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War for the Rose
December 08, 2008
The 112th meeting between Oregon State and Oregon was one of a handful of showdowns last week in which heated rivals squared off with much more than bragging rights at stake
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December 08, 2008

War For The Rose

The 112th meeting between Oregon State and Oregon was one of a handful of showdowns last week in which heated rivals squared off with much more than bragging rights at stake

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In a statement expressing his disappointment, Longhorns coach Mack Brown noted that his players would be excluded from a championship game featuring teams they'd beaten (by a combined 35 points at that). Somewhat less crestfallen, Texas Tech coach Mike Leach proposed last Saturday, with a twinkle in his eye: "I think they should break that three-way tie based on graduation rate." By wild coincidence, the Red Raiders' football players have a Big 12--leading 79% graduation rate, according to a recent NCAA report. The Longhorns and the Sooners are at a distant 50% and 46%, respectively.

AT THE other end of the rivalry spectrum, opposite such tense and hostile pairings as the Red River Rivalry, the Border Showdown (Kansas 40, Missouri 37) and the Big Game (Ohio State 42, Michigan 7 on Nov. 22) is the nation's oldest, most sublime intersectional matchup. With "the championships and traditions" that USC and Notre Dame bring, says freshman tailback Marc Tyler, one of a handful of Trojans recruited by both schools, "this is a rivalry built on mutual respect." (Except when the teams are shoving each other in a near-rumble that breaks out 45 minutes before the kickoff, as happened last Saturday.)

Fighting Irish quarterback Jimmy Clausen played with Tyler at Oaks Christian High. Several days before the game Tyler wished Clausen well, expressing his hope that the quarterback would "make it out of the Coliseum alive."

Alive, yes. Victorious, no. So dominant was the Trojans' defense in a 38--3 win that the question was not whether the Fighting Irish would get into the end zone. It was whether or not Charlie Weis & Co. would get a first down, which Notre Dame did—on the last play of the third quarter.

"Emotions run high during rivalry games," said USC safety Taylor Mays, another Trojan who considered going to Notre Dame. "Anything can happen."

How else to explain the goings on between the hedges at Sanford Stadium, site of one of the season's most dramatic in-game reversals? Trailing favored Georgia at the half 28--12, first-year Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson assured his players they would score on their first possession of the third quarter.

"I didn't know it'd be on one play," he would say later. Running back Jonathan Dwyer's 60-yard TD dash sparked a ridiculously dominant third quarter, during which the visitors, who had not beaten the Dawgs since 2000, rushed for 201 yards and scored 26 points on their way to a 45--42 victory.

Only the strong feelings engendered by a time-honored feud can explain the following result: Eagles 56, Chippewas 52.

The 2--9 Eastern Michigan Eagles were jacked up to send recently fired coach Jeff Genyk off with a win, and that was before Butch Jones, coach of the 8--3 Central Michigan Chippewas, allegedly taunted one of Eastern's fired assistants before the game.

The result: another pregame shoving match, followed by a historic performance by Eagles junior quarterback Andy Schmitt, whose 58 completions (in 80 attempts) set an NCAA record. Schmitt threw for 516 yards and five touchdowns in the upset, of which Genyk remarked, unnecessarily, "We played with a tremendous amount of emotion."

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