Thanks for Your Support

Your donations keep Duck Downs ad-free and eliminate the need for wasteful popup blockers!

Why support this site?





“Broadcasting” the 1917 Rose Bowl

Ever wonder how fans back home followed an away football game as it was being played back in the day?

Consider that KDKA, the nation’s first radio station, didn’t begin broadcasting from the Westinghouse factory in Pittsburgh until November of 1920, and the first football game broadcast – West Virginia at Pitt – wasn’t until October of 1921. It didn’t take long for the new medium to explode in popularity, but the Rose Bowl wasn’t broadcast nationally until the 1927 game pitting Alabama and Stanford. Guy with a megaphone.

Without a play-by-play, or a knowledgeable sidekick explaining the action on the field, what was a fan to do? 

In Eugene, on New Year’s Day in 1917, the solution involved a theater, a Western Union guy, a contraption on a stage and a guy with a megaphone.


Heilig Theater, circa 1958. The theater was the Heilig, on Willamette Street between 6th and 7th, a venerable, balconied Vaudeville edifice, later a movie house, eventually  among the many victims of urban renewal in the Seventies (the Hult Center occupies its former location).

The Western Union guy was J.A. “Mac” McKevitt, manager of the Eugene A telegraph operator.Western Union station. McKevitt started work in 1906, when the Western Union office was established, on what is now West Broadway, with one “lady operator” and a part-time messenger boy on his payroll. Starting in around 1915, all road games were reported via Morse code from the remote site to Eugene.

The contraption on the stage was a miniature football field, slightly inclined at Something like this.the back for ease of visibility to the crowd, made of plywood. Above the field was suspended a small football, connected to a series of pulleys and strings that allowed an operator to move the ball back and forth. Western Union ran a telegraph line from the Broadway station to the Heilig, where McKevitt would set up his portable “ticker” backstage.

McKevitt would translate the dots and dashes received from the remote game transmitter into English, relay them to the guy with a megaphone, who would in turn announce the play by play results to the Heilig’s audience, while the boy running the pulleys would move the ball back and forth across the field, and another would track the score on a small scoreboard.

In a 1931 interview, McKevitt said one of his greatest thrills was in the 1917 Tournament of Roses football game, when Oregon defeated Penn by two touchdowns:

McKevitt took the results of that game play-by-play off the wire and gave them to the announcer at the Heilig theater. The house was packed, Eugene fans were standing in the aisles and clear back to the top of the balcony. The little gridiron was rigged up on stage, and the miniature football was being worked back and forth with the plays. “Mac” Shy Huntington.remembers getting the message and giving it a word at a time to the announcer: “HUNTINGTON …. MAKES …. TOUCHDOWN!” Pandemonium broke loose, and Mac couldn’t find out whether Oregon converted the [extra] point because the place was so full of noise that he couldn’t hear the ticker, even with his ear down against it. McKevitt was sitting on the stage, with the footlights turned on, and he said as he looked out over the glare of the lights, the theater looked like a giant fountain with hats, coats, sweaters, everything being thrown into the air.”
— Roy Craft, Eugene Register-Guard, 1931


In the mid-1920s, Jack Benefiel, graduate manager of the football team (the equivalent of today’s athletic director), upgraded the “broadcast” technology by purchasing a “grid-graph,” a vertical board equipped with electric lights, that showed the position of the players on the field. But the back end of the system was the same; McKevitt would receive the telegraph updates, communicate them to the grid-graph operator, and the lights would be changed to show the action.

A “grid-graph” from the early 1920s. Note the 7-bit scoring system at the top. Presumably, games would never top 63 points.

Of course, the Human Element could occasionally intrude in an event interpreted by grid-graph, with farcical results:

When the Huskers opened their season against the University of Illinois, it was an historical game for several reasons. It was the first Nebraska game to be broadcast on the radio, and the first to be depicted on the Grid-graph. Of even greater importance, it featured the varsity debut of one of the footballs greatest heroes, ‘the Galloping Ghost’, ‘Red’ Grange.

Red GrangeNebraska held its own for most of the game, but ended up losing 24 - 7. The performance of ‘Red’ Grange was too much to overcome. He scored three touchdowns, including a punt return. He showed more brilliant open field running after catching a pass, rambling for 50 yards and the score.

