Rivals still reveling in their college ties

The Baltimore Sun

When the California Golden Bears and Oregon Ducks met in a Pac-10 showdown almost two months ago, there were three interested observers about 3,000 miles away.

Kyle Boller, a California alumnus, and Haloti Ngata and Demetrius Williams, who both went to Oregon, watched the game with the kind of intensity they usually reserve for studying game film.

And after the Golden Bears emerged victorious with a 31-24 win in Eugene, Ore., on Sept. 29, Boller rejoiced at the thought of his just reward: a free meal funded by Ngata and Williams.

"They've got to take me to dinner," the quarterback said with a wide grin on his face. "I get to make it up [the dining venue]. We haven't gone out yet, but we will."

The wager illustrates the allegiance Ravens players have to their college teams. No matter how long the players have been away from their respective campuses, their loyalty to their schools does not waver.

That affinity explains how rookie linebacker Prescott Burgess found tight end Daniel Wilcox's college jersey in his locker days after Wilcox's Appalachian State upset Burgess' Michigan, 34-32, in the season opener Sept. 1.

"It's a huge connection," Wilcox said of players' ties to their colleges. "I think it's something you grab onto and stick with it. ... I always want to let people know what schools I went to."

Added linebacker Terrell Suggs, whose Arizona State Sun Devils will meet cornerback Chris McAlister's Arizona Wildcats on Dec. 1 in their annual "Duel in the Desert": "That's still pretty personal because that's your alma mater. That's where you come from. People up here still take that pretty seriously. We all do."

Last year, running back Cory Ross was forced to wear Kelly Gregg's Oklahoma jersey and hat after the defensive tackle's Sooners beat Ross' Nebraska Cornhuskers, 21-7, in the Big 12 Conference championship game.

This year, Gregg is the one who has to pay after Oklahoma dropped a 27-24 decision to the Colorado Buffaloes on Sept. 29.

"I owe [fellow defensive tackle Justin] Bannan a case of beer from the OU-Colorado game," Gregg said. "I better get that taken care of."

A few rivalries have a more personal touch. Long snapper Matt Katula and kicker Rhys Lloyd were juniors in 2003 when Katula's Wisconsin Badgers and Lloyd's Minnesota Gophers tangled for Paul Bunyan's Axe, a rivalry that dates to 1890.

Lloyd kicked a 35-yard field goal with no time left on the clock to give Minnesota a 37-34 victory. What happened next is best explained by Katula.

"He knows it's good, he turns, he hops over our bench, grabs [the axe] out of the case, and just starts running around the Metrodome with it," Katula recalled. "That was my first memory of Rhys. Then when we came in together as rookies, I thought, 'Oh God, it's the guy who jumped over our bench and ran around.'"

Said Lloyd: "I can hop a bench any day of the week, but I cleared this thing by a good 3 or 4 feet because I wanted to make sure that I got over, because if I didn't, I probably would have looked a bit stupid. So that was the main goal."

Tight end Quinn Sypniewski conceded that the rivalry between Colorado and Nebraska borders on hate.

"There's a deep dislike, a passionate dislike," he said, adding that Colorado's scout team wore Nebraska uniforms and helmets and stretched on their own in the week preceding the Nebraska game. "We just pounded on them."

There is, however, an unspoken rule when it comes to making a wager on games: No matter how lopsided a matchup appears to be, no points are offered and none is accepted.

"There is no such thing as that," said Ross, who vowed to seek out Bannan and Sypniewski before Friday's Nebraska-Colorado game. "The game is won on that day. All that underdog stuff just makes the game that much bigger. Any Saturday is a chance for a team to win."

For Ngata and Williams, the sting of losing the bet to Boller had been lessened by Oregon's surge to the No. 2 ranking in the BCS standings - until the Ducks lost to unranked Arizona last Thursday and dropped to No. 9.

Both said they intend to buy the quarterback dinner, but where to go is a topic of negotiation.

"We're taking him to Burger King, man," Williams half-joked. "Maybe we'll order in some Chinese food for him. But more than likely, he's going to have us take him out somewhere real, real nice and expensive. I already know. He'll order everything on the menu."


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