BC Lions’ linebacker, Bo Lokombo gives his insight on the NCAA Football National Championship. Needless to say, the former standout from Oregon knows who he’s cheering for and give his prediction for the game.
By Kadie Smith
There was 2:33 left on the clock with Auburn on offence. The Ducks had just miraculously erased a 19-11 deficit, converting on fourth-and-5 for a 55-yard touchdown and nailing the two-point convert to Jeff Maehl.
Auburn had held the Ducks’ offence in line all game, pinning them to just 75 yards on the ground after averaging over 300 a game all season, but Oregon’s defence was just as capable. They had managed to keep the Tigers to 21 points below their season average. Just hold them there.
The snap. Auburn’s Michael Dyer breaks away and heads deep into Oregon territory for 37 yards before he is tackled by Eddie Pleasant…or not. Defenders relaxed and Dyer broke away. He never hit the ground.
A 19-yard field goal as time expired gave the Tigers a 22-19 victory and killed Oregon’s dreams of winning their first-ever national championship.
“I thought we had him there,” said Lokombo, a former Duck and now linebacker for the BC Lions. He remembers that 2011 loss well. That one still stings, and likely always will.
No. 1 Oregon has a chance at the title again Monday night as they square off against No. 4 Ohio St., and as Lokombo explains, he’ll never stop feeling like a part of him still plays on the team.
“There are only a few guys that I played with that are still on the team. I went down over the holidays and worked out with them and it’s like I never left,” he said. “They’re asking me questions, I’m getting emotional with them.” There’s a culture in American college sports, a hunger, an unwavering attachment, that is, for the most part, foreign to Canadians.
It was a big change for Canadian Lokombo when he was recruited by the Ducks after playing his junior prep season at South Eugene High School in Eugene, OR. As he explained, “there’s a brotherhood there that we don’t really see up here. Everyone is so attached to what they’re playing for and the fans are so intense; the atmosphere, that’s what really gets you. Football is the number-one sport there”
For Lokombo, this game means just as much as if he were still playing. Just one year removed from the Ducks uniform, he still gets chills every game day.
With arguable one of the best quarterbacks to ever suit up in Marcus Mariota, who’s started every game since he was a redshirt freshman, thrown a touchdown pass in each of those games, and who’s on pace for the lowest interception percentage in college football history, the Ducks look poised to take the title. Add to that, a lightning-fast offence, who racked up 50 points over the defending-national-champion Florida State Seminoles in the Rose Bowl, and as Lokombo puts it, “Oregon can’t be beat.”If there’s a knock against Oregon, it comes in the form of personality. The team makes running up the score look like a chore. They’re the only organization to make a failed drug test seem like a reading of the minutes from a caucus meeting. Mariota won’t be photographed in Vegas if Oregon wins. In fact, he still won’t hint as his future or hire an agent.
But maybe that’s what college football needs: a quiet guy to take the reins. “Marcus is beyond humble,” said Lokombo, who played with Mariota for two years when the pivot was still a sophmore. “People like to knock him, but he’s an incredible leader. They’re in this game because of his leadership. He’s going to take this team far and be a great pro.”
“Predictions? Oregon wins 34-14. Our offence is just unstoppable, and our defence will shut down Ohio St.,” He said. Still referring to the team as “us” and “our”. “I’ll never stop doing that,” he chuckled.
Head coach Mark Helfrich has won 24 of his 27 games since taking over and the Ducks are six-point favourites to win. As Chip Kelly said after Oregon’s loss in 2011, “we’ll be back.” And on Monday, they will be.