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.


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Oregon coach refunds fan’s travel expenses after loss to Boise

Following Oregon’s embarrassing loss to Boise State on the opening night of the college football season, a Ducks fan was so upset about what he saw from his team’s performance that he e-mail head coach Chip Kelly asking for a refund.

And he got one.

From ESPN.com:

According to the Web site, Kelly replied to Seminary’s e-mail with a question: “What is your address?”

Sure enough, a check for $439, apparently signed by Kelly, arrived in Seminary’s mailbox, according to the Web site. Seminary was so impressed by the gesture, he returned the check to Kelly with a thank-you note, rather than cashing it.

“As a sales guy, it’s really hard to shut me up,” Seminary said, according to the Web site. “When I received that check, I was literally speechless.

“I think of Coach Kelly as a totally different person now,” Seminary said, according to the Web site. “I have a different bond with him now. … Let’s just say he lost every game as an Oregon coach. You would never hear me calling for his head. It just wouldn’t happen. The guy showed an incredible amount of class.”

I wonder what kind of storm Kelly just created for himself after this incident. Now every team he losses, he’s going to have thousands of fans e-mailing him asking for a refund.

Nevertheless, this was a cool gesture by Kelly, who was incredibly upset by the way his team performed in Boise and the actions by running back LeGarrette Blount following the game in which he punched a Broncos player. I think a lot of people will agree with Seminary’s sediments to Kelly and root for him in the future.

That said, he still has to win.

2009 CFB Preview: Oregon Ducks

Check out our other 2009 college football previews.

Preseason Ranking: No. 16 in AP Top 25; No. 14 in USA Today Poll.

Key Returning Players: LeGarrette Blount (RB); Jeremiah Masoli (QB); Ed Dickson (TE); C.E. Kaiser (OT); Jeff Maehl (WR); Bo Thran (G); T.J. Ward (S); Will Tukuafu (DE); Walter Thurmond III (CB); Clay Matthews (LB); Spencer Paysinger (LB).

Key Losses: Patrick Chung (S); Max Unger (C); Jairus Byrd (CB); Jerome Boyd (LB); Ra’Shon Harris (DT); Jeremiah Johnson (RB); Mark Lewis (G); Nick Reed (DE); Cole Linehan (DT); Justin Roper (QB); Terence Scott (WR); Fenuki Tupou (OT); Jaison Williams (WR).

Player to Watch: LeGarrette Blount, RB.
Blount didn’t get off to a great start in ’09, as he was suspended for missing strength and conditioning workouts in February, then reported to spring practice in April in less than ideal physical condition. (He weighed 10 pounds heavier than his normal playing weight.) But things started to turn around in early August, as Blount reportedly dropped 20 pounds off his spring weight and then showed off his new frame by rushing seven times for 52 yards in a recent scrimmage. Along with his quarterback, Jeremiah Masoli, Blount is Oregon’s top playmaker and the backbone of the offense. He’s a bulldozer and as long as he can stay healthy (he was nicked up earlier this spring), he should be in store for big season.

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