Kelly, Oregon come a long way to get to Pasadena

One could only imagine what went through first-year head coach Chip Kelly’s mind after he saw his thought-to-be high-powered offense rack up just 152 total yards in an embarrassing 19-8 loss to Boise State in Oregon’s opener this season. What went through his mind after he saw his star running back sock an opposing player in the face, shove his teammates when they tried to intervene, and then had to be restrained by police officers from going into the stands to fight fans is pretty easy to figure out:

What the hell have I gotten myself into?

But Kelly and the Ducks have come a long way from that loss and LeGarrette Blount’s psychotic episode. On Thursday night, Oregon edged out in-state rival Oregon State 37-33 in route to winning the Pac-10 and earning their first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1994. Freshman tailback LaMichael James paved the way by gaining 166 yards on 25 carries and three scores, while quarterback Jeremiah Masoli completed 14-of-21 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown pass. He also rushed 10 times for 40 yards and picked up a big fourth down late in the fourth quarter by running over an overmatched Oregon State defender.

Blount, who missed most of the season after Kelly suspended him for his conduct after the Boise game, even chipped in 51 rushing yards on nine carries and also scored a third quarter touchdown. He ran like a kid trying to make up for lost time.

After things went so horribly wrong for his team in the opening week, Kelly could have succumbed to the pressure that most head coaches face in their first seasons. Instead, he dealt with the Blount situation by forcing the troubled running back to become a better student athlete and by not giving up on him. He then held his team together and led his team to an impressive 10-2 record.

For all his efforts, Kelly will have the opportunity to showcase what Oregon can do in the Rose Bowl in early January. He and the Ducks are one of the better stories of the 2009 college football season.


Photo from fOTOGLIF

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