Yesterday the Oregon Ducks opened their season with a 48-10 victory over Stanford. What was even more exciting, though, was the promise shown by our sophomore running back Jonathan Stewart. Stewart was the #1 rated high school running back in the country two years ago. Last year, he backed up Ducks senior Terrence Whitehead and showed flashes of brilliance. Against Stanford, Stewart had 100 yards before the 2nd quarter was halfway over. Read what Oregonian columnist John Canzano had to say:
"...from today forward let's call the 19-year old running back 'The Franchise.' Because even more significant than Oregon's victory over Stanford was the news that coach Mike Bellotti has a back who could go down as the best in school history.
Apologies to Maurice Morris and Onterrio Smith. And to Derrick Loville. And to Saladin McCullough. And, maybe, too, to Bobby Moore. Barring injury or a fluke, Stewart is going to make people forget them. We're witnessing something special here.
Smith set a school record by rushing for 100 yards or more in seven consecutive games in 2002. McCullough holds the single-season rushing record (1,343 yards in 1997) and the career record for 100-yard rushing games (11). But if I really saw what I think I saw on Saturday from Stewart, he is going to mop those records up by the time he's finished at Oregon."
On the re-broadcast of the game I watched on the Oregon sports network (ABC carried it live) on Sunday night, Ducks commentator Anthony Newman put it even more succinctly: "A superstar is born."
The only problem, though, was that Stewart sprained his ankle early in the third quarter. And while both player and team are saying it doesn't seem very serious - he is expected to play next week against Fresno State - Stewart's injury is a reminder just how easily the fortunes of a team change, how easily Oregon's carriage could turn back into a pumpkin. Tonight I'm praying Jonathan Stewart has a strong constitution, because as Canzano writes, "A player like Stewart comes along as often as they re-pave the stadium parking lot. And maybe that's why the season feels a little exciting, and a little fragile today."