The last time I spent a day in Eugene, which was a few years back, the Ducks lost a heartbreaker to Cal. And while my planned trip to see the Civil War for the first time made a lot more sense before the Ducks went and got themselves upended by USC, in terms of environment Saturday's game was still one of the better stadium experiences I've had all year.
Suspense was in short supply as Chip Kelly's crew secured its fourth consecutive win over the Beavers and settled into the driver's seat to claim its third consecutive conference title, save for early in the game when Oregon struggled repeatedly with fruitless fourth-down conversions and later on when LaMichael James injured his one good elbow on a run. (After the game James professed to be fine, and at any rate it's hard to imagine any setback that might be able to affect the outcome of the upcoming Pac-12 championship game.) But the stadium was loud; the land race to the student section is always a good time, and Oregon's mascot is the cutest plush critter to ever bestride a motorcycle. And simply put, the Ducks are up there with Boise State in the ranks of teams that just compel you to watch, peering to see just how it all works. So many moving parts. Other side jaunts on our last trip of the regular season included Portland's Spirit of '77 bar, where we watched the Backyard Brawl in eerie peace and quiet on an enormous projector screen across from a dark and silent Rose Garden, a late-night run to Voodoo Doughnut for the express purpose of making Andy Staples' stomach jealous and a driving tour of the highly partisan hotel marquee signs in Eugene. Just imagine pulling up to your weekend lodgings for the last game of the season after a miserable year of football and seeing your mascot compared to a nutria. Well played, hoteliers of Duck faith. Institutional trolling that might cost you custom is to be commended at all times.