By ROLAND HERRERA
I have always been a big sports fan but my favorite sport to follow is college football – specifically Oregon football. I have been blessed to attend some great Duck games all over the west and even when they lost the opening game of the 2010 season to LSU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
I had never been to a Rose Bowl game so when the Ducks made it to the inaugural semifinal playoff game of course I set my sights on Pasadena.
As a young man, I still remember the 1968 Rose Bowl when my hero (at the time) O.J. Simpson had a memorable game leading USC past Indiana 14-3. Then there was the 1970 Rose Bowl when Jim Plunkett led Stanford to a huge win over Ohio State, 27-17.
In 2010 the Ducks made their first appearance since 1995 but I couldn’t attend. They lost to Ohio State but redeemed themselves in 2012, beating Wisconsin.
After some convincing and using the “once in a lifetime” strategy, this would be the year we make the trip…and following Marcus Mariota’s emotional Heisman acceptance speech, we had to be there.
The Duck Rally in Santa Monica was unbelievable with more than 4,000 people there to cheer and party with “Puddles” the Duck Mascot, the cheerleaders, the marching band and alumni. There were plenty of Keizer folks there (Martins, Yamakas, Walkers, Morris, Butlers, Santos). It was all about yellow and green.
The best was yet to come.
The Rose Bowl stadium is a beautiful sight to see. I thought of all the times I had watched the classic stadium on TV, but here we were taking pictures in front of the famous granddaddy of them all.
We had great seats around the 15-yard line and were next to a some very nice Florida State fans. You could feel the excitement and anticipation. Looking around at 95,000 people was incredible.
The first half was tense but I had the feeling it was going to be alright. Our section was full of fun people from Oregon having a blast.
The Ducks scored six straight times they touched the ball in the second half, the last four on Florida State turnovers. Boom!
Speed won the day. The Duck defense had a great game, Darren Carrington did nicely, Mariota was Mariota and it was just a matter of time before mistakes ruined FSU’s day.
Aloha athlete Thomas Tyner had a good game. After his 21-yard touchdown run, the Ducks were riding high and the crowd was going nuts.
The better team won.
The whole experience was fantastic. If you have the opportunity, it’s well worth it. It is now off my bucket list. Olyvia and I thought it would be a once in a lifetime opportunity, but here we are ready for the natty (National Championship game in Arlington).
We leave on Friday and thanks to my nephew in Texas, we got some pretty good seats.
Is this a great country or what? Go Ducks!
(Roland Herrera is a Keizer city councilor.)