Back in Lincoln, Nebraska, the crowd at the Armory were the only ones to see the most spectacular play of the day. They were the only ones to see the play because it never really happened. The play was the result of confusion by the operators of the Grid-graph and the radio station. The play by play account of the game was being relayed to the Armory by a special wire from Western Union. The same account of the game was being shared by the radio station in its broadcast of the game.

The telegraph operator would type the information, and hand it to the operator of the Grid-graph . When he was done, another man would take the same card and phone the information to the radio station. Occasionally the Grid-graph operator would fall behind, and the dispatches would pile up.

On one occasion, the man relaying the information to the radio station eagerly snatched up the dispatch before the Grid-graph operator had a chance to post the information. The papers that were taken out of sequence contained the record of a touchdown. When it was discovered that a mistake had been made, the Grid-graph operators realized that their score was incorrect. They resolved the situation by showing the crowd a spectacular 70 yard run, by ‘Red’ Grange. A run that never really happened.

“Watching Away Games Before TV,” Leather Helmets Illustrated


By the late 1920s, radio had come to any household that wanted it; all the major college games were broadcast, and the grid-graph technology, along with the theater dates, fell by the wayside (although the concept of packing a house for a transmitted event continued well into the late 20th century, with closed-circuit broadcasts of boxing matches; and of course the modern “sports bar” is essentially performing the same service, sans exclusivity).

Next time another off-the-cuff inanity by Craig James Brock Huard makes you want to throw your remote at the big screen, consider how far we’ve come in 95 years.

Then, go ahead and throw it.


Wisconsin and Oregon. Separated at birth?

Unlike Oregon’s other recent Big Game opponents, teams with significant winning traditions and great pedigrees, the 2012 Rose Bowl saw the Ducks playing a team that was in many respects a mirror image of itself.

Not in the style of play or physical attributes – the differences between Oregon and Wisconsin on the field are well documented, and a subject of great debate on other sites – but in their histories, and what they’ve put their fans through over the years.

If Oregon’s dividing line between The Suffering and success is 1994, Wisconsin’s equivalent Year of Demarcation is 1993, when the Badgers, in Barry Alvarez’s third season, broke a 30 year Rose Bowl drought and a string of eight straight losing seasons.

As close chronologically as the teams respective Years of Demarcation are, their respective records during the preceding Decades of Suckitude, and subsequent Ages of Enlightenment, are also eerily similar:








1965 – 1993






1964 – 1992






1994 – 2011






1993 – 2011






It would be difficult to intentionally manipulate the performance of two teams to generate records this similar over almost identical periods.

There are so many similarities in Oregon and Wisconsin’s histories that it’s almost easier to find the differences. (There, one can start with Camp Randall Stadium, with almost twice the capacity of Autzen, and the legendary fanaticism of football fans in Wisconsin. Fan support for the Badgers is so solid that in 1968, when the team was suffering its second consecutive winless season, the stadium was still filled to 54% of capacity.  Only during the Don Morton era did attendance regularly dip below 40,000 – a major factor in his termination; he was replaced by Barry Alvarez in 1990. By contrast, during the years of abject apathy for the Ducks, in the mid-70s, the stadium was regularly half-empty, or worse… and Oregon has never gone winless once, never mind twice.)

Now, those similarities…

Separated at birth?



Modern Rose Bowl drought

37 years (1958 – 1995)

31 years (1963 – 1994)

9+ win seasons, 1945 - 1993

1 (1948)


9+ win seasons since 1993



Bowl appearances,
1900 – 1963 1



Bowl appearances, 1964– 2012



Losing seasons, 1964 – 1993



Losing seasons since 1994



Longest losing streak

15 games
(10-5-74 to 10-18-75)

24 games
(9-23-67 to 10-4-69)

Ten horrible but representative pre-1994 losses

(* = home)

1972: 68-3, Oklahoma

1974: 61-7, Nebraska

1974: 66-0, Washington

1975: 5-0, San Jose St *

1976: 53-0, USC *

1976: 46-0, UCLA

1977: 54-0, Washington *

1982: 10-4, Fresno St *

1983: 21-15, Pacific *

1985: 63-0, Nebraska

1968: 20-0, Utah St *

1974: 52-7, Ohio St

1975: 41-7, Kansas *

1977: 56-0, Michigan

1978: 55-2, Michigan St

1978: 42-0, Michigan *

1988: 24-14, Western Michigan *

1988: 62-14, Michigan *

1989: 51-3, Miami FL *

1990: 24-18, Temple *

Swan Dive Season


(6-1 start; 0-5 finish)


