PASADENA, Calif. — Well, Husky fans, you got what you wanted.
Supporters of the Oregon Ducks, seen by many in Seattle and elsewhere as arrogant and disrespectful, trudged quietly out of the Rose Bowl Friday night after our team'ês disappointing 26-17 loss to Ohio State. As I write this, message boards are already lit up with jeers and derisive comments from Husky boosters and fans of other rivals, pleased as punch that my Ducks got beat, even though it was anything but a blowout.
This was a game we thought we were going to win. Duck faithful came to this game to win it; not like 15 years ago in the 1995 Rose Bowl against Penn State when we were just happy to be here. You could see and hear pumped-up people wearing green and gold heading to their seats, hungry for a victory. As one Duck fan put it before the game, 'êWe want red meat.'ê
Ah, but as we got into the stadium and sat down, we noticed something surprising: There were as many or more fans in the Rose Bowl wearing red — in fact, a big red swath of people extending along the north grandstand. Where had all these Buckeye fans come from? We didn'êt see so many of them walking the Pasadena area streets or in bars or restaurants. But they were there; among the 93,963 in attendance, it appeared that easily half were wearing red.
Buckeyes better prepared
And they too came expecting to win, many of them said later, and so did their team. And it was apparent at the start that the Buckeyes (11-2 to end the season) came better prepared, jumping out to a 10-0 lead before Oregon (10-3) woke up. Led by athletic sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State started out with short passes and misdirection running plays that worked against the Duck defense, and also seemed ready for anything the Duck offense tried to throw at it.
Oregon settled down and tied the game at 10-10, thanks the touted Duck running game starting to work and a 3-yard TD run by LeGarrette Blount. Yes, Blount is the guy who blew his cool and punched a Boise State player to start the season and then had to sit out 10 games as punishment. He figured again in a big play that I will mention in a second.
We then gave up two field goals in the second quarter to fall behind 16-10 at halftime, but came out and scored first on a 1-yard touchdown run by Duck quarterback Jeremiah Masoli to take a 17-16 lead. Often this season, the Ducks pulled away after gaining such a lead, but not this game. The Buckeyes got another field goal to go back ahead 19-17, and later Pryor worked his magic for his second of two touchdown passes to seal the deal in the fourth quarter for Ohio State.
The LeGarrette Blount fumble
Two Oregon plays could have possibly changed the outcome:
- The Ducks, down 19-17 in the third quarter, were threatening to score and retake the lead when the aforementioned Blount couldn'êt handle a handoff inside the 20-yard-line from Masoli, fumbled it, and then kicked it toward the end zone. The ball scooted through the end zone and went out of bounds before anyone could pounce on it, resulting in a touchback and turnover of possession to Ohio State. Whose fault was it? Not sure; the handoff was problematic, and bounced off Blount'ês shoulder pad. But a missed opportunity, to be sure.
- In the fourth quarter, Oregon was driving to score and, down 26-17, decided to kick a field goal rather than attempt to convert a fourth down and 1 inside the Buckeye 30. But Morgan Flint'ês 44-yard field goal attempt, which would have cut Ohio State'ês lead to only 26-20, went slightly wide right, as Duck fans groaned and began throwing in the towel.
The Buckeyes'ê Pryor, a Pennsylvania high-school star whom Oregon desperately tried to recruit, effectively ran and passed his way to enough first downs to keep the Duck offense off the field the rest of the way. He was named the game'ês most valuable player after amassing more yards passing (266) than the whole Oregon team did passing and rushing (260).
Ohio State fans seem to like us
We lost and we didn'êt expect to, but we really couldn'êt blame the officials or anyone else. No offense, Oregon Coach Chip Kelly, but the Buckeyes showed up readier for the Ducks than vice versa. And that was surprising after a great year the Ducks had following the disappointing 19-8 Boise State loss to begin the season.
Oh, and after losing a game, leaving the Rose Bowl is no fun. My friend and I spent half an hour or more trying to find our rental car in the sea of parked vehicles surrounding the stadium. Then we sat in the car for more than an hour while we battled to inch our way out of the parking lot. After a win, all this would have been tolerable.
I will say this about Ohio State fans: They are a very pleasant bunch, and we enjoyed bantering with them in the stands. They'êre used to winning games, even if they have lost a number of bowl games lately, but they don'êt seem to hold grudges against the teams they play (except for rival Michigan). Many told us they enjoyed meeting Oregon fans, and knew they were going to be in for a game.
Maybe both teams will be back here again next year, some of them said, as neither team loses a lot of seniors. I don'êt know that I would come back — the Ducks are now 0-2 in Rose Bowls I have seen and 0-4 in bowl games I have seen. Maybe I should stay home.
Can Jake get you to the Rose Bowl?
But, Husky fans, Jake Locker is coming back for his senior season at the U-Dub, and you expect to be here next year, correct? It will be interesting to see how next season plays out.
It is somewhat surprising that Husky fans would not root for their fellow Pac-10 team, but as I wrote before the game, the current bad blood in the Oregon-Washington rivalry precludes that from happening (Oregon fans likely wouldn't root for the Huskies either, by the way).
So, Husky fans, you got your wish for now. We lost the Rose Bowl. But after losing to Oregon six years in a row, you will need to finally beat us if you want to be here yourselves next year.