ARLINGTON, Texas — Ouch!
Why did this all feel so familiar?
They’d been there, done this — made it all the way to the national championship game, only to lose and have their hearts crushed.
For many years, it was never easy to be a University of Oregon football fan.
And even after a couple of decades success, it was not easy being one here in North Texas on Monday night.
“Four years ago, and then this year,” said UO senior Brooke Baldwin, who was watching the final minutes of the Ducks 42-20 loss in front of a crowd of 85,689 in the inaugural College Football Playoff championship game at AT&T Stadium, from a field-level suite on the 50-yard line with her parents.
For the second time in five seasons, the Ducks made it all the way to the national title game — and lost. Only this time, it was not by 3 points (against Auburn), but a 42-20 thrashing by a team that wasn’t even supposed to be here.
That team was Ohio State, now 9-0 against the UO in football, dating back to the teams’ first meeting in the 1958 Rose Bowl. And this was the Buckeyes’ claim to an eighth national championship in its storied history.
But coming on the heels of what was arguably Oregon’s greatest win of all time, a 59-20 rout of defending national champion Florida State in the Rose Bowl two weeks ago, no Duck fan expected this battering.
“This was the year, with Marcus (Mariota) being our quarterback,” said Baldwin, wearing a yellow No. 8 Mariota jersey. “But I’m still a proud Duck.”
Baldwin’s parents, Steve and Terre Baldwin of San Francisco, bought a VIP package deal that gave them tickets on the 50-yard line in the ninth row, as well as access to a spacious suite.
“Too much,” Steve Baldwin said, when asked what he paid for three VIP tickets that included hotel accommodations. “But it’s my daughter’s senior year.”
“Too much for a Ducks’ loss!” joked Brooke Baldwin, a journalism major at the UO who hopes to pursue a career in broadcast sports.
“Well, it’s a bummer,” Terre Baldwin said. “We came all this way and wanted to see them win.”
“The bottom line,” Steve Baldwin chimed in, “is they were outplayed.”
And the Duck faithful were also outnumbered here, perhaps two to one if not more, by the sea of scarlet-clad Buckeye fans who filled the entire south side of the $1 billion piece of architecture known as “Jerryworld,” for Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones.
“O … HI …O,” the Buckeye fans shouted throughout the game, their dominant red colors filling the giant video screen that hangs over the field.
Duck fans did not give up, even though they knew it was over after the Buckeyes’ final touchdown with 28 seconds to go, and really, even some time before that.
Seven shirtless young men with G-O-D-U-C-K-S printed on their chests in green refused to quit rooting for their team in the northeast corner of the stadium. They stood and clapped and yelled until Ohio State intercepted Heisman Trophy winner Mariota’s final pass, on the final play of the game.
Oregon trailed 21-10 at halftime, leaving Oregon fans anxiously repeating the mantra: “We’re a second-half team.”
Said Eugene’s Jenny Bennett, a 2001 UO graduate, at halftime: “I’m so sad. I’m trying not to get worked up about it. We’re a second-half team.”
There. She said it.
You could almost hear the ghost of John Belushi with his famous line from “Animal House,” the 1978 cult comedy classic filmed in Eugene: “Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”
Just then, Stacey Lesanto of Dallas — who has never lived in Oregon but was nonetheless wearing green because she has friends who are Duck fans — said the Ducks needed to pull themselves together.
And they did a bit in the third quarter, closing the gap to 21-20.
But they wouldn’t score again, overwhelmed by the Ohio State team.
“Pretty disappointing,” said Rod Dicknor of Phoenix, Ariz. — a Duck fan who used to live in Lincoln City and now owns a sports bar in Phoenix — with 2:26 to go in the game, peering from a field-level suite in the northeast corner of AT&T Stadium.
“Defense wins championships, and Oregon’s got to figure that out,” said Dicknor, who was swigging on beers with son Chandler Bicknor, 22, also of Phoenix,
“Can’t make plays,” Chandler Dicknor said. “We’re not helping ourselves with opportunities. We’re killing ourselves.”
Was he surprised that the Ducks, favored by 5.5 points to win, lost?
“For the season they’ve had? Yeah,” he said.