PASADENA, Calif. — Penei Sewell climbed the band director’s ladder and nimbly danced to “Shout!” from the top rung.
Troy Dye clutched the Leishman Trophy in his arms with a rose between his teeth.
Defensive line coach Joe Salave’a and Shane Lemieux wiped away tears as celebratory cigar smoke wafted in the locker room.
And Brady Breeze and Justin Herbert — two homegrown heroes who had just scripted their own improbable Hollywood ending — flanked coach Mario Cristobal at the winning team’s postgame press conference.
The images from No. 7 Oregon’s breathtaking 28-27 victory over No. 11 Wisconsin on Wednesday in a classic Rose Bowl will never be forgotten by the green and yellow-clad portion of 90,462 witnesses to the 106th Granddaddy of Them All.
“Two Oregon guys getting it done at the Rose Bowl, that’s about as special as it gets," said Lemieux, still wearing his uniform long after the final whistle, noting that Breeze and Herbert were part of the 2016 recruiting class that experienced a 4-8 season as true freshmen. “It’s bittersweet, man. I wish here tomorrow I could be joining the Oregon Ducks as a true freshman.
"At the same time, I think we left this program better than we found it."
Breeze was involved in two critical turnovers and Herbert ran for three touchdowns to will the Ducks (12-2) to the program's fourth-ever Rose Bowl triumph
Oregon trailed 27-21 after a 27-yard field goal by Collin Larsh with 12:09 remaining.
Wisconsin had a chance to put the game away as star running back Jonathan Taylor broke off an 18-yard run to start a potential back-breaking drive.
But then Breeze forced wide receiver Danny Davis to fumble on an end-around play. Senior outside linebacker Bryson Young, the safety's roommate, recovered the ball.
“We talk about that late at night,” Young said of making an impact in Andy Avalos’ defense after riding the bench under Jim Leavitt. “That was the play right there. I saw it and thought, ‘Gotta grab it.’
“I grabbed it. It’s crazy.”
On the next snap, Herbert ran for a 30-yard touchdown and Camden Lewis calmly put the extra point through the uprights to give the Ducks the one-point lead with 7:41 remaining.
The defense hadn’t even sat down to catch its breath when Herbert was getting hit late in the end zone, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty during an undisciplined game for the Badgers (10-4).
“Honestly, when I looked at the scoreboard I thought they were just showing highlights. I swear,” Young said of Herbert’s game-winning scamper. “And then I was like, ‘He scored? Wow.’
“That’s the man. I’m honored to have played with him. It’s insane. I can’t wait to watch him (in the NFL).”
Herbert, a projected first-round draft pick, was only 14-for-20 passing for 138 yards with an interception. But his touchdown hat trick adds to his lore at Oregon and checked another box for the scouts.
“I just hope that we put up more points than the opponent, whether it's through the air or on the ground,” Herbert said. “Doesn't matter who is scoring them, as long as we have more points at the end of the game. The offensive line have done such a great job all year, and those guys don't get enough credit.
“And they deserve everything, and I wish them all the credit in the world.”
Wisconsin was called for a costly offensive pass-interference penalty on the ensuing drive, which led to a punt. The Big Ten runner-ups were called for nine penalties totaling 79 yards compared to only two flags for Oregon totaling 20 yards.
“When you're playing an elite team like Oregon, a great team like that, they'll capitalize on those mistakes,” Taylor said after being limited to 94 yards on 21 carries. “I think that was the biggest part on us, is understanding we should have had to clean things up.
"You can't expect a win, a burst team like Oregon, with turnovers, penalties, special teams issues. That played a factor with everything, not playing clean Wisconsin football.”
Herbert, who grew up in Eugene cheering for the Ducks, completed a 28-yard pass to Juwan Johnson and then took a knee to run out the clock and join Marcus Mariota (2015), Darron Thomas (2012) and Shy Huntington (1917) as the only Oregon starting quarterbacks to win a Rose Bowl.
“I think he's a guy that you can't … it's hard to even script this kind of Hollywood story, right?” Cristobal said. “Right down the road, born and raised, just like Brady, been watching Oregon Duck football forever. And they're sitting here in front of you as Rose Bowl champions. Not only as Rose Bowl champions, but as MVPs of the Rose Bowl after winning the Pac-12 championship.”
