( COMMENTARY ) BILL MUSGRAVE AND THE 1989 DUCKS ALMOST CAUSED HYPOTHERMIA – Oregon’s First Bowl Game in 26 Years, Battling Tulsa and Frigid Temperatures Was More Than Worth It
Going to a bowl game is an annual ritual for Duck football these days.
Oregon has missed the bowl season just four times since 1989 and only once since 2005.
That single year when the Ducks stayed home ultimately led to the firing of then head coach Mark Helfrich.
A majority of fans likely don’t remember the time when Oregon football and bowl invitations were used in the same sentence – or press release.
In fact, before 1989, being invited to a bowl game, any bowl game, was simply a pipe dream.
And when the Ducks did manage to win their way into the 1989 Independence Bowl, fans quickly realized this may never happen again.
Oregon fans and families across the state, including my own, managed to gather up enough money to travel to Shreveport, Louisiana to witness history where few Ducks have gone before.
The last time Oregon went to a bowl game before the Independence Bowl was 26 years prior in 1963 when it defeated SMU 21-14 in the Sun Bowl.
The Ducks had an inkling that their bowl drought might finally come to an end when true freshman quarterback Bill Musgrave took the Ducks and crushed a good Colorado team in Boulder 44-6.
Musgrave almost pulled out another miracle the following week before Oregon fell 24-14 at No. 6 Ohio State.
That team finished 6-5, but no bowl invitation was extended.
The following year, Oregon began the season 6-1, but Musgrave sustained an injury and the Ducks finished 6-6.
Finally, the following season, Musgrave stayed healthy and Oregon finished 7-4 but still had to cough up money to travel to Shreveport.
Like the university, Oregon fans across the state mustered up the cash to make the 2,200 mile trip to Louisiana.
We were traveling to the warm south, getting away from the cold and rainy Pacific Northwest winters to enjoy some warmer weather and hopefully witness history with a Ducks win.
Mother nature sometimes has a wicked sense of humor and sometimes enjoys throwing a curve ball into the best laid plans.
This was more than a curve ball.
This was a curve, wrapped in a sinker and thrown with a knuckle ball.
The year was 1989 and in the typically mild south, a record cold front landed squarely on top of Shreveport on game day.
Before the scheduled 5 pm kickoff it was already below zero, and the temperature continued to drop from there.
To say we weren’t prepared would be the understatement of the century.
Who knew we’d need gloves for this southern experience. One of our pre-bowl festivities included scouring the city of Shreveport for something to keep our fingers from completely falling off.
That said, the cold weather didn’t stop us, and all fans, from enjoying the bowl festivities including the pep rally.
The pep rally was a tale of two fan bases.
Oregon fans were more than happy to be there, however fans of the Tulsa Golden Hurricane weren’t as jubilant.
It was something that was hard to figure.
Any bowl game was another opportunity to watch one more college football game and to cheer loudly for the home school, especially since the Ducks had such a lengthy period between invitations.
For Tulsa fans, it was almost as if the Independence Bowl was beneath them.
As for the gloves, we finally found some at a K-Mart in Bossier City, a small neighboring town across the river.
The residents of Shreveport were awesome. We marveled at the charm of their southern accent and just the overall friendliness of the host city.
Driving around town, we saw a sign that we still talk about.
It was on an old building and the sign read, “This Ain’t No Entrance. Go T’Other Side!”
The signs were written in the Southern accent which certainly added to the charm of the experience.
There was one waitress at the local coffee shop who would’ve certainly adopted me if she could have.
At least, that’s the way I remember it!
It was quite the adventure and the football game hadn’t even started.
By the time Musgrave scored the winning touchdown and defeated the Golden Hurricane 27-24, we literally couldn’t feel the toes in our feet.
After the game, we stood up and began our winning and joyful walk down the steps of the bleachers. It became abundantly clear walking with frozen toes on our feet, which were also quite numb, was a challenging feat, ( pun intended ) in itself.
We certainly made other trips to bowl games that included much better weather, including a second trip to Shreveport in 1992 where the Ducks lost to Wake Forest.
We also experienced the 1995 Rose Bowl, but no other bowl excursion has ever been quite as memorable as that first one.
~ Don Smalley