It was just a hit, only a hit. On September 15, 1984, two teams on the rise – Oregon and Colorado – met at Autzen Stadium. In the third quarter, Buffalo TE Ed Reinhardt caught a pass over the middle, rumbled 19 yards for a first down and went down after banging into two Oregon linebackers.
Even though the hit looked routine from the stands, Reinhardt lay on the turf for a couple of minutes before stumbling off the field. Five minutes later, he collapsed and was removed from the field on a stretcher. At the hospital, Dr. Arthur Hockey, the neurosurgeon who operated on Reinhardt said, “His prognosis is uncertain. He still could not survive.” After several weeks in a coma, Reinhardt survived. Now at 47, his right side remains paralyzed, he walks with a limp and speaks in short sentences. Oregon won that day, but the result was secondary to the impact on a young man’s life.
Fast forward to January 1, 2002 — the Fiesta Bowl; in a surreal moment I spied a young man, a Golden Buffalo fan, carrying a placard that read “Mike Bellotti is a c********r” up the ramp to Sun Devil Stadium. I still can’t imagine what Bellotti did to earn that much hatred. Colorado was third in the BCS rankings, and Oregon fourth, but many pundits said Oregon should have been playing Miami for the BCS Championship. Instead, Colorado was our consolation prize. It was a tight game in the beginning and the Buffs scored first. They were the Big 12 bullies and their fans hooted and pointed at us. “No chance,” they yelled. “You ain’t got no chance.” Ah, but this was the Ducks’ day. By the third quarter the contest was out of reach. The highlight of the game was a run by Maurice Morris when he rolled over a defender and without touching knee or elbow to the turf, regained his feet and sprinted 49 yards to the end zone. Oregon crushed Colorado 38-16. Take that, east coast bias.
Now, Oregon faces Colorado again. Oregon is the top dog and Colorado struggles for respectability. For Oregon, though, this is a make or break game. If they want to play for a National Championship, the Ducks must not stumble — not once. Colorado’s defense may be 103rd in the nation, but the Ducks cannot afford to take any team lightly. Look at what the Beavers did to the sixth-ranked Sun Devils. The Duck mantra must be “survive and advance.” Let’s hope this game becomes a good memory for the Ducks.
Top Photo by Oregon Daily Emerald