(5-0 start; 0-6 finish)

Immovable Force Offense


(103 points in 11 games)


(86 points in 10 games)

Irresistible Object Defense

1977 (allowed 377 in 11 games)

1969 (allowed 349 in 10 games)

Minor bowl appearances that felt major to the teams at the time, considering

1989 Independence (W)

1990 Freedom (L)

1992 Independence (L)

1981 Garden State (L)

1982 Independence (W)

1984 Hall of Fame Classic (L)

Brief period of optimism


(winning seasons with John Becker as offensive coordinator)


(three bowls in four years under head coach Dave McClain)

Setback after brief period of optimism

Probation, 1980-1982
(for various offenses under John Becker as offensive coordinator)

Sudden death of head coach (Dave McClain died of heart attack during offseason, 1985)

Coach named Don who was fired after 3 years of blowout losses and declining attendance, who won a national championship in a lower division

Don Read

(fired 1977; won D 1-AA title at Montana in 1995 )

Don Morton

(fired 1989; won D-II title at North Dakota State in 1983)

Athletic Director who replaced a Hall of Fame legend

(and damn near ruined everything)

Norv Ritchey
(replaced Len Casanova, 1969)

Ade Sponberg
(replaced Elroy Hirsch, 1987)

Athletic Director who saved the program

Bill Byrne (1982-1992)

Pat Richter (1990-2006)

AP poll appearances, 1964 - 1992

13 of 361 polls (.036)

9 of 361 polls (.025)


Celebrated 1994 conference championship by naming field after coach with losing record who bailed after winning conference championship

Celebrated 1993 win over Michigan by hospitalizing 73 fans after stampede to field

Signature win that finally ended The Suffering (or whatever Wiscy calls it)

Washington, 31-20, 1994

Michigan, 13-10, 1993

Established team as national power in his only Division 1 head coaching job, then became Athletic Director

Mike Bellotti

Barry Alvarez

Quarterback who threw for a zillion yards and set multiple Rose Bowl offensive records, despite losing

Danny O’Neil (1995)

Ron Vander Kelen (1963)

Longtime, bitter rival that has been utterly dominated for years

(14-4 since 1994)

(15-3 since 1994)

1 Oregon was ineligible for bowl games other than the Rose Bowl from 1916-1958 and 1963-1974, but was granted an exception in 1948 season to play in the Cotton Bowl. From 1959-1963 Oregon played as a “Western Independent” and was eligible for other bowl appearances. As a member of the Big Ten, Wisconsin was ineligible to appear in any bowl game other than the Rose Bowl until 1977, when the conference relaxed its postseason rules.






Dammit, Stanford.

Oregon’s post-WW2 record vs Stanford is competitive, with the Ducks holding a 30-27 edge in the series since 1945.

But the record doesn’t show that time and again, the CardIndianals have shot an arrow/sprung a sharpened tree branch into the hearts of Duck fans - either ruining the chances for a bowl bid or otherwise destroying the hopes for a season.  And, strangely, it doesn’t seem work the other way nearly as often.

By my reckoning, there have been eight nine instances since WWII that Stanford has, in one fashion or another, ruined Oregon’s season… and three times Oregon has returned the favor.

  • 1954 – Oregon is ranked #16 in the AP poll and has an eye on a Rose Bowl bid. With future #1 pick George Shaw at QB, the senior-laden Webfoots are seen as ten-point favorites to knock off Stanford in Multnomah Stadium. But versatile fullback Jasper McGee broke a rib in practice and missed the game; Shaw pulled a thigh muscle in the opening victory over Idaho and wasn’t 100%. Stanford, the only team coached by high-tops, was led by future NFL stalwart John Brodie. The Indians scored quickly, took advantage of three Duck fumbles, and held on for an 18-13 win despite being outgained almost 2-1 by Oregon.
    The game was marred by numerous penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct on both teams, and after the final gun a battle royal erupted on the field, with Stanford players engaging Oregon partisans from the stands, resulting in a trip to the hoosegow for one of the visitors. Ducks fell out of the Top 20 the next week and wouldn’t return for two years, finishing the season at 6-4.
  • 1964 – Len Casanova’s best team came into the Stanford game 6-0 and ranked #7 in the AP poll. They hadn’t lost since the previous November 2nd. Never mind that the gaudy record had been earned against teams with an aggregate record of 12-20-3; Eugene was gripped with Rose Bowl fever, and the three upcoming games were seen as mere tune-ups before a Civil War that would decide the conference title. Stanford was 2-4, had just lost to #2 Notre Dame 28-6, had lost seven straight to the Webfoots, and hadn’t won a road game in two years.

