Not a visible enthusiasm but a hidden one, an excitement burning with a cold flame.
Eugene, Oregon, despite the decade plus of bright lights from the national media, is still not immune to big infusions of emotion. It’s especially true when a team who you’d previously dominated by a better than three touchdown average for 12 years rolls into town off two straight wins in the series and you can, no, you must make a statement.
And make one the Oregon Ducks did.
No matter the help they got from a kicker, no matter that it took an overtime period, the Ducks ended the playoff hops of their “rival”, the Washington Huskies. Their fans stormed the field; they could ride that emotional high all the way into the week of game prep against the Washington State Cougars and then some. All they had to do was avoid the letdown that can inevitably follow such a victory.
Perhaps an entire day of emotion pouring out on the Palouse had something to do with it but the Ducks, decidedly, didn’t avoid it.
A false start, a safety called back on a defensive penalty, the benefit of another “defensive penalty”, a delay of game. Not much went right on four of their first five snaps of the game; a series befitting a team that truly had no idea what they were walking into.
Throughout the first half, a literal cacophony of noise slammed into their ears as they tried to do something, anything, on offense. They would muster just a first down’s worth of yards in 30 minutes, an offensive output the Ducks, let alone any team, is not used to.
That they managed to largely silence the crowd in the second half was of no consequence. WSU’s defense did just enough to hold on and, when they needed to most, WSU’s offense came through with a big score. For the 11th straight time at Martin Stadium, the Cougars walked into the locker room victorious and the crowd migrated to the bars happy, albeit with a brief on-field detour.
So, a big, massive, STONEY win over a top-25 opponent at home after a long, emotional day and you hit the road to play a division opponent who is also in the top-25. Sound familiar?
The good news for the Cougs: they are hitting the road to see a Stanford Cardinal team that, though good, is not themselves. They should have three losses on their record (a massive, incredible collapse that Indiana Jones would tell you belongs in a museum from the aforementioned Ducks put an extra one in the win column), Bryce Love is still not himself, and an improving but still not leap off the page decent KJ Costello who is, lucky for him, still throwing to the ridiculously talented JJ Arcega-Whiteside.
The biggest factor though: Stanford isn’t exactly known for their, uh, home field advantage. The last time the Cougs were in Palo Alto, a newspaper presented more interest for one fan. Even in big games, I wouldn’t exactly describe the atmosphere at Stanford Stadium as intense or intimidating. Combined with a lack of enthusiasm for a visiting team that Stanford fans likely don’t care much about, I wouldn’t expect WSU to walk into an atmosphere resembling anything like the one Oregon saw last weekend.
So, the task is simple then: go into that stadium without a crowd that has completely turned on you and keep your foot on the gas pedal. Don’t allow the letdown that follows a big win like the one you had last weekend to jump up, grab you, and drag you into the swamp. Throw the got dang ball all over the yard, play aggressive defense and fly home with win number seven.
Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces / Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here / Here comes the sun / Here comes the sun, and I say / It’s all right
The letdown, the most important “person” vs. Stanford