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Top Five Panda Game Moments: 1998 - The Last Showdown

Thursday September 5, 2013
Panda Celebration 1998.

The Gee-Gees will host the return edition of the Panda Game on Saturday, October 5th 2013 at Gee-Gees Field. In the weeks leading up to the game, geegees.ca will feature five of the most memorable Panda Games in the 44 year history of the event.

The Last Showdown

In September of 1998 the Panda Game had reached 44 years of existence and despite having less fan support than in past years, the rivalry was just as strong. What Carleton and Ottawa players and fans would not predict though is that the 1998 edition would turn out to be the last Panda game for quite some time. The following year the Ravens decided to retire their football program which put a temporary end to the Panda classic.

It was September 19th, 1998 and the annual classic was undergoing a face lift as the universities decided to promote the game as “the Pedro panda pride match” rather than “the Panda bowl”. The universities hoped that if the game was promoted differently, fans would be less likely to turn the afternoon into the alcohol-fuelled frenzy that had been seen in past years.

“It’s still Ottawa against Carleton,” said Gee-Gees star quarterback Phill Côté in an interview with the Fulcrum campus newspaper. To the players the name of the event had changed but that would not cause any change to the game itself Côté explained, “It’s still the same great game and the same great rivalry.”

The game was an important one for the 1-1 Gee-Gees as they would need a victory to remain contenders. “I don’t want to put too much pressure on my guys but we really have to win this game because the next part of our schedule doesn’t get any easier,” head coach Marcel Bellefeuille told Fulcrum reporters.

Carleton however would not be easily beaten. The Ravens, despite their low finishes in past years, always seemed to bring their game to the next level when the Panda Game came around.

Nevertheless, the Ravens’ struggles continued as they were unable to perform and fell short once again as Ottawa handed them a blowout 59-17 loss. Ottawa controlled the game from the outset and had the 1,200 present uOttawa fans thrilled by the end of the first quarter.

Gee-Gees quarterback Phill Côté started a third straight game and completed 17-of-28 passes for a total of 301 yards. The pivot also scored three touchdowns himself on short runs and connected for three more touchdowns with his receivers.

“Every once and a while it’s fun to play game like this,” admitted Côté. “It’s incredible having all the fans right there screaming for us and yelling at the Carleton guys. We wanted to put on a show for everyone.” Although Gee-Gees supporters were nearly out-numbered two-to-one they still managed to be the louder crowd as they took pleasure in the Panda tradition, chanting, cheering and taunting.

The game which had a reputation of drunkenness and destruction went by with virtually no incidents which had officials and organizers pleasantly surprised. The only hiccup was when a member of the uOttawa stunt squad fell while performing a routine. After being sent to hospital it was later determined that the girl had suffered no serious injuries.

After all was said and done the Gee-Gees took the last Panda game in blowout fashion and cruised to a 31st Panda game victory. The following off-season it was announced that Carleton University would retire their football program, thus putting a momentary end to the Panda Game.

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