    Statistically the game was a blowout – for Stanford. The Tribe outgained Oregon 374-73, had a 21-5 edge in first downs and ran off 78 plays to Oregon’s 45. But Stanford’s drives kept stalling in the red zone; they missed three field goals, allowing Oregon to keep it close. Oregon led late in the 4th quarter, but a short punt from horrible field position gave Stanford the ball on Oregon’s 39 with 54 seconds left. As they’d done all day, the Oregon DBs failed to cover their men; Stanford’s Dave Lewis found HB Bob Blunt streaking down the sidelines, giving them a first down at the Oregon 12. Two plays later, Stanford K Brad Beck’s final attempt was true, giving the Indians an improbably 10-8 victory.
    It’s hard to say with certainty that an Oregon win would have put the Ducks in the ‘65 Rose Bowl regardless of what happened in the Civil War. What can’t be disputed is that the Stanford loss made a CW win absolutely essential for a return trip to Pasadena… and of course that didn’t happen.

  • 1972 – A rare Oregon upset of a good Stanford team. The 1-5 Ducks, in Dick Enright’s first and penultimate season, hosted the #13 “Cardinals.” 17 point underdogs to 4-1 Stanford, the Ducks, who had given up over 2,000 yards rushing over its last six games, held their guests to 25 rushing yards, led 15-0 at halftime with the help of an 85 yard run by Donnie Reynolds, and held on for a 15-13 victory. The two-time Rose Bowl champions, sporting a new, less-racially-insensitive nickname and mascot, never recovered from the humiliation, going just 2-5 in conference.
  • 1976 – Oregon was on a five-game losing streak, and had been outscored 151-39 including the last game, a 0-46 pasting at UCLA. Don Read needed a win over Stanford to keep his job. The stats were there; Oregon outgained the Cardinal, 425-265, and forced 10 punts. But Jack Henderson threw four interceptions, leading to 21 Stanford points, and the team couldn’t crawl out of its self-created hole. Played before a crowd very generously estimated at 18,000 in Autzen, Read’s final home game was a 28-17 loss. It was a testimony to the state of the sport in Eugene that nobody really cared. Read was fired a week later.
  • 1987 – Oregon was 4-2 in Bill Musgrave’s freshman year, and although some of the bloom came off the Rose the previous week (a 41-10 loss to UCLA, where Oregon lost its first national ranking in 16 seasons), the ‘87 campaign could still have lead somewhere. Their upcoming opponents, other than ASU, were mired in losing seasons. This included Stanford, at 2-4. If the Ducks could get to 8-3, they’d see that first bowl bid since 1963. And, again, the stats were solidly on their side – outgaining the Cardinal 332-185, controlling the clock.
    But as usual, Oregon killed itself against the Tree, with four turnovers – three in Stanford’s red zone. And when Brad Muster scored from the three yard line with 39 seconds left, giving the home team a 13-10 victory, you could hear the air coming out of Oregon’s season all the way from Palo Alto. The Ducks managed wins over lowly Wazzu and OSU to finish at 6-5, but there would be no bowl in 1987.
  • 1989 – On the Farm again, and another heartbreaking loss. Oregon was 2-0 and coming off a shocking 44-6 victory at Iowa. Stanford was 0-2, on a seven game losing streak, and had just lost to Oregon State for only the third time in twenty years. Feeling their oats, Duck fans bought up shirts that said “RESPECT – DEMAND IT!” Unfortunately, respect must be earned … and this year Oregon didn’t earn any from the Cardinal, blowing a 17 point fourth quarter lead and losing on a last-second field goal, 18-17. At least this loss didn’t keep Oregon out of post-season play, but the then-unproven-as-a-bowl-team Ducks might have looked much more attractive to games other than the Independence Bowl at 9-2 than they did at 8-3.
  • 1993 – One of the most snake-bitten teams in Oregon history still had an outside chance at a bowl bid, but only if it could get past Stanford and OSU in its last two games. It couldn’t. Stanford came into Autzen, ran out to a 22 point lead and held on for a 38-34 upset victory behind QB Steve Stenstrom, who lit up the beleaguered Oregon secondary for 407 yards, leading to boos and catcalls from the home fans, and more calls for Rich Brooks to be replaced.
  • 1995 – There was no way to know this at the time, but the late September upset of the #12 Ducks , 28-21, in Autzen by Ty Willingham’s Stanford team kept Oregon from repeating as conference champions. The Ducks only lost one other conference game in 1995 (to ASU); if they’d beaten Stanford, they would have been 7-1 and jumped over USC and Washington in the league standings. (Yes, the same would be true if they’d beaten ASU. Sue me.)
  • 2001 — An upset loss at Autzen to the Cardinal keeps Oregon out of the national championship game.
  • 2010 — #4 Oregon gives #9 Stanford its only loss of the season, 52-31.
  • 2011 — #7 Oregon gives #4 Stanford its only loss of the regular season, 53-30.
  • 2012 — #18 Stanford returns the favor from the past two seasons, giving Oregon its first regular season loss in overtime and derailing the Ducks’ national championship hopes.

