College Football's House Of Pain

What is the most painful loss in college football history? According to ESPN, it was Arkansas’ 15-14 defeat against Texas in 1969, which seems like a reasonable selection. But what was the most painful moment for the Huskies or the Cougars or the Ducks or the Beavers?

ESPN weighs in on those questions as well, as part of its House of Pain series. It ranks the 100 most painful losses in college football history, and for a change recognizes — kind of — that sports were actually invented prior to 1979. ESPN also picks the most painful loss for each program.

For Oregon, Pac-10 beat writer Ted Miller selects the 2007 loss at Arizona, when Dennis Dixon got hurt, with honorable mention (dishonorable?) to the Stanford loss that spoiled a perfect season in 2001. Those are reasonable choices, considering that the Ducks were nationally prominent those seasons. Yet there’s one loss that was less notable on a national scale but might have been more painful for the Duck faithful.

In 1988, Oregon was 6-1 and already had defeated Washington when it led Arizona State 14-0 in the first quarter. That’s when Bill Musgrave scrambled up the middle for a gain and got tackled from the side by Rodney Dillard. Musgrave got up, went to the huddle, came to the line of scrimmage, and then called timeout. He went to the sideline, left the game, and went to the locker room. A few minutes later, word arrived in the press box: Broken collarbone, Musgrave done for the season.

I was there that day, and I think it might have been my first college football assignment as a professional sportswriter. The whole thing was crushing for Oregon fans. Here was a program that hadn’t been to a bowl game in 25 years, and Musgrave had them thinking of a spectacular season. Without him, Oregon stumbled to a 6-6 finish.

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