EUGENE — This was a fitting end to Oregon’s home schedule in 2016.
Yet another embarrassing loss at Autzen Stadium, this time 52-27 to Stanford on Saturday afternoon in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score.
Fans booed at times. Fans left early.
During the past two seasons, this has become all too common for a once-dominant program.
The big question is whether this was Mark Helfrich’s last home game as Oregon’s head coach.
“We’ll find out who rises up. We’ll find out what we’re made of,” Helfrich said about the remaining two games this season — at Utah and at Oregon State. “Obviously you’re playing to win every single game, every single rep, whatever you’re doing if you’re a competitor. And now, you strip it all the way down to just the essence of who’s bringing it, who’s with us, and who’s not.”
Oregon fell to 3-7 this season with the loss, which guarantees the program’s first losing season since 2004.
A losing season.
That’s not supposed to happen with everything invested in the program, from the fancy uniforms, to the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex, to Helfrich’s multi-million-dollar contract.
Whether or not they’ve been spoiled by recent success, Oregon fans expect a better team on the field when they come to Autzen Stadium.
What they’ve been getting far too often are games that are out of reach early, like Saturday’s loss to Stanford. Also, the 70-21 loss to Washington comes to mind, as well as the 62-20 loss to Utah last season.
Truth is, there were some fans who were concerned about the Helfrich promotion to begin with after Chip Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles.
And consider this, without Marcus Mariota, Helfrich is now just 12-11 as a head coach. And it could be worse — imagine if Vernon Adams had not transferred into the program last season.
The case against Helfrich is strong, and there might not be anything he can do in the next two weeks to help himself.
Oregon Ducks booster Pat Kilkenny — former UO AD — reached out just now and requested a spot on Monday’s radio show. Noon. @750TheGame— John Canzano (@johncanzanobft) November 13, 2016
As for the players, running back Royce Freeman said he still believes in the coaching staff and Helfrich in particular.
“I feel like they’ve been here before. They’ve seen the highs and the lows of the program,” Freeman said. “Oregon has a well-tenured coaching staff. They’ve been here, they’ve seen the highs and the lows and they know how to get it done. And coach Helfrich is always positive, and I think the players really appreciate that.”
We’ll soon find out if athletic director Rob Mullens and the boosters feel the same way.