I have been coming across a lot of old games that seem completely outlandish nowadays. Now, it would be easy to cherry pick games from the 50s and say things like “Can you believe the University of Chicago has more Big 10 championships than Indiana and Penn State combined” (true statistic, by the way). My goal is to do these in a recent enough time where you sit back, scratch your head, and wonder how you might have forgotten this event.
Game: 2001 Fiesta Bowl
I’m starting off with the 2001 Fiesta Bowl between the #5 Oregon State Beavers and the #10 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Oregon State had gone 11-1, losing only to the University of Washington. Washington had lost to Oregon, and Oregon had lost to Oregon State creating a three way tie. Washington won the tiebreaker and became the Pac-10’s representative to the Rose Bowl, beating Drew Brees’ Purdue. Oregon took third and beat #8 Texas in the Holiday Bowl.
Notre Dame came into the game with two losses: one to #1 Nebraska and one to #23 Michigan State. They ended the season on a seven game win streak and were able to crack the Top 10 (Notre Dame automatically made a BCS bid if they were able to get into the Top 12).
So what is so ridiculous about that?
Well, Oregon State is currently a bottom two team in the Pac-12, depending on who you ask. While they have been moderately successful over the last 20 years, they have never been considered a powerhouse. Notre Dame, on the other hand, is one of the royalty amongst college football teams. They have 892 wins (second all-time), 11 claimed National Championships, 11 unclaimed National Championships, seven Heisman winners, and enough legends affiliated with them to create their own Mt. Rushmore of college football.
The 2001 Fiesta Bowl pitted these two opposites against each other and Oregon State absolutely rolled Notre Dame, 41-9. The Beavers at one eight-minute stretch in the third quarter scored 29 points unanswered. Notre Dame only put up six yards of offense in the first quarter (155 yards total).
Uh, how did this happen?
This was easily Oregon State’s best team in the last two decades, talent wise. Their starting running back, Ken Simonten, ran for 1600 yards and 19 touchdowns. Their quarterbacks, Jeremiah and Jonathan Smith (relation?), combined for 4300 yards and 37 touchdowns. At first glance it’s remarkable that two quarterbacks could have such success splitting the season nearly evenly. If you look at who they were throwing to, it starts to make sense…
This is Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson and TJ Houshmanzadeh. Between these two, they combined for seven all-star game appearances on the same team in the NFL. They also happened to play for Oregon State at the same time. They were drafted the same year by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2001, as well. With these two, Oregon State was able to rack up 33.7 points per game (good for 18th in 2000). The Beavers defense was able to hold opponents to a mere 17.7 points per game (10th nationally). Notre Dame rolled in at 40th and 42nd, respectively. They really didn’t stand much of a chance.
Tune in next time for another impressively strange occurence.