Friday, January 3, 2003
Northwest college football fans were delivered a serious ego blow this bowl season, as not one of the four Oregon and Washington universities even put up a fight in their postseason outings.
Not only was it surprising to see the Ducks, Beavers, Huskies and Cougars get obliterated by the opposition, but it was also shameful to watch them go down with nary a swing in their own defense.
Scores of 38-17 (UO), 38-13 (OSU), 34-24 (UW) and, most painful of all, 34-14 (WSU) put the capper on a Northwest college football season that most of us would like to forget.
I certainly don’t want to relive one moment of the past six weeks. My Cougars — once ranked No. 3 in the nation and on their way to the best season in school history — crumbled under the pressure and lost two out of three.
The Apple Cup debacle aside, I still thought Jason Gesser would rally his troops in his final game and give Oklahoma a run for their money. But the only thing running that day was the score. It kept going up and up and up, until Wazzu was in a 27-0 hole.
Two late “courtesy” touchdowns provided little solace to the Cougar Nation, which was super-charged for its second Rose Bowl appearance in the past 80 years. We envisioned some sort of cosmic redemption after the referees’ premature sounding of the gun gave Michigan a narrow escape in the 1998 Rose Bowl.
But history held true on Wednesday when the Cougars failed to step up to the plate in a big game, and “Couged it” as they have so many times before. Because of their performance against the Sooners and the utter tragedy that was the 2002 Apple Cup — a game the Cougars had in the bag, but let come unraveled in the game’s final seven minutes — the only thing Wazzu fans will take away from this season is a feeling of disappointment.
The same can be said about the University of Oregon, last year’s No. 2-ranked team which found itself in the top five once again after starting the season 6-0. If the Ducks had merely won half of their remaining seven games, they would have finished with 10 wins. But they proceeded to lose six of their last seven and finish way out of the top 25.
Oh well, there’s always basketball season, right?
As for the Huskies, they finished the regular season on a roll, winning the “Northwest Championship” after a three-game losing streak endangered their streak of winning campaigns.
Neuheisel’s boys appeared well on their way to completing their season with four straight, holding a 17-0 first-quarter lead over Purdue in the Sun Bowl. But the Northwest jinx got the better of them and they collapsed before losing the game (and their pride), 34-24.
Don’t get me wrong. I refuse to shed any tears for the purple and gold. But one bowl victory out of Oregon or Washington would have given credence to the argument that the Pac-10 is a conference on the rise.
A 2-5 bowl record, with the only two wins coming from the hated Southern California schools, did little to back up that statement.
I suppose we can start to look forward to next year. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll be dwelling on this disappointing year for awhile.
How does 6-0 become 7-6? How does 9-1 become 10-3? Only a true Northwest sports fan knows how to answer those queries.