Passing of the torch highlights Oregon's senior day
On a day that is reserved every year for the seniors on Oregon’s football team, the Ducks’ final home game of the year proved to be so much more than a “goodbye.”
Of course there were the emotional moments between head coach Mark Helfrich and his seniors before the first kickoff.
Naturally there were tears when senior all-American Ifo Ekpre-Olomu walked onto the field for the final time, his family embracing him at his side.
Even Marcus Mariota, the front runner for the Heisman trophy, tried to take in the moment as he walked off the field for potentially the final time in his Oregon career.
For everything that senior day was and will aways be, the passing of the torch from the veterans to the rookies is something that will keep the Oregon football legacy alive.
“All the older guys have done a great job of teaching us about trying to keep the legacy here,” wide receiver Charles Nelson said.
While senior day was a beautiful way for Oregon fans to thank the non-returning players for everything they’ve done the past five years, 56 wins and counting, there was a sense of hope for the future sprinkling in.
“Those guys (the freshmen) are very special guys,” Helfrich said. “They’re guys that we’ve been excited about for a long time — they elect to get better and they elect to do well.”
On a day where Mariota accounted for four total touchdowns and Ekpre-Olomu helped shut down the nation’s leading receiver in catches, it was the freshmen who made a significant impact in the 44-10 win over Colorado.
“The countless plays that a number of true freshmen made today — from Charles, from Royce from the guys on defense — there’s so many young guys and so many talented players here,” Mariota said. “It’s fun to see them grow and they’ll continue to get better as their careers progress.”
Freshman Royce Freeman became the first true freshman for Oregon to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, while Nelson showed he’s more than a special teams game-changer with two touchdown catches, the final one possibly coming on Mariota’s last pass at Autzen.
Redshirt freshman Doug Brenner made his first start of the season and along with true freshman Tyrell Crosby, helped the offensive line keep Mariota clean. They provided a ridiculous amount of time for Mariota in the pocket and opened up gaping holes for Freeman to run through.
“My hats off off to those guys (Crosby and Brenner) — they’re young and haven’t had a lot of experience at this level so it’s amazing for them to get in there and play how they play,” Stevens said. “Once we leave, it’s on them.”
Redshirt freshman Chris Seisay, the apparent heir to Ekpre-Olomu, continued his much-improved play over the year with a big-time pass break-up and Darren Carrington, a freshman receiver, made arguably the best catch of the day, at least one that Mariota will never forget.
“I think Darren’s catch today – I mean it was unbelievable,” Mariota said of something he’ll never forget at Autzen.
Although it’s a tough feeling knowing that fans will never see these seniors (and possibly some juniors) line up again in Autzen, there’s a small dabble of comfort knowing that they’ve left behind this legacy that goes far beyond wins and losses. They’re left behind a legacy that the young kids are now eager to live up too, and, more importantly, add too.
Follow Ryan Kostecka on Twitter @Ryan_Kostecka
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