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The Rose Bowl and me: Part four
2006-12-29 10:00
by Bob Timmermann

Part one
Part two
Part three

January 1, 1996 - USC vs. Northwestern - For the first time in my life, I went to the Rose Bowl where I didn't have a strong rooting interest, but I was able to get tickets again through the same coworker who got me the 1994 tickets. However, the tickets that the Pasadena city council members got to sell to constituents were in the end zone, not at midfield. And the price for tickets was now $75.

I expected that I would go to the Rose Bowl and end up rooting for Northwestern. After all, the Wildcats were such a good story. They were a historically bad program that somehow managed to go 10-1 and win the Big 10 when Ohio State lost to Michigan in its last game. And USC was the opponent. USC was not a good story. They had lost two games (Notre Dame, UCLA) and had a tie (Washington). The Trojans star was Keyshawn Johnson. He was pretty much the same then as he is now.

But when I walked around the park outside the Rose Bowl with my friend, I thought I would run into some friendly Northwestern fans, who would be happy to be making the trip out to Pasadena for the first time since 1949. But that was not the case. The Northwestern fans lacked a lot of qualities that make for good football fans. One of them was manners. You could try to say hello to them, but they wouldn't even look up from their tailgate parties. Their attitude was "Who are you? Do I know you? If I close my eyes, will you go away?" They seemed a very unhappy bunch.

Inside the stadium, the Wildcat fans were worse. They seemed to hate the Rose Bowl facility. They hated the toilets. They didn't like the way the water was served. They didn't like the food. The seats weren't comfortable. The weather was too warm. The San Gabriel Mountains were not shaped correctly.

Yes, the Rose Bowl is an old stadium. But I really doubt that Dyche Stadium (which is now Ryan Field) was a state of the art facility with gourmet food. But the Rose Bowl has had a long history of great teams playing in it. With fans that have been happy to put up with the cramped seating and figured out how to space their fluid intake to avoid getting stuck in lines for the bathroom. But most of it all, it's THE ROSE BOWL.

By the time kickoff rolled around, I had put Northwestern and its fans on an early version of my "Dead to Me" list. Never had so many squandered so much goodwill so quickly. The Northwestern fans had made USC, a team playing in its 29th Rose Bowl, seem a lot more appealling. Go Pac-10! (In the interests of full disclosure, I based my conclusions on the actions of about 10 Northwewstern fans, but I felt it was a good sample size and I just extrapolated everything out.)

Fortunately, it was apparent from the outset that USC had a lot more talent than Northwestern. Johnson roamed through the secondary at ease, catching 12 passes for 216 yards. USC quarterback Brad Otton threw for 391 yards as USC coach decided to not go with his extremely puzzling system of alternating Otton with Kyle Wachholtz.

The Trojans led 24-7 after Daylon McCutcheon picked up a fumble by Brian Musso and ran it back 53 yards for a score. Northwestern got a field goal right before halftime to make it 24-10.

In the second half, Northwestern got its offense going. Running back Darnell Autry started to break off big gains and quarterback Steve Schnur started to find openings in USC's secondary. After a field goal by Northwestern made it 24-13, the Wildcats coach, the always open-minded Gary Barnett, tried an onside kick, recovered it and went down the field for a touchdown and trailed just 24-19. But USC got back on track after Otton threw a 56-yard TD pass to Johnson.

But Northwestern still kept at it, going the length of the field for a touchdown on a one-yard sneak by Schnur set up by a long pass from Schnur to D'Wayne Bates. That made the score 31-26. Northwestern got the ball back and went ahead on Autry's third rushing touchdown of the game. He finished with 110 yards.

USC went back ahead on a field goal to make it 34-32 and then parlayed an interception into a short touchdown run by Delon Washington to make it 41-32 with about two minutes left and held on for the win.

The Northwestern fans gloomily marched out into the night. One hopes that their kind will never have to put up with the horrible inconveniences of the Rose Bowl again. I'm sorry that Pasadena on New Year's Day is not Chicago. For my sake and the sake of all football fans, just stay there. OK?

