Cirminiello On The Rose - Chip Up
Posted Jan 2, 2012

Rich Cirminiello's thoughts on Chip Kelly's rise in the Rose

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Chip's ahoy.

Oregon has won a lot of football games over the past three seasons, but none that compares to today's victory in Pasadena. Beating Wisconsin represents a degree of validation and an important step forward for not just the Ducks, but also head coach Chip Kelly.

Kelly has been nothing shy of brilliant since replacing Mike Bellotti as the captain, commandeering his team to three consecutive Pac-10/12 titles, but he'd hit a wall in the postseason. Two years ago, his kids were stifled by Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. Last January, they fell to Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game, looking like a shell of the team that obliterated opposing defenses throughout the regular season. Heck, throw in this September's opening weekend loss to LSU, and it's easy to understand why the 98th Rose Bowl carried such significance to Oregon. It's one thing to dominate your own backyard, but true national powers are able to keep the train on the tracks when going outside the neighborhood to face non-conference heavyweights.

There are plenty of game balls to go around, but I'll give mine to Ducks QB Darron Thomas. Nah, he won't get the same recognition as De'Anthony Thomas, LaMichael James or even Lavasier Tuinei, but he was the steady hand that helped keep the offense on target all evening. Save for a few sailed passes, he was crisp throughout, playing one of his most complete games of 2011. Against the Buckeyes, Jeremiah Masoli was 9-of-20 for 81 yards, no touchdowns and a pick. Versus Auburn, Thomas threw as many interceptions as touchdowns—two. Today? How about a businesslike 17-of-23 for 269 yards, three scores and a single interception, the key that helped to finally unlock the team's postseason offense?

Oregon absolutely had to have today's Rose Bowl. No excuses. No good reason to come up short. As prolific as the Ducks have been the past three seasons, no postseason victories would have created an enormous vacuum for the program and the coach. And with USC rising again, and about to be released from its NCAA cage, January bowl berths will likely be a wee bit harder to come by going forward.

Oregon had to pounce now. It wasn't the Curse of the Bambino, but 95 years is still a very long time between Rose Bowl victories. Oregon was long overdue, copping a win befitting a school that's risen to among the nation's elite since Kelly took the reins in 2009.