Thursday, August 5, 2010
Building a Pac-10 'House of Pain'
By Ted Miller
Here's our take on the most painful losses for each Pac-10 team.
Feel free to disagree.
Oregon 44, Arizona 41, 2OT, 2009
With "College GameDay" on campus for the first time, Arizona fans stormed the field in celebration. Prematurely. And that set up a red ring of disappointment around the field at packed Arizona Stadium, when Jeremiah Masoli rallied the Ducks late for a tie in regulation and then a win in double-overtime. As it turned out, if the Wildcats had won, they would have gone to the school's first Rose Bowl. Masoli tied the game at 31-31 with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Ed Dickson with six seconds left, capping a 15-play, 80-yard drive. Two plays before, he had converted an 8-yard pass on fourth-and-5. Masoli scored the game winner from 1-yard out in the second overtime. It was his sixth touchdown of the night -- three passing and three running. It may have been the best game of 2009.
Ohio State 20, Arizona State 17, Rose Bowl, 1997
So close to a national championship. The Sun Devils' 11-0 regular season included a 19-0 victory over defending national champion Nebraska, and they looked poised to win in Pasadena when Jake Plummer, on third-and-11, scrambled for a touchdown and 17-14 lead with 1:40 to play. But the Buckeyes weren't done. They drove 65 yards for the winning score, with David Boston hauling in a touchdown pass from five yards out with 19 seconds left. That pass was thrown by Ohio State's backup quarterback, Joe Germaine, who came off the bench to earn game MVP honors. Germaine was born and raised in Arizona and grew up rooting for ASU but opted to go to Ohio State because the Sun Devils coaches wanted him to play defensive back.
USC 23, California 17, 2004
Cal dominated the best USC team of the Pete Carroll era -- the Bears outgained the Trojans 424 yards to 205 -- but a comeback attempt fell short at the end. It was the Bears only regular season loss, despite quarterback Aaron Rodgers tying an NCAA record by completing 23 consecutive passes. Rodgers was nearly perfect until three throws missed from the USC 14-yard line in the final minute. Cal was undone by poor special teams play and three turnovers (versus one from USC). Making the defeat even more bitter: After a lobbying effort from Texas coach Mack Brown, the Longhorns eclipsed the Bears in the BCS standings and played in the Rose Bowl, which relegated Cal, which hadn't played in the Rose Bowl since 1959, to the Holiday Bowl, where they played without passion in an upset lost to Texas Tech.
Arizona 34, Oregon 24, 2007
It's hard to decide between the 49-42 loss to Stanford in 2001 -- the Ducks lone defeat that season -- or this one (the 2000 Civil War defeat also deserves note). The Stanford loss -- after leading 42-28 -- ended a 23-game winning streak and was the Ducks first home loss in four years. It also cost the Ducks a shot at the national title against Miami. At Arizona in 2007 on Thursday night on ESPN, the 8-1 Ducks were ranked No. 2 and quarterback Dennis Dixon was the Heisman Trophy frontrunner. They led 8-7 and were driving when Dixon blew out his knee (he'd first hurt it 12 days before versus Arizona State). Things mostly fell apart from there, in the game and over the final two games of the regular season. Here's the distinction: 2001 and its final No. 2 ranking still rate as the best season in program history. If Oregon had beaten Stanford, however, it would have played Miami in the Rose Bowl, the BCS title game, and that Hurricanes team was, well, awesome (in the real sense of the word). If the 2007 Ducks had won out and played LSU or Ohio State for the national title, their chances would have been very good to win the program's first national title. Instead, the season ended in major disappointment -- the Sun Bowl -- and an overwhelming sense of what might have been.
Washington 33, Oregon State 30, 2000
Apologies, Oregon State fans, because we're adding our own two cents. Sure, the Beavers have lost Civil Wars to arch-rival Oregon that knocked them out of the Rose Bowl the past two seasons. One was a humiliating blowout loss at home. The other, last December, was a nail-biting heart breaker in Autzen Stadium. Which was worse? You decide. But it seems to me this loss at Husky Stadium is the most painfully meaningful game in Oregon State football history, and it always bothers me that so few people know about it. Why? If the Beavers had won, they would have played Oklahoma for the national title. And they probably would have won -- just go back and compare their roster with the Sooners. The key play was when Huskies defensive tackle Larry Tripplett caught Ken Simonton for a three-yard loss on second-and-1 from the Huskies 26-yard line with 42 seconds left. The Beavers panicked and mistakenly spiked the ball -- they had a time out left -- and then Ryan Cesca missed a 45-yard field goal to tie. It was the Beavers only loss of the season; they crushed Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.
