CAROLINA CRISIS: THIS IS BIGGER THAN YOU By Michael...
A Different Kind of Duck Soup
It was a beautiful, proud performance by the Imperial Stormtroopers from the University of Oregon.
Every pass was caught. Every quarterback read was perfect. The Ducks’ players were in control, focused and sportsmanlike.
They made you proud.
Then, pregame warmups ended and they were disgusting.
It was Boise State 19, Oregon 8. Also, it’s so long to Ducks running back LeGarrette Blount, who should be kicked off the team today for what he did on Thursday at Bronco Stadium.
Blount punched Boise State’s Byron Hout in the face on the field after the game. Then, Blount put a fist to the helmet of Ducks’ teammate Garrett Embry, who was trying to play peacemaker. And what we have here is a low moment that can not be greeted with tolerance.
Blount left the field struggling with two police officers and two stadium security guards, and with Ducks assistant Scott Frost being towed along. There was a hostile brush with a Boise State fan, too. In the end, there was chaos and volatility all around this team, courtesy of Blount.
The Ducks running back should be arrested and charged with assault today for slugging Hout, who wasn’t even looking. Also, Blount should be served up by first-year head coach Chip Kelly as a reminder of everything the program should never become.
It was cheap. It was embarrassing. It was disgusting.
Dress all that ugliness in gorgeous all-white uniforms, rank it in the Top 25, put it on national television, and it still stinks.
What we have here is a real leadership moment.
So what’s it going to be, coach?
Forget that Oregon looked unprepared and confused against the Broncos on offense. Forget that the Ducks didn’t manage a first down until midway through the third quarter. Forget that it was the flattest football performance since BYU flattened Oregon 38-8 in the 2006 Las Vegas Bowl.
The game was a waste of time, followed by a nationally televised melee courtesy of Blount. The player managed a clumsy, self-serving, “it will never happen again,” apology afterward. And the football becomes secondary today. Which is only to say Oregon compounds the ugly loss if it keeps Blount around a minute longer.
Turns out that you can ride your motorcycle without a helmet on the freeway in Idaho. And that you can outfit yourself in bright orange, walk outside your home here, and blend right in without a hitch. But what you can’t do under any circumstance is show up and strut around trash-talking when things don’t go your way, then start punching people because you’re frustrated and agonized.
Will it never happen again?
Right now, I can’t get the disgusting sight of Blount going berserk after the game out of my head. He finished the evening with eight carries for minus-five yards. Blount’s final rumble to the locker room, with all of those bodies tangled with his, unable to stop him, ends up the first time all evening the guy looked imposing.
We waited all summer… for this?
The Ducks punter, bless him, punted five times in the first half.
Oregon has big-time questions revolving around its offense today. It got so bad that a national television audience was treated to an interview with former coach Mike Bellotti (now the athletic director).
Said Bellotti: “Frustrated … frustrated … frustrated.”
Sure, there were some other words mixed in between those three words, but you didn’t really need them anymore. Not after seeing Blount turn an awful and aggravating night into the worst evening in program history.
Bellotti did offer, “We need to run the ball more,” which is better than more punching of people I suppose. But even an eight-hour drive away, you could hear Ducks fans in Oregon standing in their living rooms booing their television sets as Blount was carried away.
Because there’s no point today in arguing whether Oregon should have run the ball more effectively, or passed it more effectively. Or blocked better. Or even arrived with an offensive game plan that made more sense.
This becomes about character now. Ethics, standards and accountability are at stake. If Kelly gives Blount a pass, or slaps him on the wrist, be sure this will become a program that regularly embarrasses all of us.
Who cares if it wins games? Damage like that is devastating.
Bellotti said after the game that Blount’s future will be a university decision. That the athletic director and the university president will consult and make a decision on whether or not to suspend him or remove him permanently. But if you’re Kelly, can you really accept Blount as part of your program should the suits give him a pass?
Kelly was disrespected multiple times on the Ducks sideline during the game. Players scoffed in his face. Another shouted at him. Bellotti undermined him, too, by walking up in front of Kelly’s players to offer the new guy input in the second quarter. And so we’re learning calling the plays is one thing, and leading the program is another.
Kelly still has a chance to lead today.
We’ve talked all summer about how different this program might look under a new coach. We’ve debated whether uniforms matter. And we’ve told each other that we couldn’t wait to see Kelly in charge. Figured it would take a whole season to learn what he’s about. But what we now have is the opportunity to discover who Kelly really is in a single moment.
Blount must go.
And when he does, keep your head up and your eyes on his fists.