And despite the exchange of barbs in print, the enthusiasm remained subdued on the Oregon campus last week, even in the face of the biggest football game in nearly four decades, but this time the restraint may have had less to do with apathy than it did with uncertainty. O'Neil's theory was that "the students have never experienced this kind of success. People aren't sure what to do."
That much was apparent at Friday's blink-and-you-missed-it pep rally in a student bookstore. A dozen band members, four cheerleaders and the Duck mascot took a lap around the store before stopping at the magazine rack, where the unholy racket drove away several disgusted browsers. Fourteen minutes after the music had started, it stopped. The band filed out. People had classes, it was explained by a drummer.
More seasoned Duck fans were simply too scared to celebrate. "I've lived in this state 20 years," said Thorn. "This team has broken my heart before." In his paper's offices Thorn posted a memo that decried the premature bandying about of "the R word." If you must speak of it, said the memo, "say only 'postseason action' or 'the bowl that shall remain nameless.' "
There were other things to deal with, anyway. Among Friday night's cultural offerings around Eugene were a production of the Seven Keys to Baldpate at the Very Little Theater, concerts by the Oregon String Quartet at Beall Hall and Skankin' Pickle at WOW Hall, and a Civil War bonfire in a parking lot outside Autzen Stadium.
It was a bonfire with a Eugene flavor. Because of strict city ordinances, bonfires are forbidden. Barbecues, however, are quite all right, so an hour before the conflagration, a fire marshal told Rhinard, "Look, I'm on your side here. But you've got to make it look like a barbecue." Rhinard forthwith dispatched several underclassmen to a grocery store for weenies and marshmallows.
The barbecue was a huge success, at least by Oregon standards. Forgetting himself, Rhinard seized the microphone and announced to a delighted crowd of more than 300, "This is the school's first bonfire since 1962!"
Said a 40-ish man at the edge of the pyre, "It is not, however, the school's first fire since then." The speaker was Jim Noel, class of '74, who pointed out that during the Vietnam war, Oregon's ROTC building had been torched.
A day before the celebratory bonfire, Noel, a lawyer for ESPN and still a devoted Duck fan, had been en route to Australia from Connecticut with his wife and three children for a vacation that had been a year in the planning. But when the Noels got to San Francisco, he told his family, "See you in a couple of days," and got on a plane for Oregon. "When the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup last spring, someone held up a sign that said, NOW I CAN DIE IN PEACE," Noel said. "That's how I'll feel if we win tomorrow."
It was certainly no lock. The Beavers, with a wishbone offense that is the bane of every defensive coordinator in the Pac-10, came into the Civil War flush with confidence after dominating Washington State 21-3 the week before. Oregon had had just two touchdowns against Oregon State in the last four years.
The Ducks eked out two more on Saturday. Both were pass receptions by tailback Dino Philyaw, the second of which had been set up by wideout McLemore, whose adventure-filled second half also included a guided tour of the Beavers' campus and a taste of the ill manners that attend the Civil War.