Now that’s a rivalry.


Time For Yet Another Titanic Battle with UCLA.

Okay, the title is a bait and switch. I’m among many not expecting this weekend’s inaugural Pac-12 Championship Game to be much more than a tune-up for the Ducks and a swan song for UCLA’s coach. But it’s a good excuse to look back at some of the donnybrooks these two teams have played over the years.

The Bruins own a 36-28 edge in the series – no ties, interesting – but the advantage is largely due to a 34-year period, from 1945 to 1979, when UCLA won 20 times and Oregon just three. 27 of the 64 games have been decided by eight points or less, and of those one-possession games, UCLA has won 14 times and Oregon 13. Outside that postwar era, the series has been very competitive.

There have been a lot of barnburners in this series. Herewith, a synopsis of six of the best games:

  • HB Elmer Brown (The Great)1932: UCLA 12, Oregon 7 – Despite being outplayed the entire game, Prink Callison’s Webfoots seemingly had this one in the bag, leading 7-6 with two minutes left, and driving deep into Bruin territory. But the only pass Oregon threw all day went from reserve back Elmer Brown straight to UCLA’s Mike Frankovitch. Oops! Still, the Bruins were backed up to their own seven yard line. Fifteen seconds remained. Then, a dime-store novel finish, in the words of the Oregonian’s L.H. Gregory:

    Frankovitch, the strong-armed quarterback of the UCLA clan, faded back across his own goal line. Down the east sideline darted Ransom Livesay, the number 14 on his once-yellow jersey all but obliterated by mud. Frankovitch heaved the ball. It soared toward the running Livesay as Bowerman from the defensive right halfback position and Elmer Brown, the Oregon safety, also converged on the falling leather. Livesay turned at the 25 yard line just as Brown, leaping to bat down the pass, missed it entirely. That put him out of the play. Livesay reached out, clutching and then hugging the slippery ball to his side, just as Bowerman dived at him for the tackle. Bowerman had his arms around Livesay, but with a lunge, the UCLA back had spun loose and then, splashing down the sideline far ahead of all possible pursuit, sloshed 75 yards through the mud to the winning touchdown.

