By Howard Tsumura, The (Vancouver) Province, Dec 27, 2011
“Intercepted!” Brent Musburger intones. “Should have been caught.”
“Instead,” the leading voice of ABC’s college football continues, timing his delivery to coincide with an impending interception return for a touchdown, “it’s going to be a pick six, taken in by Lokombo.”
Over the past three seasons, Boseko Lokombo has enjoyed a lot of great moments with the national title-contending Oregon Ducks.
But intercepting Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck –the guy expected to go No. 1 overall in the upcoming NFL draft — and taking it 40 yards to the house for a touchdown in one of the most highly-anticipated games of the entire college football season?
“It was amazing,” the 2009 grad of Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat Secondary said of the capper to the Ducks’ 53-30 road win before 50,360 on Nov. 12. “Definitely one of my best highlights so far in my career.”
By the time Lokombo left Mouat, he had provided local fans with plenty of memorable moments, mostly as a running back who rushed for 1,558 yards and 22 touchdowns in his senior season.
Yet after shifting exclusively to the defence with the perennial Pac 12 powerhouse Ducks, the redshirt sophomore outside linerbacker Lokombo has started to make a habit of scoring touchdowns from the defensive side of the ball.
Last season he returned a 32-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown as part of a Ducks win over Arizona State in a campaign which ended with a loss to Auburn in the BCS national championship final.
And this season?
All the 6-foot-3, 232-pound Lokombo has done is score three touchdowns — two via intercetion and one on special teams — and earn You Tube plaudits under the moniker ‘Bo Knows Touchdowns’.
On Monday (Jan. 2), the guy who has worked so hard to put himself in the right place at the right time, plays in the game known as ‘The Granddaddy’ of Them All’ when the Pac 12 champion Ducks (11-2) face the Big 10 champion Wisconsin Badgers (11-2) in the Rose Bowl.
“Man, it is undescribable,” Lokombo continues of the big-game atmosphere he has grown accustomed to while facing the likes of Southern Cal, Stanford and No. 1-ranked Louisiana State this season. “There’s 60-to-70,000 people watching you perform, watching you work, watching you do what you love to do. Playing in those kinds of games is a privilege. And when you make a play, you feel like you worked hard and you deserved to make it.”
That was definitely the case last month at Stanford in a game in which the winner would remain alive for a place in the national championship game. Leading 46-30 midway through the fourth quarter, the Ducks put the game out of reach when Lokombo’s pick brought Musburger out of his seat.
“I was spying on him, I was reading his eyes,” Lokombo recalled of Luck. “He looked to his right, then he looked to his left and then he threw the ball and my instincts told me to go that way.
“Their receiver was coming on a slant route and it bounced off his chest and it went up and I was right there. So I picked the ball and I started running. The whole time I was thinking ‘I’ve got to score, I’ve got to score.’ My teammates were blocking for me and I ended up in the end zone. I dove because I knew No. 82 (Coby Fleener) was right beside me, and I wanted to make sure I got into the end zone.”
As Lokombo says, it was a surreal few seconds.
“I could here the fans screaming,” laughs Lokombo, who this season also returned a 67-yard interception for a score against Nevada and a blocked punt 25 yards for a major against Washington State. “When I was running, it felt like it was all going in slow motion. Everything just slowed down, and right when I crossed the plane, it all came back to normal speed.”
Mouat head coach Denis Kelly watches Lokombo’s games on television every time he gets the opportunity, and he too agrees that Bo Knows Touchdowns.
“He puts himself in the right spot because he has incredible anticipation and quickness.” Kelly says. “If there is any kind of mis-timing or some other opportunity, he is usually one of the first guys to arrive. If there is a bounce or a mis-thrown ball, he is going to be there.”
For his part, Lokombo admits he is more of a student of the game than he has ever been, watching film daily, and currently getting ready to face a talented Wisconsin team and its powerful yet elusive running back Montee Ball.
“The run game is what they have been successful at all season, so we are really going to have to pay attention to that,” says Lokombo, who was able to spend a few days back in town with his family over Christmas before flying off to meet the rest of the team in Los Angeles to begin the last stage of Rose Bowl preparations.
And although Lokombo admits that every part of him is focussed on the Ducks’ third BCS series game in three seasons, he is hopeful that the time he dedicates daily to his craft will eventually pay off with an opportunity to play at the next level. And by spending a lot of time working alongside his teammate and close friend, senior outside linebacker Josh Kaddu, he has seen how that hard work can put him in a place to get that chance.
“Kaddu, he’s projected to go in the third or fourth round (of the 2012 NFL draft) and it’s really exciting for him,” says Lokombo. “I hope he fulfills his dream and he makes it. Obviously, I have that in the back of my head. I have two more years of eligibility left and I just hope to keep improving every year. And when that time comes, I am going to be ready.”