With his left hand ballooning after it was crushed by tailback Ricky Whittle's helmet in the third quarter, McLemore was taken by golf cart to the Oregon State infirmary for X-rays. "It took a good 10 minutes, and then they couldn't find an X-ray technician," said McLemore, who was jeered during the journey. "Their students were saying stuff like, 'There goes that great receiver. He's not so great—he's sorry. You suck, McLemore.' I was thinking, like, You guys are mean."
McLemore returned to action after his delayed X-rays came up negative. Trailing 13-10, the Ducks took over on their own 30-yard line with 4:42 to go. On first down O'Neil called a play-action pass designed for McLemore, who trapped the ball against his chest—sparing his bad hand—for a 31-yard gain. Two plays later O'Neil uncorked his prettiest pass of the day, a 21-yarder to McLemore on the left sideline. Two plays after that, with the defense overly conscious of McLemore, O'Neil lofted a screen pass to Philyaw, who bolted 19 yards for the winning score.
On its final possession Oregon State drove from its 15 to Oregon's 21—converting a fourth-and-one in the process—before losing the ball on downs. While most Ducks grabbed roses, several seized Brooks and bore him across the field. Brooks looked sheepish about the whole business and relieved when his players put him down. "One week you've got rope burns on your neck," he said, "the next you're somebody's hero."
O'Neil, the other Duck whose public-approval rating soared over the course of the season, was being interviewed by ABC and ESPN. And over in the north end zone, with his right hand clamped to his forehead as if he were in shock, stood a balding, middle-aged man. It was O'Neil's father, Dan, and he was a basket case. The O'Neils' house is 45 miles from the Rose Bowl. The game was five weeks off, but it wasn't too early to make plans. "We'll take the 405 right up to 5, then the 57 up to the 210," said Dan. His hand never left his forehead as he spoke in an unsteady voice for a generation of Duck fans: "We won, and we're going to the Rose Bowl. I was there. I saw it."