quarter, but took the lead within the first few seconds of the fourth thanks to a Lavasier Tuinei touchdown catch from Darron Thomas. Alejandro Maldonado added three more points and the defense held strong, with the Ducks winning 45-38. The game set the Rose Bowl record for most points in regulation while De’Anthony Thomas had the longest touchdown run in the game’s history with a 91-yard scamper.