All those perceptions of being “soft?” Dead. All of the branding jokes and the idea that Oregon provides nothing more than fashion innovation? Gone. 

As the sun began to set behind California’s San Gabriel Mountains, the Ducks revealed the blueprint to conquer—nay, slaughter—college football’s unbeatable villains, the “Zombie Noles,” with style befitting Phil Knight’s favorite team. 

To slay these Zombie Noles, you need a handful of key ingredients. You need a Heisman quarterback for starters. Good luck there. You need exceptional play out of both lines, which seems reasonable enough. You need breaks, and more importantly, you need to maximize these opportunities. And, most relevant to undoing a 29-game win streak, you need a physical football team, a term that is rarely used when speaking of the greatest neon show going today.

“We just tried to out-team them,” Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich said when interviewed after the game on ESPN’s broadcast. 

His team did just that Thursday with a blowout 59-20 win, a score that still doesn’t quite process, given the circumstances.

Oregon didn’t just come away with a Rose Bowl victory and the first-ever win in the College Football Playoff. In its dismantling of Florida State—and that’s precisely what this was, a clinic on the brightest spotlight imaginable—the Ducks delivered a program-altering message to the entire world.

We are not soft. We are not built on gimmicks and gadgets. We wear nice clothing and move much faster than you, and WE ARE TOUGHER THAN YOU.

An entertaining team became a complete program—a feared power—in a matter of four hours.

There is still so much at stake with a national championship to be played Jan. 12 and the ultimate dream now just 60 minutes from becoming a reality. In a season that has been about that next, next step—with the College Football Playoff overshadowing all real-time results—you must stop and admire what just took place. 

The first half was not the cleanest of stretches for either team. Heisman-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota was off, missing high often and throwing an interception late in the half that nearly put Florida State in business. 

Going into halftime, nobody saw a Ducks blowout coming. Oregon only led by five, 18-13, and the Seminoles were in an all-too-familiar position, poised for a yet another comeback.

Only this time it was different.  

With history in mind, the second half was as one-sided of a 30-minute stretch as we saw all season. Five Florida State turnovers helped secure a 41-7 run for Oregon in the final 30 minutes, and quite frankly, it could have been far worse. The Ducks eased up with ample time remaining. 

Electric freshman Dalvin Cook coughed it up twice, finally proving to be human after a magnificent stretch to end the season. But the most notable turnover came when FSU quarterback Jameis Winston slipped and lost the football as he tried to keep a 4th-and-5 attempt alive late in the third quarter, with the Seminoles down 39-20.

Tony Washington picked up live the live ball and returned it the other way for a score, thus ending all possibilities of another miraculous comeback. 

By the very end, Florida State tapped out. After a Mariota touchdown run put Oregon past the 50-point mark, ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit didn’t hold back on the developments.

“Florida State has quit,” Herbstreit said, which is not something you hear in most telecasts, especially for a team that hadn’t lost in more than two years. 

In their defense, the Noles didn’t have much of a choice. 

Formerly “soft” Oregon forced them to quit. It came from the arm and legs of Mariota, but also from the hand of a vastly underrated defense. 

The Ducks D, which has been the most criticized aspect of as Oregon’s meteoric rise, delivered its most impactful performance yet. It looked the part of an elite unit.

Thomas Tyner, the forgotten man in the Oregon backfield, averaged 9.5 yards per carry and scored twice. Royce Freeman, the 230-pound true freshman bruiser, also scored two touchdowns.

The wideouts made plays, and the blocking downfield from this unit was a work of art. If you’re a coach in need of the proper materials to teach your young wide receivers how to make an impact downfield, acquire this tape and show it as often as you can.

The five turnovers the Ducks forced proved to be the ultimate difference. They meant more than Mariota’s 338 passing yards and the team’s five combined rushing touchdowns. 

With pressure came fumbles and interceptions. Those plays were then turned into points. This was a team performance of the utmost kind, an assembly line of production that impacted all phases.

You don’t beat undefeated teams by 39 points by chance; you do it with complete, dominating efforts, efforts that should further boost the reputation of a program that has come so far so fast.

“I don’t know, that’s up to you,” Helfrich responded when asked what the win meant for the reputation of the program. “We believe a ton in who we are.”

Since he won’t say it, allow us to do the heavy lifting. 

These aren’t your daddy’s cuddly Ducks. 

The Oregon team you watched on Thursday night was not the same one you have been sold over the past five years. What this means in less than two weeks—when the national championship is decided and the football season reaches its conclusion—is another conversation entirely.

For Oregon, it will be yet another televised showcase to prove just how far it has come. It will be the opportunity to take that next, next step. 

In dismantling the defending national champions and conquering the unrelenting Zombie Noles, the Ducks dismantled the stigmas that have followed the program for so long.

And they did it, just like they’ve done all along, as a team.

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