    (Yes, that was our own Bill Bowerman, failing to wrap up on the tackle.)
  • HB/DB Jay Graybeal1938: Oregon 14, UCLA 12 – In a Hayward Field game that Register-Guard sports editor Dick Strite, in typically reserved fashion, called “the most spectacular game seen behind the drab wooden walls of the University stadium as long as memory recalls”, the Webfoots traded touchdowns with the Bruins, but made their extra points while UCLA missed theirs. A fourth quarter touchdown pass from Jay Graybeal to Ted Gebhardt won the game for Oregon. The game wasn’t decided until Graybeal, the “Pendleton Jackrabbit,” intercepted the final pass from UCLA’s QB Chuck Fennenbock in the end zone as time expired. The home team, using the “Oliver’s Twist” 6-2-2-1 box defense of new HC Tex Oliver, held UCLA’s great Kenny Washington to 33 yards on 13 carries. There was brief Rose Bowl enthusiasm, as the game put Oregon at 2-0 in conference play, but as with the rest of Oliver’s Webfoot squads, the 1938 team finished below .500.
  • Charley Tourville1958: UCLA 7, Oregon 3 – It was to be Oregon’s last game played in Los Angeles until, well, as far as anyone knew, forever; the Pacific Coast Conference was dissolving at season’s end, and the new “Big Five” conference that replaced it had no room for the Ducks. And on this November day, it appeared the goal was to give the fans nothing to remember either team by.
    The Ducks had all season deployed a tenacious D (allowing just six points per game, with three shutouts in seven contests) but an offensive O (three shutouts and just ten points per game). Both traits were in demonstration against the Bruins: After 55 minutes of play, the score at the LA Coliseum was 0-0, in what Al Wolf of the LA Times called “a dreary mish-mash of futility, frustration and foolishness.” Then, all hell broke loose. Oregon kicker John Clarke hit a 17 yard field goal to give the Ducks a lead. A short kickoff gave the Bruins great field position, at their 45; and two long passes from UCLA QB Kirk Wilson to end Phil Parslow put UCLA in position for a nine yard dive by fullback Ray Smith for the touchdown. Three minutes remained, sufficient time for a final drive, but Oregon’s Charley Tourville fumbled the ensuing kickoff return, which was recovered by Jim Steffen of the Bruins – his third takeaway of the game – and UCLA ran out the clock.
    It was Oregon’s fourth loss by seven or fewer points in 1958; they would lose one more like that, in what must have seemed a microcosm of the season, 2-0 at Miami.
  • QB/P Tom Blanchard1970: Oregon 41, UCLA 40 – The talented but paper-thin Ducks, who at 2-2 had one of the nation’s top passing attacks but were otherwise performing to expectations, met a team of Bruins in the LA Coliseum that expected to contend for a Rose Bowl berth after missing out by two points in 1969. Although they held a 21-18 halftime lead, the leaky defense of the Ducks resulted in a three TD second-half onslaught by UCLA’s quarterback Dennis Dummit. With 4:12 left in the game, the form chart was holding, UCLA leading 40-21, and most of the fans had begun making their way to the exits.
    Rolling the dice, Oregon HC Jerry Frei replaced his brilliant but erratic sophomore QB, Dan Fouts, with the veteran but oft-injured punter and reserve QB Tom Blanchard. And things began to click. Blanchard, who hadn’t taken a snap at QB in three games, moved the team downfield in three plays and 33 seconds, hitting Bobby Moore for the TD; 40-28. UCLA coach Tommy Prothro, with under four minutes remaining, figured the game was still in hand. He swapped little-used reserve QB Jim Nader for Dummit. Nader fumbled three plays later, the Ducks recovered on the UCLA 40; two plays after that, Blanchard tossed a bomb to Moore for another score. 40-35. 2:24 left, Ken Woody’s onside kick was recovered by Don Frease for Oregon.
    On third down Blanchard threw a fade to Leland Glass that appeared to be caught by UCLA DB Jerry Jaso at the 11, but officials said Glass and Jaso had attained simultaneous possession; first down at the 10. But Blanchard had played the previous series with a separated shoulder – earned while blocking for Moore on a sweep — and had to come out. Fouts returned, but after a Moore run Fouts was sacked on a roll-out for a ten yard loss. 3rd and 14 with a minute left. Finally, TE Greg Specht flashed open over the middle, Fouts hit him on the numbers, and the Ducks led by a point. After a failed two-point attempt, the Bruins got as far as midfield before the re-inserted Dummit’s final pass was picked off by safety Bill Brauner. Ball game, and in the locker room Frei was wiping away tears of joy. “That was the greatest comeback I’ve ever been around,” he said. “Tonight’s game has to top anything that has ever happened to me.” 
  • P Mike Preacher1984: Oregon 20, UCLA 18 – The 6-2 Bruins, in Rose Bowl contention as usual, seemed to have everything going for them after staging a furious fourth quarter comeback at Autzen. Trailing 17-3, UCLA QB Steve Bono had thrown two touchdown passes, and the Ducks could only counter with a Matt McLeod field goal. Oregon was on a four-game losing streak and had seen star wideout Lew Barnes limp off the field with a knee injury. And the Bruins had one of the country’s best kickers in John Lee, who seemingly never missed. Here we go again was the likely collective thought of the fans in attendance. After a two point conversion, UCLA was within two with 3:21 left. Oregon couldn’t run out the clock, but punter Mike Preacher hit one of the best kicks of his career, a 48 yard howitzer that bit like it was hit with a sand wedge, downed at the UCLA 13. The Bruins had less than a minute left and no timeouts, and – after tailback Gaston Green was held inches short of the marker on fourth down – no chances left. Oregon wound up 6-5 for the year, the first winning season since 1980; UCLA was 9-3 – the Oregon loss cost them the Rose Bowl, but they beat Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.
  • TE Vince Ferry carries RB Sean Burwell after winning catch (AP)1990: Oregon 28, UCLA 24 – Bill Musgrave’s last pass at Autzen Stadium, a 16 yard rifle shot to Vince Ferry with 2:01 remaining, gave Oregon the only lead it saw in the entire game. Oregon OC Mike Bellotti: “He threw his tightest spiral and had his best velocity on the most crucial play of the game… We talked all week about performing at crunch time, and I guess we pretty much did.” The win gave Oregon its first unbeaten home record at Autzen since its opening in 1967. The Ducks had trailed 24-13 with less than ten minutes left, but a Juan Shedrick plunge after a 72 yard drive, along with a two point conversion by Ngalu Kelemeni, put them within three, setting up Musgrave’s heroics. Ferry was a walk-on at tight end, who was only activated because Jeff Thomason had broken his ankle, and the catch was only the fourth of his Oregon career.
    A crowd estimated at a thousand happy students took 15 minutes dislodging the east goal post from its mooring, passing it up and over the stadium fence and across the Autzen footbridge to the campus; it was eventually dumped on the front porch of the Administration Bvilding.