Coming up next: The underdogs whom nobody seemed to like try to spoil the national championship hopes of the favorite.

2006-12-29 10:37:14
1.   Sam DC
I think Michael Wilbon went to Northwestern.
2006-12-29 10:45:47
2.   Bob Timmermann
Every third sportswriter in America went to Northwestern.
2006-12-29 11:45:33
3.   Linkmeister
2 And every third sportscaster went to Syracuse.
2006-12-29 11:49:40
4.   Sam DC
[hangs head]

[slinks away]

2006-12-29 11:52:01
5.   Bob Timmermann
Interestingly, I have a sister-in-law who is a Northwestern grad. But she never roots for them in any sporting event.
2006-12-29 11:53:59
6.   Penarol1916
Ah Syracuse and Northwestern, the two most overrated journalism schools in the country.
2006-12-29 11:56:59
7.   Bob Timmermann
Isn't a journalism school overrated by definition?
2006-12-29 12:03:28
8.   Penarol1916
7. No, just ones that are considered great, the ones that don't promise you anything but give you decent coverage experience like Missouri and North Carolina are fine.
2006-12-29 12:30:35
9.   Bob Timmermann
My mother always told me that Missouri had a good journalism school. Isn't it the oldest one?
2006-12-29 12:46:53
10.   D4P
Darn, I was hoping you had attended the 1995 bout between Oregon and Penn State, the only Rose Bowl game I've ever attended.
2006-12-29 12:50:26
11.   Bob Timmermann
I watched the 1995 Rose Bowl at my apartment with a friend and we did the complete male football watching experience (without beer however). My apartment was littered with pizza boxes and Chinese food containers. We watched from early in the morning until the Sugar Bowl ended around 9.

It was pretty disgusting. Yet fun!

2006-12-29 12:54:57
12.   D4P
Yet fun!

Chow fun!

2006-12-29 13:18:54
13.   D4P
From where I was sitting, I got a great view of Cristin McLemore vomiting on the field shortly before halftime.
2006-12-29 13:34:41
14.   Linkmeister
11 For about ten years our family held an open house on New Years Day, and one of its features was different televisions in different rooms tuned to different channels showing football games. Of course, this was before cable, so there were only a few bowl games (Rose, Sugar, Cotton and Orange, I think).

Ah yes, those were the days. Making two crockpots full of chili the day before and reheating, as well as grating a couple of pounds of Swiss cheese for Quiche Lorraine that morning.

Boy am I glad that's over with.

2006-12-29 13:37:48
15.   Bob Timmermann
I believe the 1995 Rose Bowl also took well over four hours to play. Oregon passed a lot.
2006-12-29 13:40:43
16.   D4P
Oregon passed a lot

That would have been Danny O'Neill, who passed up the NFL draft to remain in Eugene and work as a youth pastor. I had lunch next to him in a Vietnamese restaurant in Eugene 4-5 years ago. And yes, I do want a medal...

2006-12-29 13:54:30
17.   Bob Timmermann
The 1995 Rose Bowl was a January 2 affair also.

O'Neill was 41 of 61 for 465 yards.

2006-12-29 13:58:27
18.   D4P
61 only seems like a lot when you compare to smaller numbers
2006-12-29 13:59:13
19.   Penarol1916
9. It does, but it doesn't brag about it like Northwestern and Syracuse and it is useful because the students run the local NBC and NPR news affiliates, along with one of the two local dailies, which means they get an early start on covering the oh so exciting world of municipal politics.
2006-12-29 14:00:59
20.   Bob Timmermann
LA Times columnist J.A. Andade is a Northwestern grad.

He mentions it a lot. Although not as much as Michael Wilbon.

2006-12-29 14:16:02
21.   Penarol1916
20. I've noticed a preponderance of columnists went to Northwestern, like their too good to be AP stringers or something, give me those guys anyday.
2006-12-29 15:16:16
22.   Bob Timmermann
It's all part of the Northwestern Mafia. All the J School students there have formed a cabal to take over the world.

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