FROM THE CHEAP SEATS
Today's column is dedicated to the memory of Giles Pellerin.
One of the great things about college football is the true rivalries that exist, divorced from championships of any kind, the ones that can make or break a season. They often have trophies that go with them, The Axe, The Bell, The Little Brown Jug. My favorite of those is the Floyd Of Rosedale trophy, named after a prize pig, it goes to the winner of the Minnesota-Iowa game.
In Oregon they call it the Civil War. Most years, neither Oregon nor Oregon State was a good team. Oregon State hasn't had a winning record in nearly three decades. This year, Oregon was good, a top 20 team, and OSU was highly competitive, taking UCLA down to the wire (I know, who didn't) and winning 4 games. They hadn't won 5 games since 1972 and that was important t them as well. The weather was rainy, classic Oregon weather this time of year, the place was packed with fans wearing orange and black, supporting the traditional doormats of the Pac 10.
Mike Riley is the new OSU coach and his first job is to restore some measure of pride to a school that has had little to be proud of during football season. He dedicated the game to the 21 seniors, players who had played hard, labored in obscurity, rarely won, but helped rebuild a program. The team gave it all they had, but with two minutes to go found themselves down by a touchdown, 31-24. But they fought back, twice converting fourth and long situations and tied the game a t 31.
That brought us to overtime. OSU had the ball first and scored a touchdown. Now it was Oregon's turn and they had trouble. On a fourth and ten pass, they threw over the middle and the OSU defensive back knocked it down. Pandemonium reigned, as thousands of fans poured out on the field and started to tear down the goalposts. OSU hadn't beaten Oregon at home in two decades. It was over, they had beaten not just the hated Ducks, but a top 20 team, to boot.
Unfortunately, they hadn't. The officials and the Beavers weren't going anywhere, because along with the thousands of fans on the field, there was a penalty marker. Pass interference had been called. The fans were cleared off, it was first and ten for Oregon. They drove it in, tying the game at 38. The second OT began, this time with Oregon having the ball first. A sack, two penalties, another sack, and the Ducks faced a first and 43. A quick pass over the middle fell incomplete. Once again, a pass interference penalty deflated the Beaver faithful. Still, following an amazing eleven play possession, the Ducks had to settle for three. Since the Beavers were starting on the 25, they were a confident bunch. On second and one from the 16, Ken Simonton, a redshirt freshman, the future of the Beavers, dashed 16 yards for a touchdown. You'd have think they won the national championship.
You can keep the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, this is what makes college football great. They won the big game, they'll have that the rest of their lives. As old men in Portland and Corvallis they'll retell every first down, every tackle, and they'll be nineteen again.
USC on the other hand, will do their best to forget their pathetic showing against UCLA. Usually they lose close, this time they went quietly. If you can call losing five fumbles and two interceptions quietly. So much for wiping the memory of the last seven years away. So much for redemption. The Bruin fans were chanting "eight more years" at the end of the game and they had every right to.
More and more, Kansas St. is looking like the odd man out in the Bowl Championship Series. Unless one of the big three loses their last game, KSU will be undefeated, untied, and uninvited. Done in by their pathetic non-conference schedule, they're the only one of the undefeated teams that didn't have a lucky win, with a huge late fumble preventing an upset. The irony is that the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll has promised to award its championship trophy to the winner of the Fiesta Bowl. The coaches' number one team: Kansas State.
In the NFL, the Broncos kept rolling along. The Raiders fought back from a 17-0 deficit to cut it to 17-14 with all the momentum on their side. Denver turned it up a notch. The final: 40-14.
In the NFC, Minnesota all but clinched the Central Division by handling the Packers 28-14. The Pack doesn't look to be in the same class, but they can hope that Dorsey Levens will return in December and when they meet the Vikes in the playoffs, it'll be a different story. The Vikings travel to Dallas on Thanksgiving, if the Vikes win that, we can pretty much count on a Denver- Minnesota Super Bowl.
The other big team in the NFC suffered a major blow while winning Sunday. Chris Chandler got hurt -- these words have been typed more often than any in game summaries the last decade. It's traditionally followed the next week by his team losing. That's what happened the last time he missed a game this season. The Falcons hopes are riding on his being healthy in the playoffs. Lots of luck.
And now for something completely different, women's golf.
Annika Sorenstam clinched the LPGA player of the year award last week. She had a remarkable year, leading the tour in money won, despite not winning a major, and she led the tour in stroke average. She had an average of 69.99, making her the first golfer of either sex to average under 70 for a year. Interestingly, she was running numbers through her computer five weeks ago when she spotted this and promptly figured out what she'd have to shoot the rest of the year to do it. Geek golfers, they're FAN-tastic.
Alright, I'm sure most of you are wondering who Giles Pellerin was. He was a college football fan. Maybe the greatest, while still maintaining some shred of sanity. He was a USC fan and traveled to their road games. He had seen, in person, every USC game since 1926. That's right, 1926, Calvin Coolidge was President, Knute Rockne was coaching Notre Dame, and Giles Pellerin fell in love with the Trojans. He attended 797 consecutive games. They took him to New York, NY; Lincoln, NE; Honolulu, HI, and Tokyo, Japan. He snuck out of hospitals to see games, saying he was going for a walk, returning four hours later. In 1993 he had a ruptured aorta and was hospitalized for 12 days, but USC had a week off and he didn't miss a game. He saw every USC-UCLA game and every USC-Notre Dame game ever played. At 91, he died in the parking lot at the Rose Bowl, during a USC-UCLA game. His brother Oliver, who has a 598 game streak himself, was with him. As sports fans, we can only admire his dedication.
Got something to say about this?
Send me a letter,
please include the title of the article in the subject.