Originally created 12/31/01

Harrington, Pesavento took different paths to Fiesta showdown



TEMPE, Ariz. -- The two Fiesta Bowl quarterbacks took far different routes to the last and largest game of their college careers.

Oregon's Joey Harrington came down Broadway, a flashy Heisman Trophy finalist with a flair for the dramatic.

Colorado's Bobby Pesavento took a bumpy back road, mostly as a reserve until well into his senior season, when he took command of an offense that steamrolled Nebraska and Texas to win the Big 12 title.

Harrington is "Joey Heisman" or, as his teammates refer to him, "The Princess," because he can't be touched during practice. Before the season began, his photo adorned a giant poster in Manhattan to tout his Heisman candidacy.

"Joey Harrington probably had more pressure on him coming into this season than any football player in the nation due to the 100-foot poster in New York," coach Mike Bellotti said. "He obviously backed that up with a tremendous season."

Harrington, 24-3 as a starter for the Ducks, passed for 2,414 yards and 23 touchdowns while being intercepted just five times and was named Pac-10 offensive player of the year. The statistics were good but not mind-boggling, largely because of the Ducks' strong running game.

Most impressively, Harrington has directed the Ducks to 10 fourth-quarter comeback victories, four this season.

"We haven't played a guy who can just will his team back in the fourth quarter," Colorado free safety Michael Lewis said. "This guy has done it numerous times."

In Tuesday's game, Harrington will return to the scene of his greatest comeback, when he led Oregon back from 14 points down in the final five minutes and threw for a career-high 434 yards in a double-overtime victory over Arizona State.

"My energy level rises but I get calmer, if that's possible," Harrington said of his late heroics. "What a lot of people tend to do is get real tight and get all psyched up and take themselves out of their game.

"What I try to do is create an energy, create an excitement, but at the same time keep everybody focused and realize it's still just a game, that we have to move the football like we have been all year."

Off the field, Harrington plays jazz piano and is at the center of college life. He can be found in a red wig in the middle of the raucous student section at Ducks basketball games.

"On the field, he's real intense. He has his task at hand and he knows what he wants and tries as hard as he can to get it," wide receiver Keenan Howry said. "Off the field, he's kind of goofy."

There were no 100-foot posters for Pesavento, just a postage stamp-size mug shot in the media guide. He first attended Miami of Ohio for two years, one as a redshirt freshman, then went to Fort Scott Community College.

By the time he arrived at Colorado in 2000, he had three years of college behind him. He started two games as a junior, but was mostly relegated to a backup role until sophomore starter Craig Ochs went down with an ankle injury against Oklahoma State on Oct. 27.

"I thought I was going to come in and start right away, and things didn't work out," Pesavento said. "I did keep my head high and kept my confidence up. It took awhile to get that opportunity, but it came and it's just been great."

Ochs was healthy enough to play in the Big 12 title game against Texas, but by then Pesavento was running the offense so well that there was no reason to make a change.

"Bobby's efficiency has been tremendous. It's been incredible," Colorado coach Gary Barnett said. "He knows the system and he plays within the system so well. The other thing is he's one of these seniors, and this is a senior-driven team. They have tremendous confidence in him, and there's tremendous chemistry when he's in there."

Pesavento is reserved; Harrington speaks his mind.

Last week, the Oregon quarterback told a Portland reporter that he thought UCLA and Oregon State had a better defense than Colorado.

"I didn't know he was being that cocky," Lewis said when told of the remark. "But hey, that's just added motivation. Thank you, Joey."