California 25, Stanford 20, 1982
Painful? We'll turn this over to Joe Starkey: "Alright here we go with the kickoff. Harmon will probably try to squib it and he does. Ball comes loose and the Bears have to get out of bounds. Rogers along the sideline, another one ... they're still in deep trouble at midfield, they tried to do a couple of ... the ball is still loose as they get it to Rogers. They get it back to the 30, they're down to the 20 ... oh the band is out on the field! He's gonna go into the end zone! He got into the end zone!! Will it count? The Bears have scored but the bands are out on the field. There were flags all over the place. Wait and see what happens; we don't know who won the game. There are flags on the field. We have to see whether or not the flags are against Stanford or Cal. The Bears may have made some illegal laterals. It could be that it won't count. The Bears, believe it or not, took it all the way into the end zone. If the penalty is against Stanford, California would win the game. If it is not, the game is over and Stanford has won. We've heard no decision yet. Everybody is milling around on the FIELD!!! AND THE BEARS!!! THE BEARS HAVE WON!!! THE BEARS HAVE WON!!! Oh my God, the most amazing, sensational, traumatic, heart rending ... exciting thrilling finish in the history of college football! California has won ... the Big Game ... over Stanford. Oh excuse me for my voice, but I have never, never seen anything like it in the history of I have ever seen any game in my life!"
No. 4 USC 21, No. 1 UCLA 20, 1967
It was wildly billed as the "Game of the Century." It was not only a rivalry game for control of the city, but the matchups the previous two seasons -- both UCLA wins -- had been hotly contested and controversial. The Bruins were ranked No. 1 and led by quarterback Gary Beban, who would go on to win the Heisman Trophy. At the time, Beban's crew was considered the best UCLA team of all time, even better than the 1954 national champions. UCLA led 20-14 in the fourth quarter, but a missed extra point was a nagging worry. And for good reason, as it turned out. On a third-and-7 with 10:38 left, Trojan quarterback Toby Page, who had replaced an ineffective Steve Sogge, called an audible. Instead of passing, he handed the ball to No. 32. You might know him as O.J. Simpson, who went 64 yards for the winning touchdown. The Trojans went on to win the national title.
No. 2 Texas 41, No. 1 USC 38, 2005 BCS national title game
USC was dominating Texas. It had scored four consecutive TDs to open the second half on drives of 62, 74, 80 and 81 yards. It held a 38-26 lead with 6:42 remaining. It was well on its way to a 35th consecutive victory, a third consecutive national title and a cap to one of the greatest dynastic runs in sports history. Then the Trojans got Vince Young-ed. First, Young scored a 17-yard TD to cut the margin to 38-33. After the Texas’ defense, which yielded 574 yards on the evening, stuffed USC on fourth-and-2, Young scored on an 8-yard run with 19 seconds left to give the Longhorns a 41-38 victory. Pete Carroll has said repeatedly over the years since then that he's still not over the defeat.
Washington State 24, Washington 20, 1982
Washington was ranked fifth but had spent much of the year at No. 1. The Huskies had won eight consecutive Apple Cups. A ninth straight would earn them a Rose Bowl berth. The Cougars were 2-8, but they led 21-20 late in the fourth quarter when Huskies kicker Chuck Nelson lined up for an easy 33-yard field goal with 4:35 left. Nelson is the most accomplished kicker in UW history. He once held 15 national, 14 conference and 14 school records, and had made an NCAA-record 30 field goals in a row. That string included 10 of 10 from 30 to 39 yards and three of three between 40 and 49 yards. So this was a done deal. Until it wasn't. Wide right. By just inches. It ranked 44th on our House of Pain list, but Huskies coach Don James called it the most disappointing loss of his Hall of Fame career.
Washington 29, Washington State 26, 3OT, 2002
It is reasonable for Washington State fans to call the loss to Michigan in the 1998 Rose Bowl more painful -- particularly considering there still remains one second on the clock, as everyone knows -- but the Cougars were underdogs to the eventual national champions. Try this out on a Coug, though: "The ruling on the field was that it was a backward pass. Washington recovered that pass, and the game is over." Those were the final words over the PA from referee Gordon Riese, as a five-loss Husky team upset No. 3 Washington State in Pullman. And it was a really, really close call between fumble and incomplete pass. Moments later Washington State fans started pelting the field with bottles and other objects. It was this close to a riot.