Delayed Reaction: Rose Bowl

Yes, I know the Rose Bowl game was practically a week ago. But after a couple days in the car and a couple more organizing my life before winter term begins, this is all I could muster for a recap of my wonderful four-day SoCal stint.

I drove down with two great friends – Lauren and Lindsay – and we made a pit stop in San Francisco to ring in 2012.

Yep, we're those people who hold our arms out to take pictures of ourselves. Please note the cable car in the background - we were DEFINITELY in San Francisco.

We spent our New Year’s Day on I-5, and I feel pretty good about my year knowing that the first lunch I ate in 2012 was an In-N-Out Burger.

Because an Oregonian can't come here and not take a picture of her meal.

It was an incredibly smooth journey that carried us all the way to the Hilton at LAX, the Ducks’ team hotel. There were designated ticket pick-up hours, and a line was already forming when we arrived. As we waited, my usual bout of ticket anxiety kicked in. Did I really get one? Yes, I’ve been receiving the Azumano Travel emails. But did I remember to buy a second one? Yes, I distinctly remember listing my dad as Lauren’s emergency contact so I could submit the form as quickly as possible. Do I have my student ID card? It never hurts to look again. Yes, it’s there.

This always happens to me at Autzen. The student ticket distribution system is so touchy that, even with guaranteed student season tickets, I’d get nervous every time I neared the turnstiles.

But my fears were unfounded, and two gorgeous tickets waited for me in a crisp envelope.

The coolest sporting event ticket I've ever possessed, even if it is a rip-off of the Obama "HOPE" design.

We went from the Hilton back up to Santa Clarita, where we’d be staying with the family of an old housemate (who has since married and moved permanently to Eugene). I’d met Jeff and Anne a couple times before, but we didn’t know them all that well and they were incredibly kind and gracious to us.

Monday came: Gameday. We navigated public transportation to Pasadena, which was surprisingly easy. As we exited the Metrolink train we rode from Santa Clarita to downtown LA, the train operator issued the usual warning to remember your personal belongings but added, “and no offense to anyone, but go Oregon.” We cheered.

There’s really nothing I can say about the game that hasn’t already been said. All I have to add is how excited I am to know that I was there. Even in the excitement of the moment, we acknowledged that this was a game for the ages. When DAT’s 91-yard run is played on the Autzen jumbotron years from now, I can tell my kids, “I was there! I saw that!” That fumble recovery? I was there! Heck, I bet I’ll even drop that line with regards to Montee Ball (who, despite Wisconsin’s loss, is a beast).

If there was any way to experience your final Oregon football game as an actual Oregon student, this was it. BCS redemption. California sunshine. History made on a number of fronts. Geez, it’s fun to be a Duck.

The view of the field from our end zone seats (unfortunately, we didn't have the luxury of depth perception).

The classic Rose Bowl trip photo.

My Converse stand among a post-win sea of confetti and pom-poms.

What a wonderful day.

Just for kicks, a few other fun trip anecdotes:

  • We left early Saturday morning, and it was pretty darn cold. So cold, we couldn’t get the doors of Lauren’s Ford Escape to open. We poured water over the openings and yanked on the trunk door. Then we realized the doors were locked.
  • The concierge at our hotel in San Francisco warned us to layer up before we headed into the city for NYE. “Everyone says it’s freezing,” she said. Knowing that San Francisco can be chilly, we ran back to fetch our coats. Then proceeded to peel off layer after layer as we walked through town – apparently that city is warmer in December than June.
  • Before we left, I called LA’s MTA and mapped out a pretty legit route to the stadium. Jeff, one of our hosts, told us about the faster Metrolink train we could take downtown, but none of us thought about the return trip. When we arrived downtown after the game, we learned that the day’s service to Santa Clarita had ended…meaning we were stranded. Jeff and Anne get a gold star in heaven for driving to North Hollywood and picking up our helpless trio.
  • The hardest part of being a college football fan is enduring the endless Chick-fil-A ads, after it was mercilessly removed from Oregon several years ago. (I love Chick-fil-A, but Lindsay, whose family hails from Georgia, is an even bigger fan.) Thankfully they still exist in LA, so we were able to get our fix.
  • We stayed in Redding on the way home, and as we walked out of the hotel, a CHP officer was walking in. Noticing our Oregon attire, the first thing out of his mouth: “Have fun in Pasadena?” Even the fruit inspection people at the California border asked us if we were headed for the game.

