What an incredible season for the Oregon Ducks. I’m sure that’s not what they or their fans want to hear after falling just short against Auburn in the BCS Championship Game last Monday night. Chip Kelly has done a top-notch job elevating the Ducks program to even higher heights since taking over for Mike Bellotti. He may not have had his finest hour against Auburn, but it doesn’t at all taint the job he’s done. And he and Oregon are almost assuredly going to be back playing for conference and perhaps even national championships in future years.
Kelly joined 95.5 The Game in Portland with John Canzano for his first interview since the season ended to talk about the Ducks’ outstanding season, the narrow defeat in the BCS title game, how there’s always aspects of games that he and his staff look at and wish had gone differently, how he felt his staff and team had prepared to the best of its ability prior to the game, how proud he was of the way his team conducted itself throughout the week, how tough it is to have to say goodbye to senior leaders that have meant so much to the program, and how he’s already excited about the challenge of building another title contending program next year.
On the Ducks’ successful season despite falling short in the title game:
“We did. I’m really proud of how our players fought and persevered. To lose a game to a really good Auburn team, and to be tied with two minutes to go, I kind of felt all along that it was going to be a close game and come down to who had the ball last. And they had the ball last and executed on their last drive. Give them all the credit in the world.”
On if he’s gone back to look at the tape and think about what Oregon could have done differently:
“Yeah you always go back every game whether you win or lose and say what’s our situation and where do we do it better. So that’s a constant process in our sport.”
On if there’s one specific play he’d like to have back:
“No, not really. I don’t look at it as an individual play type thing. It’s always why did what we did at times work and why didn’t it work, and then how can we improve it the next time. But I don’t go back and kind of go we should have done this, we should have done that. What we could have done better is more of how we look at it; how do we make it better is how we look at it.”
Whether he felt confident that he and his staff had done all the necessary work when game day finally arrived:
“Yeah I think our players and coaches did everything they could in terms of the preparation for that game. But the game always comes down to the players. But I know and you know and they know that the key to the football game was being able to contain No. 90, and we didn’t do a very good job of it. He’s a heck of a football player, and no one did a real good job of it all year long. There’s nothing you can do. There’s not a scheme or a way I don’t think when you have someone of that nature that you can stop them for an entire game. It’s not an Xs or Os question. Their Xs were a lot better than some of our Os.”
Whether there was a moment in the season where he felt emotionally or physically drained:
“No, I love doing what I’m doing and I love coaching these guys because they do everything that you ask them to. So there was never a time where I felt I wish there was a break from this. I wish we could still be playing.”
On if he’s been able to get the attention of any new prized recruits:
“No, not really. The guys we’re recruiting right now are the guys we’ve been recruiting all along so there’s no one….there may be one or two kids in this next push here, but everybody else we’ve been recruiting for a long time. We’re pretty thorough, and I ask our assistants to be pretty thorough in their evaluations of our players, and not just as players. What are they like in school, what are they like in the community, all those other things. So it would be really hard for us to try to jump in on a kid right now. Recruiting has accelerated so much. When are guys go on the road now, they’re finishing up with the seniors that they have, but we’ve already started our junior recruiting trying to formulate our list for the following year.”
Whether his approach will change next year as a coach or will he simply try to replicate the structure of this season:
“That’s a great question and I’ve thought about it the past two days. What’s our approach here? But that’s the great thing about this. I don’t think you know until you get going how this team is going to shape itself and form itself, and each team in every year is different from the last. The basic structure of what we do here and what we want to accomplish, that will never change. But you always have to tweak it, starting right away with trying to find some great leaders to try to replace the Brandon Bairs, the Nate Costas and the Jordan Holmes and those guys that just left our program. So that’s the fun part and the challenging part as the coach is that you kind of feel crappy for a day or two, but there’s a whole other season so let’s get ready for it and let’s prepare for it.”