Thursday, January 5, 2012

Rose Bowl: Denouement

Faithful readers, the opportunity for an afterword on the first Rose Bowl victory by the University of Oregon Ducks football team in almost 100 years was simply too much to resist, an itch I had to scratch.

True story: after nearly a century of futility, the Ducks beat the University of Wisconsin Badgers in the "granddaddy of them all, with the game in doubt until the very end. For perspective, the Ducks last won the Rose Bowl when my "granddaddy" -- C.W. Mitchell -- was 17 years old, about the age of the lads on the winning team (below).

Think about it. The last time the Ducks won the Rose Bowl in 1917, the team wore leather helmets. Today, the only place you see leather headgear is on the fashion show runway. Even back then, leather helmets were only good for protecting your ears from stupefying pain after being hand-smacked on a freezing cold day.

After beating the University of Pennsylvania in 1917, the Ducks lost a nail-biter with Harvard University in the 1920 Rose Bowl. They would not return for another 38 years. In 1958, legendary UO Coach Len Casanova (below, autographing young Jory's football) led the Ducks to a near upset of the prohibitive favorite, Ohio State University.

Fast forward another 37 years to their next appearance, the "dream season" that culminated in the 1995 Rose Bowl. This time, the Ducks hung tough for a half, but ultimately lost to Penn State University, a team that finished the season undefeated and #2 in the country. Two years ago, the Ducks lost again to Ohio State University, 26-17.

This year, the stars finally aligned and the University of Oregon prevailed in what is unarguably one of two most gratifying games in Duck football history. The other is the 2001 Fiesta Bowl (below, with some of the Mitchell clan in front of Sun Devil Stadium), when Joey Harrington led the Ducks to victory over the University of Colorado Buffaloes and a final ranking of #2 in the nation.

So, in honor of the Rose Bowl victory, I offer a toast to all loyal -- and in some cases, long-suffering -- Duck fans everywhere. Bottoms up!