Oh, one final thought. If you’re looking for a classy but not-too-expensive place to dine in LA, head for Bottega Louie. My roommate at the UO is from the area, and she and her mom treated us to a fabulous lunch on Tuesday, complete with mini desserts. Aside from major family meals like Thanksgiving and Christmas, I don’t know the last time I’ve seen so much quality food on one table.

Pastas and pizza galore, fried calamari, caprese, asparagus, some sort of delicious beet dish. Food coma.

CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY TART.

Coffee, of course. And the most beautiful take-out boxes known to mankind.

I have a bunch of other pictures – most notably, of Bottega Louie’s insane macaroon trees – but you get the idea. Amazing restaurant, great company. (And drinking iced coffee in January.) One of the greatest afternoons on record.

A dark, rainy winter is ahead, but I feel lucky to have had four days in the sun with my friends and my Ducks.

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Last real home game as a student. Pass the tissues.

As a born-and-raised Oregonian, the Civil War football game has played an important role in my life. My dad is an OSU grad, and he took my sister and me to a few Civil War games growing up. Most were at Reser Stadium in Corvallis, but he took us to one at Autzen (2003, I believe) – the picture of Hope and me decked out in OSU gear with Autzen in the background is ironically hilarious now that I’m a UO fanatic.

Anyway, the Civil War is always a special game, especially when you’ve grown up in the state and have bragging rights on the line.

Today also marked my last official game as a UO student – the Pac-12 championship game, which I will attend, doesn’t really count in my mind – and it’s causing me to freak out a little.

Honestly, going to football games and following the team has been my favorite part of college. The memories created inside Autzen – falling in love with college football when GameDay came in ’09; storming the field after securing a Rose Bowl bid in the 2009 Civil War; going crazy during last year’s Stanford contest; yelling, “It never rains in Autzen Stadium” before every game; clapping along with the fight song – will stay with me forever.

When college begins, you never really think it will end. Up until now, life and education have come in manageable four-year chunks. Now, it’s off into the great unknown. (“Fears for the future” could be a post in and of itself, but you get the idea.) Who knows if I’ll be at all the games next fall? Who knows if I’ll even make it to one? Will I ever watch games from the same angle again? (Literally; I can’t imagine looking at Autzen from a different perspective after sitting in the student section for four years.)

Of course, I know I should be happy that the biggest problem facing me at the moment is how I’ll handle myself without a student ticket to Duck games. But it’s a strange feeling, knowing that I’ll never have quite the same relationship with the Oregon football team.

All nervousness aside, it was a beeea-u-tiful day in Eugene and the Civil War was a blast. I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking:

My roommates Shannon, Katy and me on the walk into the stadium. (Yeah, this is Instagram'd. Judge me.)

This isn't a great angle, but the UO and OSU marching bands played the national anthem together. The UO band formed an "O" and the OSU formed an "OS," like their logo.

Celebrating a Duck victory with friends. Won the day.

College Football Weekend Recap: “Won My Pool” Edition

Thanks to Tony Romo, I won my pick’em pool this week. Romo threw an interception late in last night’s Jets v. Cowboys game that not only gave the Jets a win, but me a win, too. I’m playing in a pool with 20ish people, organized by a friend of my dad’s, and after a second-place finish last weekend, I emerged victorious this time. Yes, I’m gloating. But I made lucky guesses on a bunch of NFL games (and somehow nailed all my college picks), so I’ll take it.

One of my correct picks: USC over Utah in the inaugural Pac-12 contest. Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times recapped several firsts for the conference, but acknowledges that a number bigger than “12” might follow “Pac” after this season. “Pac-12 football: Catch it while it lasts?” he asks, breaking down possible scenarios that could play out once Texas A&M becomes an official member of the SEC.

Rivals/Yahoo’s Tom Dienhart gave out his Week 2 “awards,” and they make for a pretty entertaining read. From the “Desperately seeking…anything” award (Mike Riley) to the “Thought you’d get your butt kicked, you didn’t” award (Iowa State) and several others in between (like Oregon’s “Dang, they’re good” honor), he offers a funny, quick look at the past week and near future in college football.

Don’t look now, but both of the Pac-12’s Washington teams have better records than its Oregon teams. The Huskies and lowly Cougars are both 2-0. Washington State leads the nation in scoring offense, for crying out loud. On ESPN’s Pac-12 blog, Ted Miller looks at the teams’ recent success but notes that they both play big road games next weekend.

