The last time the Oregon Ducks won the Rose Bowl, back in 1917, players wore leather helmets and the forward pass was relatively new innovation.
Fast forward 95 years to Monday evening, and Boseko Lokombo and his Ducks teammates took to the legendary Pasadena, Calif. turf wearing dazzling mirrored helmets designed by Nike, and boasting a high-octane offence that was equally futuristic.
The trappings may have been flashier, but football is still about advancing the pigskin to the end zone more often than your opponent. Oregon made some history in that respect, knocking off the Wisconsin Badgers 45-38 in a game that set a new Rose Bowl record for points scored.
Lokombo, a sophomore linebacker out of Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat Secondary, was a key contributor – his five solo tackles were fourth-most on the team.
Speaking to The News via cellphone on Tuesday morning, Lokombo said it was a great thrill to play in – and win – the most storied of all the NCAA bowl games, the so-called Granddaddy of Them All.
“I’m still on that buzz that I’m a champion,” he enthused. “I haven’t even slept yet. We went back to the hotel after, and everybody was just in a good mood, wanting to celebrate.”
On a night where the offences could do little wrong, the Ducks had trailed 38-35 heading into the fourth quarter. But they surged ahead ahead on a touchdown by Lavasier Tunei and a field goal from Alejandro Maldonado, and Lokombo and his defensive mates were able to stop the Badgers when it mattered.
The win was particularly sweet for the Ducks in light of the fact they’d come up just short last season in the BCS national championship game, falling 22-19 to Auburn.
“I just took it all in,” Lokombo said. “At one point in the game, I looked at one of my teammates and said, ‘Look at this. This is just beautiful. We’re playing in front of 91,000 people, and we’re going to win this thing.’ It was surreal.”
Lokombo’s parents Leon and Anne-Marie were among the 91,245 in attendance at the Rose Bowl. The family moved to Canada from the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo in 1996 – first to Montreal, then settling in Abbotsford one year later. Amidst the post-game confetti-showered festivities, Boseko sought out his parents in the stands for a moment of private celebration.
“They couldn’t (come down on the field), but I went to them,” he said. “I gave my mom a hug, I gave my dad a hug, and it was nice. It was a really special moment.”
Next season, Lokombo is set to take over the starting strong-side linebacker spot from graduating senior Josh Kaddu on a Ducks squad which figures to be in the national title mix once again. The 6’3″, 232-pounder has already exhibited a knack for making big plays – he’s scored four TDs on defence and special teams over his first two seasons, despite the fact he’s been a backup.
“Really, I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing – keep working hard, keep studying film and being a student of the game,” he said. “And, I need to keep having fun, too. As long as I’m doing those things, everything’s going to be okay. Next year’s going to come, and I’m going to be ready.”