benzduck’s Fun Civil War Facts.

While making the mistake of reading an OLive comment board recently, I ran across this gem:

“OSU frequently rises up and smacks the Ducks when they come in as heavy underdogs… Look for history to repeat itself”

As is my apparent role in life, I started looking into the history. Could this actually be true?

Well, no.

But I did discover a few facts that might come in handy for bar bets or to shut up an annoying orange neighbor.  (Civil War Fun Facts data)

  1. OSU has not come into the Civil War with *more* wins on the season than Oregon since 1978. (Oregon won that year, 24-3.) Yes, Virginia, that is 33 years, and counting.
  2. OSU has pulled off that “big upset” — a win over an Oregon team that came into the CW with a winning record — exactly three times since 1946:
    • 1959 — arguably the biggest upset of the Ducks in postwar history: 8-1 Oregon hosts 2-7 OSU expecting a win and a Rose Bowl bid, but apparently didn’t want it bad enough, losing at Hayward Field 15-7.
    • 1988 — Oregon, in a tailspin after losing Bill Musgrave for the season against ASU, enters the game at 6-4, but without a QB and just wanting to get the season over with; 3-6-1 bavers win, 21-10.
    • 1998 — Oregon, 8-2 but playing the last half of the season without a Pac10-quality running back, fights valiantly against the conditions, the officiating and the bavers, but loses a 44-41 thriller in 2 OT to 4-6 OSU.

That’s it. Three times in the last 65 seasons has OSU risen to smite its dominant oppressor.

Of the other eight “underdog” wins by scrappy, lunchpail-toting OSU, six came in seasons where both teams had losing records, and the other two were between teams within one game of each other in the win column — no big underdogs there.

Admittedly, OSU has more big upset wins over Oregon than the opposite — simply because Oregon hasn’t been an underdog to OSU very often since 1946.

Only seven games have been played where OAC has more than a one-win advantage on the season over the Ducks; that last happened in 1978, when a one-win Oregon team shocked 3-8 OSU, 24-3. (The line on that game was even.)

This is not to say that a win by four-touchdown-underdog OSU is unpossible. Stranger things have happened. But if the baver fan wants to hang his nutria-skin pill box hat on historic precedent, he’s going to have a hard time finding the hook.