' ' Cinema Romantico: My Favorite College Football Games: Game 9

Saturday, October 26, 2019

My Favorite College Football Games: Game 9

December 1, 2007: Hawaii - 35 Washington - 28

A couple college football seasons ago, historically irrelevant Central Florida went undefeated and won the Peach Bowl* (*Top 5 Bowl Game name) against the only team that beat the team that won the Playoff. UCF, left out in the cold by the powers-that-be, declared itself National Champion anyway. If it was a flex, it was also steeped in the sort of cavalier whimsy college football once displayed more toward titles, a la Richard Nixon bestowing a Presidentially contrived national championship plaque upon Texas after beating Arkansas in 1969’s Game of the Century. A significant chunk of college football culture, on the other hand, excoriated UCF for not knowing their place, which merely reminds us that despite the playoff’s progressivism, most fans persist as conservative classists, paying fealty to the inherent power program oligarchy. I’m something in-between. I am vehemently anti-playoff yet fervidly pro-UCF. Because while I understand Central Florida’s yearning for inclusion, just as I understand why, so many years later, the 1975, pre-Pac 10 version of Arizona State remains irate for going 12-0 but finishing second behind once-beaten Oklahoma, I nevertheless contend that what sets this sport apart is how its literally perfect seasons can be figuratively perfect too, totally, gloriously self-contained. In “every other sport”, to quote the sports conformists, only one team ends with a win; in college football, the 1999 Marshall Thundering Herd, twenty years on, remain championship-less but also 13-0. Glory hallelujah.


In one way, 2007 was a tough college football season for me, my beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers descending into their sustained mediocrity. Indeed, in a confluence of fate I still respect, the exact same week I had my appendix removed, Nebraska was demolished by USC, initiating a downfall so swift and complete it remains difficult to fathom. The “famed” Victory Scotches I imbibe after most Nebraska victories were scarce that season, and their emotional opposite, Defeat Scotches, seemed pointless since their losses were so thorough and undramatic. If my favorite part of watching Nebraska Football is living and dying on each play, almost every 2007 contest was a mere flatline. As such, I transferred all my pent-up emotion with no place to go to Hawaii, whom I had fallen in love with a year earlier for its high-flying run & shoot offense piloted by quarterback Colt Brennan, outsider status and best logo in all of sports. Most of their games, of course, kicked off on Hawaii–Aleutian Standard Time, but I stayed up (very) late to watch them anyway. And I saw their overtime win against Louisiana Tech too, where the sight of (Rainbow) Warrior coach June Jones wearing a lei in Ruston, Louisiana colorfully and innately embodied college football’s multiculturalism.

No game was as electric and dramatic as the last, a 21-point comeback against Washington not completed until 44 seconds remained, deep into the Hawaiian night (Midwestern morning), securing the (Rainbow) Warriors an undefeated regular season. That earned them a trip to the Sugar Bowl where they got whipped, a coach turning back into a pumpkin and all that, leading scads of the kinds of fans for whom complaining supersedes joy to insist they were frauds all along. They weren’t, of course, because the goal was always simply 12-0, competing against their own sense of excellence rather than against some inane set of computerized rankings, something far apart from dull conversations about resumes (!), like college football is a white collar job interview, and the whim of angry mainlanders for whom everything means nothing if you’re not #1. In retrospect, I sort of wish they had gone to, like, the Emerald Bowl instead and cut Oregon State to pieces. Even so, I’ll always have that Washington game, Brennan’s 40 yard strike to Jason Rivers for the tying touchdown that I still think is the best throw I’ve ever seen, and my 2 AM Victory Scotch, raised by the light of my Christmas tree to the 2007 Hawaii (Rainbow) Warriors, my favorite non-Nebraska college football team of all time.

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