Breeze, a graduate of Central Catholic High in Portland whose uncle Chad Cota was a key member of Oregon's 1995 Rose Bowl team, picked up a fumble by punter Anthony Lotti up with one hand and rumbled 31 yards for a touchdown to give the Ducks a 21-17 lead early in the third quarter.
Five years earlier, Breeze was in the stands with his family as Tony Washington scooped up a Jameis Winston fumble and returned it for a 58-yard touchdown in the same end zone during Oregon’s 59-20 romp over Florida State in the College Football Playoff.
“I'm thinking to myself, ‘Wow, this is just like when Washington scored that touchdown against Florida State,’” Breeze said. “When I scored the touchdown, I went and looked at the section I was sitting when I was at that game as a fan, and now I'm scoring the touchdown in the Rose Bowl.
“Life's come full circle and I've stayed faithful as a team. We've been down and out. We've had three head coaches in four years. I mean, three D-coordinators in four years. And I wouldn't trade it for the world because it's made us better men and better teammates. And we've got this guy (Cristobal) as our head coach.”
The junior safety made a nice play on a deep pass by Coan to stall Wisconsin’s first drive of the second half. Then Lotti let the ball slip out of his hands with Haki Woods coming at him with a chance to block the punt.
Breeze recovered a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown during the Ducks’ win across town at USC on Nov. 2 and had a key fourth-down stop and an interception in the Pac-12 championship game over Utah.
“Amazing,” cornerback Thomas Graham said. “It’s Brady doing Brady things. We call him the Breeze for a reason. You don’t know when the Breeze is going to come, but you know when you need him it’s there.
“That’s Brady and that’s what he did. He made those plays when we needed them.”
Wisconsin answered with an 11-play, 65-yard drive that included a 34-yard catch out of the backfield by Taylor on fourth-and-1 and fullback Mason Stokke’s 2-yard touchdown run on fourth down to give the Badgers a 24-21 lead.
Oregon had the ball for only 1:51 in the third quarter and appeared to be running on fumes entering the final stretch.
Avalos and the staff knew they had to rally the unit, which allowed Auburn to drive for the game-winning score in the Aug. 31 opener on another big stage in Arlington, Texas.
“In the third quarter there, we were going down that valley again that we went into in the Auburn game when we got worn out,” Avalos said. “All of coaches saw it and recognized it. The boys were about to veer off into that valley and take a right turn and go somewhere we didn’t want to go.
“And we pulled them back in and they finished the game and it was unbelievable.”
Oregon trailed 17-14 at the intermission after averaging only 3.6 yards on 31 offensive plays but holding Wisconsin to 29 rushing yards, its fewest in a first half over the last four seasons.
Dye forced a Taylor fumble in the second quarter, which cornerback Deommodore Lenoir recovered to set the Ducks up with a short field after Oregon’s previous four drives ended with a turnover and three punts.
But on fourth-and-1 at the Wisconsin 27-yard line, CJ Verdell was stuffed short of the line to gain.
The defense came up big again as Graham intercepted a pass by Jackl Coan on third-and-6 and returned it 24 yards.
Herbert’s 5-yard touchdown run gave the Ducks a 14-10 lead with 3:16 remaining in the second quarter.
After a 47-yard kickoff return by Aron Cruickshank, Coan bounced back from his mistake by throwing an 11-yard touchdown to Quintez Cephus with 11 seconds left in the half.
“Our guys knew this was going to be a 15-round fight,” Cristobal said. “And rounds 10-through-15 usually decide which heavyweight walks away with the hardware. Our guys just found a way to keep swinging, get up one more time, throw one more punch."
“And it's a testament to what they are, what their DNA is. And I really believe that these guys are just getting started.”
Oregon won the toss, elected to receive the football and marched 75 yards in 12 plays for a 7-0 lead on a 4-yard touchdown run by Herbert.
The momentum was shortlived as Cruickshank returned the suing kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to tie the score 7-7 with 9:41 remaining in the first quarter.
The excitement was just getting started. Hours later, Herbert said he wished it wasn’t over.
“I've been honored to be a part of this team and to represent Eugene and the university,” the 6-foot-6, 237-pound former Sheldon High standout said. “It's humbling and it's been such a great experience. And for (my family) to be there and supportive throughout these years, it's meant a lot to me.
“I’m excited. And the direction of the program, I couldn't be more happy about it.”
Follow Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @RGDuckFootball and email questions to email@example.com. For more Oregon sports coverage, visit DuckSports.com.