The selection for my favorite college football bowl game memory is one of mixed emotions. The 2002 Fiesta Bowl was set against the backdrop of the 10-1 regular season record by the Oregon Ducks. They had just finished winning their first pac-10 conference championship since 1994, as well as finishing #2 in both the USA/today coaches’ poll and the Associated Press Poll. However, their loss at home to an average Stanford team kept them out of the national title game due their #4 BCS ranking. Colorado, who had just beaten two top five teams, Nebraska and Texas, felt they belonged as well. Instead, the BCS computer system spewed out Nebraska as the #2 team in the country, and consequentially, the opponent of the #1 Miami Hurricanes. This left the Fiesta Bowl Matchup; the #3 Colorado Buffaloes against the #4 ranked Oregon Ducks.
Proving They Belong
It did not take long to see who had the bigger chip on their shoulders. After a touchdown by the Buffaloes that vaulted them to an early 7-0 lead, Oregon promptly evened the score with a touchdown of their own on a touchdown on a 28 yard touchdown pass to Kennan Howry. The defense showed up this day as well. After the Ducks had tied the score, they held Colorado on second-two, and third-1 to set up their next drive. CB Steve Smith ended the day with 3 interceptions, and the defense as a whole recorded 4 sacks.
Steamrolling the Buffaloes
On the next UO offensive series, Harrington proceeded to show why he was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2001. A 79 yard bomb to wide receiver Sammie Parker was the order of the day to put Oregon ahead to stay. It was the most majestic and beautiful pass I have seen to date, as Harrington laid the pigskin right onto the finger tips of Parker at the 35 yard line. I remember thinking at this point in the game that the momentum was Oregon’s. Two more touchdown passes by Harrington, as well as an inspiring run for a TD by senior running back Maurice Morris accounted for more of the Oregon onslaught.
Oregon head Coach Mike Belottie’s prior sentiments concerning Oregon’s absence in the BCS national championship game were echoed by Harrington at the end of the 38-16 throbbing. “We made a statement today,” Harrington said. “Thirty-eight unanswered points and shut down the hottest team in the country. We showed we deserved to be playing for a share of the national championship.” I, as well as millions of Mighty Oregon faithful could not agree more.