By Jason Krump
Hard to believe it's been 16 years.
"Seems like yesterday," said Mike Price.
"It was a great yesterday."
Price, head coach of the Cougar football program from 1989-2002, was reflecting back on one special season during his tenure.
There are countless memories to reflect on, but when asked, one particularly stands out.
During the second half of the Rose Bowl game, Price went out on the field to check on Steve Gleason, who was shaken up on the previous play.
"The sun was setting, and it was just eerie," Price remembered. "The crowd was quiet, 102,000 people there, and national television.
"The pressure that these kids were under just dawned on me,” Price remembered. “First time in my life, I ever thought of the pressure. I just stood there and looked around and you can cut the pressure with a knife.
"I’ve never done that before."
The 1997 team did a lot of things never done before in the annals of Cougar history, most notably, earning the program’s first Pac-10 Championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl, the first for the program in 67 years.
“That ’97 team was good,” Price said. “It was just such a special season.”
And the first inkling Price had that the ’97 season would be one like no other was after the 28-21 victory at USC in the second game of the season, the program’s first win at Los Angeles in 40 years.
“Beating USC, at USC, was something that was so difficult to do in past seasons,” said Price. “I had an idea that this team is going to be real special.”
And the memories of that USC win came flooding back when Price saw the 2013 edition of the Cougars defeat USC at the Coliseum.
Price watched the game in New Orleans with his two sons, Eric and Aaron, the latter a graduate assistant on the 1997 coaching staff.
"It brought back so many memories,” he said. “I had tears in my eyes watching that game. I was so happy for these kids on this team.
“It brought back some great memories.”
And as the time since that season grow longer and longer, what is the lesson Price believes the 1997 season can provide future Cougar generations?
“Don’t give up. Don’t give up.”