Oregon's Blount caps trying year with crucial TD in Pac-10 title game
EUGENE, Ore. -- The regular season ended as it had began. Once again,
Only this time he wasn't snarling. This time, he held a rose in one hand. The other hand held an iPhone to his ear. "Where are you?" the Oregon tailback asked late Thursday night as he craned his neck to scan the crowd.
At the front of the green-and-gold crush amassed at the barricades outside the Ducks' locker room, a hand shot upward. "I'm right here,"
While Blount's teammates celebrated the spoils of a 37-33 win against Oregon State in the greatest of 113 Civil Wars -- a Pac-10 title and the school's first Rose Bowl berth in 15 years -- Blount celebrated the culmination of his team and individual goals by waiting patiently. Still in uniform, he signed autographs and politely declined all interview requests. The look on his face suggested he was waiting for something very, very special.
Waiting is pretty much all Blount has done these past three months. He waited to learn if Oregon coach
By the time Blount faced that wall of fans Thursday, it had been three months almost to the minute since his right hand had connected with the jaw of Boise State defensive end
Blount's cowardly punch played in a seemingly endless loop on
Blount apologized until his tongue hurt for losing control. Kelly still suspended him for the remainder of the season, effectively ending the career of the 2008 junior college transfer from Perry, Fla.. Kelly had reconsidered and opened the door for reinstatement. Then, before the Ducks faced Arizona State on Nov. 14, Kelly reinstated Blount.
For two games, Blount stood ready, but he never crossed the white line. He had to settle for being the most muscular cheerleader on Oregon's sideline. A rusty Blount had come back at No. 5 on the depth chart and worked his way up. Still, coaches weren't sure if he could help the Ducks win. They didn't want to put him in to make an appearance. He had to be prepared to contribute.
Then, at 8:11 p.m. Pacific time Thursday, Kelly turned to Blount on the sideline.
"L.G., you're in," Kelly said.
"He threw off his cape," Campbell said. "And ran onto the field."
Campbell had prepped Blount for his return to the field. "Hey, whatever you do, just hang on to the football," he said. "Don't fumble. I don't care about you trying to make a big run. Just get us some first downs."
It was the third quarter, and Oregon trailed its rival by nine. Blount slammed into the line for a 2-yard gain on his first carry. He ran for two more on second down. The drive ended with Blount soaring over the goal line for a 12-yard score.
Blount sprinted to the sideline and bear-hugged Campbell. "Thank you," Campbell remembered Blount saying.
Blount wasn't much of an on-field factor the rest of the way, just as he wasn't much of an on-field factor this season. Thursday was a clash of Texans -- Texarkana's
In the end, it came down to three fourth-down plays. On the first, fourth-and-15 from the Oregon 27 with a little more than six minutes remaining, Canfield's pass sailed just wide of James Rodgers' arms and over the sideline. On the second, Oregon faced 4th-and-3 from the Oregon State 33. Beavers safety
The mosh pit throbbed. The Ducks' yellow helmets bobbed as they hopped in celebration. When it came time for the victory formation, Kelly told LG he was in again. "LG's been through a lot," Kelly said. "I'm just proud of him. Really proud of him."
After the fans emptied onto the field with roses clutched in their hands and their teeth, Blount swam through the sea of humanity until he reached the locker room. After a search turned up McCullugh, he waited again. As he walked down a hallway, he finally saw what he was waiting for.
"Hey, little man," Blount cooed to his son.
An Oregon employee noticed the crowd gathering around father and son. "LeGarrette isn't doing any interviews," she said. It didn't matter.
His smile told the entire story, from a Thursday nightmare in September to a dream come true three months to the minute later.