The long-awaited season opener for the Oregon Ducks football team was an unmitigated catastrophe. Playing at home, where they had not lost a non-conference game Mike Bellotti’s previous nine years as head coach, the Ducks lost 30-24 to Indiana, a team that finished last in the Big Ten last year. It wasn’t that Oregon was outplayed. The Ducks had over 500 yards of total offense, and the Hoosiers had less than 2000. But Oregon committed seven turnovers—that’s right, seven!
I was prepared for the likelihood of losing on the road next week against #2 Oklahoma. But Indiana was essentially the second-weakest opponent on our schedule after Idaho. I and everybody else expected an easy victory. So losing to them is much harder to take, especially when we beat ourselves.
Who has ever even heard of a team committing seven turnovers? I can see two, maybe even three or four. But seven? I know better than to get superstitious, but it’d be easy to think fate was against you with such a screwy outcome.
I know it’s just one game – and only a game at that. After all, it was played on September 11, a reminder that there are far worse things than a football team losing its game. But as a fan I approach each season with optimism, and anticipation. There are games you are sure you’ll win, games you know you’ll have a chance, games that will be difficult to win, and games that seem impossible. An outcome like Oregon’s isn’t just disappointing—it’s humiliating. Silly as it sounds, I feel shamed by how the Ducks did. I had really intended not to let myself get so emotionally caught up this year by Oregon football games. And I had even been proud of myself last weekend when, for the first time in my life, I actually felt sorry for our arch rivals, the Oregon State Beavers, when they choked against defending co-national champion LSU in overtime. But there's no way I could ever keep from getting upset at a game like Oregon-Indiana.
Maybe Oregon will still have a great season. Maybe the bitter memory of this game will ignite a passion and proficiency in the team that might not have existed otherwise. But it’s once again abundantly clear that the joyous high of every big win is paid for with frustration and disappointment of losses like this. Thank goodness the Oregon program is, for the time being at least, at a point where the victories still outnumber the defeats. But, then again, it’s because the Ducks are good and have high expectations placed upon them that upsets like this make success always feel like a house of cards.