Obviously no player wants to fail a drug test.
There’s not a good time to fail one, get suspended, miss games and let your team down. But if there was an absolute worst time to fail one, Darren Carrington found it.
Oregon’s redshirt freshman was coming off the two best games of his short career. They just so happened to be in the Pac-12 Championship Game and 2015 Rose Bowl.
The 6-2, 195-pound receiver torched Arizona for seven catches for 126 yards and a touchdown in Oregon’s 55-13 win, his first career start. Carrington shined on the big stage, but when it came to an even bigger stage, “the Granddaddy Of Them All”, he shined even brighter.
The Ducks smashed Florida State 59-20 in the program’s biggest win in history and Carrington was a huge piece of that puzzle. The Seminole secondary couldn’t find him, but Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota found him to the tune of seven receptions for 165 yards and two touchdowns.
The win brought the Ducks one step closer to that dream of winning the national title, and Oregon likely couldn’t wait to see what Carrington had in store for the Buckeyes. He was trending upward, shall we say, and if he had another game even remotely similar to his previous two Oregon would likely be defending national champions right now.
But after the Rose Bowl, the NCAA informed the Duck staff that Carrington wouldn’t be available because he failed a drug test. It was a gut punch that Oregon never recovered from.
The Ducks were already missing all-conference corner Ifo Ekpre-Olomu to a knee injury and receiver/speed demon Devon Allen suffered the same fate on the opening kickoff in Pasadena.
The Ducks dealt with not having their best receiver from a year ago, Bralon Addison, for the entire 2014 season, but not having Carrington just dented the depth chart even more. Oregon went into the title game with Ohio State short-handed…and it showed.
Flash forward. Carrington not only missed the title game, but he’s missed the first half of the 2015 season, and Oregon missed him dearly. A lot has been made of the Ducks’ quarterback struggles and every bit of those criticisms have been fair, but it’s not just the quarterback position that has been hurting.
Oregon is going without maybe the best No. 2 tailback in the country in Thomas Tyner, who has a shoulder injury. The Ducks had to break in redshirt freshman Taj Griffin perhaps a year before they expected to. Allen has also missed most of the season with that knee injury suffered in Pasadena and Oregon’s leading receiver from last season, Byron Marshall, was hurt early in the year and will miss the entire season.
Add in Carrington’s situation and Vernon Adams’ injury, and Oregon had been going without five key offensive weapons for most of the season. No matter what offense a team runs, losing that many cogs will lead to loss of production and ultimately…losses.
The good news for Oregon was that Adams and Carrington came back for the Ducks’ game at Washington, and they couldn’t have picked a better time to return.
Oregon was down in the dumps after the 45-38 double overtime loss against Washington State at home, with fans and writers wondering if 2015 was going to be a lost season. Teams the season after losing a Heisman Trophy winner historically have a “down” year, but Oregon was on the verge of a possible losing season for the first time since 2006.
All it took was one drive in Seattle to flip the script.
Adams had two completions of 48 and 36 yards with the latter going to Carrington for his first catch and touchdown since January. Those completions were longer than any Oregon player had completed since Adams went down. Carrington proved he’s once again capable of finding an open area down field, something Oregon has been severely lacking for the entire season. In his first game, Carrington led the Ducks with five catches for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
Oregon still has a lot of problems such as the defense and scoring in the red zone, but it’s well worth noting that the Ducks did get a lot better with Adams back taking the snaps and Carrington making big catch after big catch.
Just a few week ago, Oregon seemed destined for a losing season.
But, with a win over the Huskies—thanks to two huge pieces of the puzzle—a bowl game such as the Vegas Bowl or even the Holiday Bowl doesn’t seem too far fetched.
While it’s not the Rose Bowl—the game the Ducks aim towards every season—Vegas or San Diego are nice jump off points for bigger destinations in the near future.