Down on the field, the winning kick sailed through the uprights at exactly 10:12 p.m.
Up in the press box, the first e-mails sailed into my inbox at, well, exactly 10:12 p.m.
That’s e-mails, plural, both sent at the exact moment Wes Byrum’s 19-yard field goal gave Auburn a 22-19 victory over Oregon on Monday night in the BCS national championship game.
Revenge was exact. Revenge was immediate. The Auburn and SEC fans were Nick Fairley, and I was an Oregon offensive lineman, and the bull rush was on.
“In honor of you, Mr. Bill, Waffle House has just announced a new feature item on their menu: Roasted Duck,” wrote Steve in a striking first shot.
Literally seconds later, another one appeared.
“Put what in whose Waffle House? Put that in your West Coast and kiss our [butts]!,” wrote Hunter.
Two rips in the first minute. Another rip just one minute later.
“How’s that Pac-10 thingy working for you now, Bill?” penned Tex.
There were 10 e-mails in the first 10 minutes, 50 by the end of the night, and as I’m writing this column Tuesday afternoon, more than 250 folks have e-mailed to remind me of something that was very clear through Monday night’s chaos and confetti.
In writing that Oregon and Pac-10 football would prevail over Auburn and SEC football, I was as wrong as a Yankee putting ketchup on his grits.
I wasn’t completely nuts — with 2:27 remaining, the teams were tied and Oregon had outgained Auburn by three yards. I wasn’t embarrassingly dumb — with two seconds remaining, the teams were still tied, and only a field goal eventually separated them in one of the closest championship games in history.
But, still, I ran my mouth, and Auburn stuck a fluorescent green sock in it, and today, in honor of the band I chided in my original column, I must admit that southern football doesn’t need me around, anyhow.
I wrote, “Hey, SEC football . . . you’re fixing to get punked by the Pac-10.” Turns out, the only person punked was me.
I wrote that Oregon would defeat Auburn with brains, speed and strength. Turns out, that’s exactly how Michael Dyer, Cam Newton and the Fairley Godfather beat Oregon.
I wrote that in showing how the West Coast is finally ready to dominate the South, “boundaries will be crossed” and “stereotypes will fall.” The only crossed boundary was Oregon’s backfield by Auburn’s defenders, and the Whacked-10 stereotypes were supported with every bit of Oregon trickery.
I had written “War Eagle? War Over” and, well, from the moment that majestic bird soared over the giant flag during the national anthem, the eagle ruled.
Finally, I ended the story by telling all the Auburn and SEC fans that if they didn’t like my prediction, they could put it in their Waffle House and smoke it. But you know what? I still sort of like that line. And by citing it so many times, you SEC folk obviously read my column to the bitter end, giving me a great compliment.
But, man, for the love of the Toddle House omelet, I was wrong, and you rightfully let me know it.
Wrote Christine: “War Eagle! War won!”
Wrote Tim: “Do you like your duck grilled or fried? Go SEC!!!”
Wrote Caraway: “Since the Tigers won and the SEC has run its national title streak to five, I just want to say, Ha!’ . . . I need to get going or I’ll miss all you can eat at the Waffle House.”
Some complained that I didn’t acknowledge my bad prediction in my game column, but the game was bigger than that. Yet believe me, with every Auburn punch, this mea culpa was being written.
So what happened? The same thing that has happened in the last five BCS title games, that’s what. The SEC happened. The combination of speed and strength that exists nowhere else in college football happened.
I knew Oregon was in trouble when LaMichael James was continually touched and tousled before he reached the line of scrimmage. I knew Auburn was in control when both giant Newton and small Dyer ran over the Oregon defenders like they were the Washington State defenders.
The situation became clear at the start of the second quarter, when Fairley crushed Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas on the Auburn three-yard line at the start of the second quarter. A possible touchdown became a field goal, and then Auburn rammed it down Oregon’s gullet on consecutive drives of 68-plus yards, and the tone was set.
I guess there is a reason that no Pac-10 team other than USC has won a national title in 19 years. I guess I will be more careful when touting West Coast teams against any school where the players start the new year by eating black-eyed peas for good luck.
Not that I’ll give up on my beloved region of offense and ahhhs. Not that the southern fans, who were passionate but most polite in their rebuttals, would ever want me to give up.
On Tuesday morning, I attempted to smother my bad prediction with a huge breakfast in a Phoenix area that, believe it or not, has several of the southern-trademark Waffle Houses.
Not that I ate there, of course.