EUGENE — They came wearing No. 8 jerseys of all colors and “O” temporary face tattoos and green plastic leis.

They aggressively shook bright yellow pom poms and screamed while literally sitting on the edge of their seats, trying to will their beloved Ducks to victory through the giant television screen plastered to the wall of the student recreation center on the Oregon campus.  

But hours later, freshman Carlin Otterstedt was one of a handful of students left lingering behind as surrounding staff members began to stack chairs and pick up trash. The Springfield native and Duck fan “since the day I was born” had watched from afar, as No. 2 Oregon’s chance to be crowned national champs slipped away with a 42-20 loss to No. 4 Ohio State in the College Football Playoff title game Monday night in Arlington, Texas.  

“It’s tough,” Otterstedt said.” It was a shock, honestly. I wasn’t really expecting us to get beat, honestly, like that.”

The emotions of those assembled on campus — and surely at other unofficial gatherings around town — naturally rose and fell with the Ducks’ performance.

Otterstedt “felt like the roof was gonna come off of this place” as Oregon zipped down the field for a touchdown on its opening drive. Groans filled the space when the Ducks could not capitalize on four Buckeyes turnovers, when Oregon was stopped on fourth down just short of the goal line and when Ohio State built a 21-10 first-half advantage.

And after a momentary jolt of energy — including chants of “Let’s go Ducks! — when Oregon stormed back to cut the Buckeyes’ lead to 21-20 midway through the third quarter, the crowd largely sat in silence as they watched Ohio State put the finishing touches on its late-season surge to a title. They only clapped when ESPN broadcaster Kirk Herbstreit called Heisman winner Marcus Mariota perhaps his favorite player he’s ever covered, and when an emcee encouraged one final round of applause for the Ducks just after the clock ran out.

A brief stroll through campus brought a similarly subdued environment.

Some folks were analytical and thoughtful. Two guys already began looking toward the program’s future, noting that Oregon coach Mark Helfrich now needs to prove himself without Mariota.

Others were slightly obnoxious. One guy in a green No. 8 jersey held a giant American flag as he chanted “U-S-A” while running to Taylor’s Bar and Grille on 13th Ave. Across the street, another man heckled a group of strangers by hollering “Go Beavs!”  

But the scene generally looked like a typical Monday night on a college campus. Local food joints and watering holes were occupied but not packed. A decent dose of police cars cruised by on a regular basis, but had no reason to stop because there was no abnormally rowdy activity to squash.

Tuesday should also bring a return to normalcy on and around campus. Those students will eventually think about the entirety of this magical run — Mariota’s emotional Heisman speech, being selected to the sport’s first playoff, throttling Florida State in the Rose Bowl.

But for those like Otterstedt — who lingered inside the rec center and called Monday night’s loss more crushing than a last-second defeat to Auburn in the 2011 BCS championship game — the sting won’t disappear anytime soon.  
“Honestly, I don’t think it’s gonna completely go away until next season,” he said. “A few days from now, we’ll be able to get over it and get back into our normal routine, going to classes and everything.

“But I don’t think the wounds are really gonna heal until next September, honestly.”

Gina Mizell | @ginamizell

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