A Lot Riding on a Knee

In the midst of all that is college football in November, all eyes (at least in Eugene) are on a knee. A very, very important left knee.

If you’ve been a Duck fan for long, you may be having flashbacks of the heart breaking end to the 2007 season. Dennis Dixon, then a senior, had lead the Ducks to repeated victories and a #2 BCS standing. For the first time in several years, the Ducks were staring a Rose Bowl or even better, a National Championship, in the face. Then, it happened. . .

Despite a November victory over Arizona State, Denis Dixon injured his knee and left the game. He would return to the field two weeks later to the sound of rejoicing fans drowned out by Arizona’s “Zona Zoo”. It would only take a quarter before Dixon’s knee buckled, taking him out for the rest of the season. What hadn’t been revealed was that he was playing on a torn ACL. His collegiate career was over and the Ducks’ top of the Pac season was effectively over as well. They would go on to lose the next couple of games, ultimately ending up in the Sun Bowl- a far cry from a National Championship.

Flash forward to November 2013.

The Ducks are again standing atop the Pac and currently hold a #5 spot in the BCS. They have fallen from the #2 spot, after being defeated by then #5 Stanford- a defeat many have blamed the bummed up knee of the beloved Oregon quarterback, Marcus Mariota. Mariota however does not. Mariota, who has rightfully earned a name for himself as a duel threat quarterback, has been extreme limited in his run game since injuring his knee against UCLA. He hasn’t looked like himself and spectators have no doubt his play has been impacted by the injury. Despite the questions, Mariota has continued to play through the injury, despite the risk it could present to a future NFL career, citing a love for his team as his motivation. He directly states injury is no excuse and that he was taught to play through adversity. As he put it, they would have to pull him off the field before he’d stop fighting the battle.

As Mariota and Co. prepare this week to face Arizona, all eyes are on that knee. He ran out of practice yesterday and even I immediately looked at his knee. “His brace is off” I excitedly told the reporter next to me. Then, Mariota jumped in front of the cameras, only to field question after question about that knee. Yes, he is rehabilitating it several times every day. Yes, he wore the brace during practice. Yes, he takes it off sometimes. No, he doesn’t feel it limits his play. Yes, he’s feeling better. Yes, he plans to play this weekend. And, Yes, he’s sick of talking about his knee.

So why all the worry? Why all the questions about a knee that isn’t taking Mariota out of the game? Because it symbolizes the Oregon Football ups and downs of the past few years. An entire fan base, full of  high hopes, refuses to let the season go down the drain. While some are content at a Rose Bowl goal, many still have their sights set on a National Championship- no matter what miracles would be required to get there. It’s not just about winning though, it’s about keeping a kid healthy.  A kid, who has humbly led his team, given back to the fans, and shown he deserves so much more from his future, including that coveted Heisman. We all know what’s at stake and just how much is riding on that knee.




4 Comments on A Lot Riding on a Knee

  1. Bret Groefsema // November 19, 2013 at 10:43 pm // Reply

    I have been a duck fan since 89 and I want to commend you on a well written article. You summed up everything I am/was thinking about MM’s knee. Great job summarizing not only the season, but the emotion that goes along with being a Duck fan. Its nice to read articles by knowledgeable fans.

    • oh my goodness! Thank you so much Bret. It’s often hard being new to this whole media world and I can’t tell you how much the positive feedback is appreciated! Go Ducks!

  2. I have been saying it since last year. Marcus will end up being the greatest QB ever to play for the Ducks. What bothers me is how the media described Marcus’ performance against Stanford as sub par. He still threw for 250 and no picks, all on a bad knee. Teams have been dedicated to stop the Ducks run the last 3 weeks making Marcus’ arm win the games, which he has done. I do believe that his inability to not be able to take off in the Stanford game was the difference. He had open lanes 4 separate times in that game and could not take advantage due to the knee. Yet he still put the ducks with a chance to win, all from his arm. I think there were some hesitating coaching calls in the 2nd 1/2 that attributed to the flow of the game as well. I am not slamming coaches, because I absolutely love them, just making an observation. With out being bias, I do believe Marcus reads defenses and makes decisions better than anyone college. I would probably put AJ McCarren close behind him. Manziel is athletic and his scrambling gets him big plays, but he often misses open receivers in the first 2 reads. FSU’s QB is a wait and see till next year and better opponents. Marcus is the most accurate out the group, makes faster decisions and does not play above the game plan. I do believe he has a couple of mechanics to work on before the NFL and one more year in college will take care of that. (besides, he needs to stay and beat Stanford). I would like to see a little different direction on O line and D line recruiting. The speed needs to be there, I understand that, but there needs to be at least two power lineman on each side of the ball. We sometimes struggle on short yardage against the power defenses and same when stopping the short yardage gains.
    There are a lot of commentators that say they will not buy into the Ducks being an elite team due to the style of offense because that style has yet to win a CG. Well, it is already on its way, Baylor, A&M, FSU, etc. What it comes down to, is that they are ALL SEC biased or refuse to accept that a total ground and pound offense is dying out. The Ducks being an elite team is here to stay for awhile. If Marcus leaves it may be interesting how that plays out next year though. A little shout out to TNT, keep up the hard work, you are going to be a stud RB.
    Just my opinions.

    • Well stated Mark. I completely agree with you. There’s a lot to be proud of and a lot to look forward to. The Ducks aren’t done yet! And Yes, I do hope he stays one more year and takes care of business at Stanford 🙂 Go Ducks!

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