A TEAM STILL LEARNING HOW TO WIN – Oregon’s Recent Success is Attributed to its Culture, But There’s Still Much Work to be Done According to Mario Cristobal

Henry Ford once said,… ‘Coming together is a beginning.  Keeping together is progress.  Working together is success.’

Ford was a man of vision, much like Oregon head football coach Mario Cristobal.   His vision of Oregon football is being transformed right before our very eyes.

When Cristobal took over a little more than two seasons ago, he immediately understood the culture inside the Hatfield Dowlin Complex had to change.   The foundation of success, was…and is, establishing hard work and discipline within the program, focus on fundamentals, speed, size, agility and physicality, mental preparation, engaging a team-first philosophy – becoming a family and creating a fierce competition in practice.

But equally important as all of those principles, Cristobal was keenly aware he needed to teach his team what it takes to win,…and win consistently.

You hear it all the time in press conferences,…from players and coaches.   Good teams learn how to win close games.

And it appears this Oregon team is headed in that direction.

In two consecutive weeks the Ducks pulled out close wins in adverse conditions in the waning moments of each game.

Against Washington on the road the Oregon offense scored a late go-ahead touchdown.  The defense in turn held the Huskies on the final drive to secure the win.

On Saturday against Washington State, the Ducks gave up a late score to the Cougars with just a minute to play, but remained focused and resilient and put together a pristine drive of their own which led to a last second Camden Lewis field goal to remain undefeated in conference play.

Different games, different situations but the same outcome.

It could be argued over the last several years, games like those were easily lost without the culture that currently exists under the guidance of Mario Cristobal and his staff.

“In the back of our mind we never thought we were going to lose” said offensive lineman Shane Lemieux when asked about his teams mentality coming out of back to back close games.

“I think we’re just trained differently.  I think with practice,…the practice we put in during the week it kind of trained us to be in any type of position.  Even when they scored that last touchdown, Washington State,…we never flinched.  We never said, you know, this could be it.  I know for myself, I never had a doubt in my mind,…ok what am I going to say to the rest of the O’line in the locker room after this loss.  It was what can we do to get back on the field,…what can we do to score points,…what can we do to tell the defense to get them hyped up on that last drive.”

Cristobal relies heavily on each of his building blocks of success to achieve the outcome he wants.   Two of those pillars that ultimately teaches his team to win is technique and fundamentals.

“Last Friday we always have a video to set the mind right for our fast Friday approach and it started off with Tiger Woods talking about how you never arrive” explained Cristobal when asked about the process of learning to win.

“I think his first Masters victory was like twenty plus years ago and then leading up to the past spring.   It really hit home with the team.  I don’t think you ever arrive.  I think it’s a cardinal sin as it relates to sports,..or just individual competitors to think that.   I think ever since last year we have been learning how to sometimes grind out a tough win,…sometimes jump on a team,…sometimes be able to withstand a surge from the other team.  Now going into this year we’ve had a little bit more success up until this point in the season.

“But fully knowing that there are so many things,…so many things we have to get better at in order to continue to have success because now in November everybody is playing relevant football.  We’re playing a team ( USC ) that’s leading the Pac-12 South that is excellent at home,…that is an excellent second half team,..very well coached, a lot of very good players,…that your margin of error becomes smaller and smaller.  Therefore technique and fundamentals really come into play at this time of year.  You want them to play hard and have a lot of passion is awesome,…it’s a major ingredient, but the other ingredients have to match up and those ingredients are technique and fundamentals.”

At 7-1 overall and 5-0 in Pac-12 play, the Ducks are poised for the bright lights of the conference championship game in early December and a major New Years Six bowl bid if they win out.

In his teachings of learning to win, Cristobal has instilled in his players the process of focusing on a single game during the season.    Each week and each game is designated as a playoff game.  If the players begin to look ahead and fail to concentrate on the single task at hand, then bad things can and will occur.

A loss of focus can quickly escalate into a loss, and a loss can derail the goal of a championship.

It’s a simple formula that Cristobal’s team is learning and working hard to maintain.

“Every win counts” explained receiver Jaylon Redd.

“You can’t look forward,…you can’t look over any opponent at this point in the season.  Every weekend we’re 1 and 0 and I feel like you’re going to execute everything you need to get done.  Because at the same time it’s college football and it’s hard to get a dub and everybody’s gonna play their best against us cause we’re having a winning season as well.  Every game is going to get harder and harder, not because of the opponent, but because of where we put ourselves at in this position.”

While the formula may not be as simple as it seems, it’s a mantra this Oregon team takes serious and works hard to execute.

And so far the execution has led to wins.

As the saying goes, so goes Oregon.

Coming together is a beginning.   Keeping together is progress.   And working together is success!





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