University of Oregon alumni and fans took over Los Angeles as 2019 turned into 2020, descending upon the City of Angels to celebrate the Rose Bowl matchup with the University of Wisconsin Badgers.
For some alumni, Rose Bowl week began Dec. 30, when travelers took a chartered flight from Eugene to LA. The flight was just one part of an all-inclusive package provided by the UO Alumni Association, which gave Ducks the opportunity to stay at the team hotel downtown and enjoy chartered buses to the parade, tailgate and game.
The celebrations really started to heat up beneath the Southern California sunshine on New Year’s Eve, when the Oregon Marching Band, the Duck and the Oregon cheerleaders performed for UO fans at the Rose Bowl Bash. The bash was a downtown party at the BLOC, and Ducks took over the event, posing for photos with the Rose Bowl trophy, making their own green and yellow rose crowns and cheering remarks made by alumni association executive director Raphe Beck.
New Year’s Day started early for some alumni, with a 5 a.m. bus from the team hotel to the 131st Rose Parade. Stationed near the start of the parade, they were able to watch the B-2 Spirit bomber flyover, coordinated by UO all-time sacks record holder and current Air Force pilot Nick Reed, a 2008 history graduate.
They also cheered for the UO float and marching band, as well as Rose Parade dignitaries such as Hollywood and Broadway legend Rita Moreno, one of the three grand marshals, as the parade made its way along the opening blocks of the 5.5-mile route.
Beneath clear, blue Pasadena skies, more than 2,300 Ducks got ready for kickoff at the official University of Oregon Tailgate at the Brookside Golf and Country Club, right beside Rose Bowl Stadium. The tailgate was jointly held by the UO Alumni Association, Office of Stewardship and UO Department of Intercollegiate Athletics.
As temperatures rose into the decidedly-not-Eugene-in-January 60s, UO alumni and fans enjoyed live music from the Oregon Marching Band and the Blue Breeze Band, cheered along with the UO cheerleaders and took photos with the Duck, but not before trying out a virtual reality machine that let them experience what it’s like driving the motorcycle onto the field with the Duck at Autzen Stadium before kickoff.
The Rose Bowl itself was unforgettable. Quarterback and Campbell Trophy winner Justin Herbert rushed for three touchdowns, while safety Brady Breeze added another on a fumble recovery. Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor, two-time winner of the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s best running back, entered the game with 32 100-yard rushing performances in Wisconsin colors, and was promptly held below the 100-yard mark for just the ninth time in his career by the Ducks’ defense.
As the clock finally reached zero, fully an hour after the Southern California sunset had been memorably reflected off the UO’s chrome helmets in the broadcast seen by tens of millions around the world, fireworks erupted into the sky above Pasadena, and green and yellow confetti rained down on the stands.
Herbert and Breeze were named the game’s offensive and defensive MVPs, respectively; an emotional Penei Sewell rushed into the stands to hug his family; and Troy Dye joined the band on the field amid the confetti to dance to “Shout” one final time.
And the alumni and other fans? They were celebrating their Ducks being crowned Rose Bowl champions. They celebrated in the stands, and were still there long after the final whistle blew.
They celebrated outside the Rose Bowl Stadium, in the parking lots at post-game tailgates. And, finally, they headed back to downtown Los Angeles to continue the celebration long into the night, victors in “The Granddaddy of Them All.”
“We loved being able to share this Rose Bowl experience with so many dedicated and passionate alumni,” Beck said. “From the moment we left Eugene on a flight filled with Ducks, through the tailgate with a few thousand of our closest friends, to the moment we celebrated the Rose Bowl win together in the stands, it has been a trip to remember.”
—By Damian Foley, University Communications