Recruits React to Duck Roast

Marcus Mathews

At one time, Oregon was ranked 11th in the nation and seemed like contenders for the Pac-10 title and a BCS bowl berth. A few tough losses tempered expectations for the Ducks, but when looking at the 2006 Las Vegas Bowl match up, local Oregon media touted Oregon's superior athletes, tradition, and affiliation with a BCS conference as certain to spell doom in the desert for the Cougars.

Heading into the 2006 Las Vegas Bowl, BYU-bound Marcus Mathews took a lot of ribbing from his friends and teammates at Beaverton, Oregon's Southridge High School. The first ever four-star wide receiver in the state of Oregon also saw a lack of respect for BYU in the local media.

"They were saying, they don't stand a chance against the Pac-10 and stuff like that." Mathews said. "They were saying, ‘We're Pac-10, and you're Mountain West' and all that load of crap.

After the game was over and the Ducks were on the receiving end of a 38-8 butt kicking, the naysayers changed their tune.

"A lot of my friends up here were giving me crap because they're all Oregon fans," said Mathews. "I was like, ‘Okay, just wait until game time.' Then BYU blew them up and I just got to see the look on all of my friends and teammates faces. It was really cool because they were giving me all kinds of crap."

The failure to take BYU seriously was not limited to the Oregon press and Duck fans. Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti made a comment the day before the game that received a lot of attention during and after the game. Bellotti said that he did not believe BYU could compete with mid-level Pac-10 teams.

So what did recruits who watched the game on TV or attended the game in person think about the Duck's performance and the comments made by their head coach?

"I thought his comments were kind of classless and a bit out of place," Mathews said. "It caught me off guard that a head coach would say that about another team. Especially about another team that has a better record, is ranked higher, and had shut down teams all season like BYU did.

"For him to stick to his guns after the game was kind of dumb. Who knows what he was thinking. Maybe he was trying to make his players feel more confident. Whatever he was trying to do didn't work."

BYU outside linebacker David Nixon agrees with his future teammate's assessment of Bellotti's comments.

"They didn't respect us near as much as they should have," said Nixon in the Register Guard. "They didn't respect how we've done so well this year, and we had something to come out here and prove. We're a higher-ranked team than them, we're a better team than them, and we came out here and proved it tonight and really put it to them."

Whatever Oregon's head coach may think, Pac-10 followers and Oregon fans have come to an eye-popping awakening.

"Some of my friends were like, ‘Wow BYU can really play. I just thought they were just a bunch of Mormon kids.' They all thought they went to BYU because it's a Mormon school but learned they know how to play football too. Their whole perception has changed on that now. That game really opened up their eyes to what BYU is about."

BYU defensive tackle recruit Christian Tupou – who has an older brother who plays for Oregon – was also surprised by the Cougar performance.

"I just watched it on TV," said Tupou. "I was mad at Oregon because my brother [Fenuki Tupou] plays for Oregon. He didn't know they were going to beat them that bad.

"I wasn't really expecting much from BYU because I've seen how they did in the past and it wasn't so good. This was their first bowl game since 1996 and this was a surprise to me. It surprised me how they hadn't been in a bowl game in that long and then to come out and beat Oregon like that. It surprised me."

"Both offenses started out kind of slow," Mathews said. "Then as the game went on the BYU offense really turned it on. It was really fun to watch because they started playing like they had been playing all year. Oregon's offense never even caught on through the whole game. With how many skill players Oregon has, BYU's defense stepped it up and really shut them down too. It was really fun to watch, and I'm really excited to get out there."

Another BYU recruit who was very impressed by BYU's nationally televised pounding of the Ducks, was Upland High School tight end Devin Mahina.

"BYU did really well," said Mahina. "I watched it on ESPN. I thought Jonny Harline did a really good job and had some great catches. At first I thought it was going to be a defensive game because nothing was going right, and then BYU really took off and I was like, ‘Wow, that offense is the real deal.' They did really good once the receivers started catching the passes.

Mahina was excited by how the Cougar offense dismantled the Pac-10's number one passing defense.

"I like both schools so I was watching them closely," said Mahina. "I know Oregon has quarterback issues. I was watching the game and it pretty much showed me how BYU would use me. I think I can play like Jonny and do a lot of the same things he's did."

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