As if a 2-0 Wazzu team isn’t frightening enough, we come to the most ridiculous item of the day. Addicted to Quack, a popular Duck blog, reported Sunday evening that Mike Pereira, the Pac-12’s new coordinator for officiating, says that players flashing the “O” after a score is bordering on unsportsmanlike conduct. Um, excuse me? Are the players thumping their chests? No. Are they jumping in to the stands? No. They’re making an “O” with their hands. Pereira’s video explanation is really what got me going. Apparently salutes are okay (he says it’s a tribute to the military; I’m not saying players and fans aren’t grateful for the sacrifice of servicemen and women, but I’m doubtful that every post-touchdown salute is made with the sole intention of honoring the military and not celebrating the score), as are points to the sky, thanking God. But flash a symbol with your hands that’s ripe with meaning for your team and its fans? Apparently, that’s a no-no. Ridiculous. (Video linked in this story by KVAL in Eugene, which was linked in the ATQ post.)

Editor’s Note: I’m not the first to make those arguments, and I’d say the same thing for any other team that came under fire for this; I’m not just trying to defend the Ducks. There is obvious unsportsmanlike conduct, and then there are harmless celebrations. Regardless of the team, this is harmless.

Hate to end on a sour note, but that’s just absurd. On a lighter note, there was the super-exciting end to Michigan v. Notre Dame. Really couldn’t care less about the teams, but you’ve got to love an electric finish to a game played in front of the largest crowd in college football history.

What were your favorite moments, stories or blog posts from the weekend?

College Football Weekend Recap: “The Pac-12 Sucks” Edition

Since there are so many people writing so many words about college football every weekend, I decided to aggregate some of my favorites in a handy little blog post (that I hope to publish every week this season). I’m doing this partly because I’d like to share what I found intriguing, but mostly because I’d like to hear from others about what articles or blog posts caught their eyes over the weekend.

One overarching theme: The Pac-12 sucks.

At least over the last few months, Pac-12 fans could point to Oregon’s appearance in the BCS title game as proof of our conference’s relevance, but when Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA and Colorado all lose (and Washington and USC barely win), our defense against SEC fans is flimsy. It hurt to read, but The Register-Guard‘s George Schroeder spoke the truth about how Oregon’s loss only widened the gap between the Ducks and the truly great college football programs.

“If only the Pac-12’s football teams would start playing at a level befitting the conference’s newfound status,” wrote Stewart Mandel of SI.com, contrasting the league’s poor play with its recent status as a “destination” conference for teams looking to realign. Bruce Feldman, now of CBS after leaving ESPN post-“Free Bruce” movement, made a similar argument, saying that “Phil Knight’s favorite team was short-circuited on a big national stage once again.” Ouch.

Something decidedly more awesome than my favorite conference getting trashed all over the internet (albeit with good reason)? Rice University’s “Marching Owl Band” and the shot it took at Texas A&M‘s intention to move to the SEC. Definitely gives Script Ohio a run for its money as far as creativity is concerned. (But according to Houston Chronicle¬†columnist Richard Justice, Rice will receive a letter of reprimand from ESPN for the stunt.)

It’s not directly related to this weekend’s action, but here’s an interesting piece from Lindsay Schnell, an Oregon beat writer for The Oregonian here in Portland (I followed her on Twitter before I really started reading her stuff in the paper, so I almost typed “@LindsayRae19” instead of her real name). While in Texas for Oregon-LSU, she dug into the emerging pipeline between high school stars in the state (a HS football hotbed) and the UO, which first sprung up when LaMichael James and Darron Thomas committed in 2008.

Lastly, I’m not as on top of the realignment talks as a good fan should be, but I do think it’s interesting/funny/fascinating that Mark Cuban (best known, obviously, for his appearance as Saturday’s College GameDay guest picker) felt the need to weigh in on the topic. His latest Blog Maverick post implores Big 12 teams to “say no to super conferences” and makes a slightly awkward Big 12-AL East comparison. Best part: the commenter who turns a football-centric post into a chance to whine about being an Orioles fan. “…I basically think we are screwed in the AL East.” Well, good for you.

Those are a few things that caught my eye. I know there are dozens, if not hundreds more pieces out there that were great, so if you read a particularly intriguing piece of college football writing this weekend, please share!