For BYU, it was a scene reminiscent of the one a month ago, after the Miami game - exuberant fans, flushed by the narcotic of victory, storming the field past a security force as outmanned as the Kuwaitan army.
With one significant difference.This wasn't Provo.
The fans flooding the field ran right by the football players from BYU, as if they didn't exist (much as they'd been treated during portions of the game just concluded), and instead high-fived and low-fived and all-around congratulated the football players from the University of Oregon.
They don't hug trees in Eugene with any more affection than this.
The Ducks had just beaten undefeated (4-0), fourth-ranked Brigham Young by a 32-16 margin in a wire-to-wire victory that was seen by 45,022 people, the third biggest crowd in U. of O. history. These 45,022 came early and they stayed late. Maybe three tried to beat the traffic. It isn't every day you knock off a team driving for a national championship. It isn't every day you play a lot like a national champion yourself.
For its part, BYU looked roughly as happy as Miami when it left Provo after dumping its No. 1 ranking in Utah Lake on the way out of town. The Cougars dumped their No. 4 ranking in the Willamette River on the way out of town.
When the game ended, there was one break for the BYU players. A woman sports writer was in the press box and wanted locker room access. In such a situation, BYU's policy, because of its church association and standards, is to avoid discrimination by closing the locker room to media of all sexes.
The team was thus left to mourn in private. Only a few selected players were brought into a makeshift interview area on the stairs outside the locker room to meet the press.
Quarterback Ty Detmer was one of them. He faced the tough questions stoically.
Eugene sportscaster: "You had five interceptions, would you call that a rough day?"
Detmer (sighing): "I guess you would."
There's not much to say after a loss that doesn't sound like whining.
Although they didn't dwell on them, the Cougars did have several alibis:
- The artificial turf in Autzen Stadium had been watered before the game, causing them to slip more than normal (especially halfback Matt Bellini, who slipped every time he touched the ball).
- Detmer had a sore right hand he injured in practice on Monday. He hadn't thrown a pass since Tuesday, a fact that had been kept secret by BYU for obvious reasons.
- A stiff breeze didn't help a less-than-100-percent Detmer ("you can't have a wobble with a wind like that.").
- And Oregon had taken a remark made by BYU tight end Chris Smith and turned it into a war cry. (In an interview with a reporter from New York's Newsday, Smith had reflected on the Cougars' 62-34 win over San Diego State the weekend previous and said, "expect more next week.").
Smith didn't say Oregon wasn't capable of scoring more than 62 points itself, or otherwise disparage the Ducks.
"It was unfortunate," said Cougar coach LaVell Edwards. "I don't think Chris said it in that light."
The last thing BYU wanted was a team and crowd fueled by righteous indignation.
But that was so much wishful thinking. Not even an ABC-TV telecast kept the people home, and not even Detmer's Heisman Trophy frontrunner status kept Oregon's defense from resembling something other than its former self.
In three previous games, OU's defensive backfield had managed just one interception and the OU line had registered only 10 quarterback sacks.
In this game alone the Ducks got five of each.
And in three previous games, the Ducks had given opponents an average of 146 yards a game on the ground.
In this game they gave up minus-47.
On running plays, BYU would have been better off waving a white flag.
Meanwhile, Oregon quarterback Bill Musgrave, mounting a write-in campaign as a Heisman candidate, was sacked only three times and threw just one interception. In passing yards he was beaten by Detmer, 286 to 442, but in touchdown passes he had three to Detmer's two. And Oregon tailback Sean Burwell, with an 80-yard-a-game average, overachieved his way past the century mark with 104, including 89 yards in the second half.
As Miami had discovered in Provo a month ago, BYU discovered it's tough on you when you lose when you're going for the grand showcase. The Cougars were left with only one consolation as they made their lonely way out of town: they had successfully managed to make every Duck in Oregon ecstatic.