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Its UOs biggest game ever

• Winner could be co-national champ if Miami falls in Rose Bowl

TEMPE, Ariz. Ñ Sprinkles greeted fans of the Oregon Ducks on Saturday, the first day the rabid and relentless Quacker Backers started to gather for the biggest football game in school history Ñ today's Fiesta Bowl against Colorado.

'This is like Eugene,' says Tom Tucker (class of '80), as the Los Angeles resident, who still holds Oregon season tickets, watched the Fiesta Bowl Parade in downtown Phoenix. 'Maybe it'll work in our favor.'

'Go Ory-gone!' screamed one local resident watching the parade, while Duck cheerleaders danced, the band blared out songs and Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer and Athletic Director Bill Moos did their best impressions of Katie Harman waving to the crowds.

But before the locals bundled in coats and blankets could rename their desert Shangri-La 'The Valley of the Gray,' sun broke out Sunday and Duck fans reveled in the two things not experienced in Eugene in the middle of winter: a potential national championship and 75-degree weather.

'I sat there when they were 2-9,' says Erik Hughes, of Eugene (class of '83). 'I sat through the 'Toilet Bowl' ' (the infamous 0-0 Civil War tie of 1983).

'I've not missed a home game since 1978. I never thought I'd see them playing for a national championship. It's wild.'

Bar tabs and burritos greeted Duck fans Monday as they marched up and down Mill Avenue Ñ Tempe's fun hub Ñ partied in local watering holes and chowed down on Southwestern fare.

As about 10,000 gathered for a pep rally, Duck fans worked themselves into a frenzy without the benefit of a bonfire to bounce around. As the New Year approached, pasty-white Oregonians frolicked in a Tempe block party, libations flowing freely.

Today, a game of national significance awaits Duck fans in the Arizona State University stadium nicknamed the 'House of Heat.' The question will be whether the Ducks can replicate what Oregon State pulled off in the same stadium last year: a dominating win.

One Portlander, Dan Goulet (class of '87), says he happily cheered on the Beavers last year because he detested Notre Dame. Screaming for the Ducks will come much easier.

'Mr. Goulet predicts this,' he said, offering the first of many last words on the game: 'Colorado won't be able to run the ball and will have to resort to their passing game.'

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