EUGENE, Ore. -- When Portland truck driver Sandy Ebsen wasn't jumping up and down screaming, he was holding his head in his hands.
"I don't know if my heart can take this," he moaned Monday night as he watched his beloved University of Oregon Ducks go from leading, to trailing, to tying and finally losing the BCS championship game to Auburn 22-19. "I like it best when it's a blowout."
Ebsen and childhood pal Donnie Jackson, a Lane Community College student, were among about 3,500 fans who watched the biggest game of their lives on big screen TVs in McArthur Court, Oregon's soon-to-be-former basketball arena famed for its thundering acoustics.
Duck fever has swept Eugene for a month, since their Civil War win against rival Oregon State made them No. 2 in the Bowl Championship Series.
"We've been waiting all month for this," said Ashley Taylor of Sacramento, Calif., who didn't miss a home game all season. "It's bigger than Christmas and New Year's."
At the start of the game, the crowd cheered everything from the Ducks' neon yellow socks to news that the grass for the game had been grown in Oregon. But by the fourth quarter, spirits were lagging as the Ducks trailed 19-11.
At Taylor's, a bar just off campus, smokers watched on two small TVs outside, the sound carrying into the street, while inside fans were surrounded by screens big and small tuned to the big game.
Though Alaskan fisherman Max Ruehle held out hope for a win, businessman Kenneth Babbs, a 1981 Oregon grad, was more realistic. "I told everybody we've gotta play a perfect game, with no penalties and no turnovers, and we've already had two turnovers," he said at the end of the third quarter.
Back at Mac Court, freshmen Victoria Kerkhove of Brentwood, N.H., and Mary-Elizabeth Hentschel of Walnut Creek, Calif., could no longer stand the tension and left early, convinced their presence was jinxing their team.
"It's not gonna happen," said Kerkhove as they walked quickly past the graveyard bordering he arena. "Shut up, shut up!" rejoined Hentschel.
Inside, Ebsen was alternately chewing on his pom-pon handle and burying his head under the bright yellow streamers when a Duck knocked the ball loose from an Auburn running back and the Ducks recovered.
When Oregon scored a touchdown, followed by a 2-point conversion, to tie the game, Ebsen was jumping up and down and hugging Jackson. They each made the signature "O" with their hands together and arms outstretched as the place erupted in noise.
But when Auburn kicked the field goal to win with seconds left, the two were hauled back to earth and the rest was silence. "Good game," said Ebsen. "All I can say is heartbreaking."