Friday, November 25, 2011
Oregon State not short on motivation
By ESPN.com staff
Oregon State seems like nothing more than a bit player against Oregon in the 115th Civil War. The Ducks have moved on to bigger things in the rivalry -- conference championships, national championship games, Rose Bowls, etc. -- while the Beavers are about to tie a ribbon on a second consecutive losing season.
In 2007, Oregon State won 38-31 in double-overtime. In 2008 and 2009, the stakes were the Rose Bowl.
In 2011? The Beavers are four-touchdown underdogs to an Oregon team trying to sew up the first Pac-12 North Division championship and a home game against the South champ on Dec. 2.
"Wow, 29-point underdogs," freshman defensive end Scott Crichton said. "We were underdogs last game and we blew them out. This game is going to be different from what everyone says."
Crichton refers to the Beavers' surprisingly efficient 38-21 win over Washington last weekend, which is easily the highlight of their season.
Still, the Huskies aren't the Ducks. And that game was in the friendly confines of Reser Stadium, not the Ducks' rowdy home base, Autzen Stadium.
Of course, crazy stuff happens in college football and rivalry games. Just when things seem to make sense, No. 2 Oklahoma State loses to Iowa State.
If Oregon State plays its best game of the season, and Oregon plays like it did for 2 1/2 quarters in its 38-35 loss last weekend to USC, the upset could happen.
"Every phase of the game we’re going to have to play at a tremendously high level to compete," Beavers coach Mike Riley said. "I will tell you this -- I think our team will compete hard and prepare well, and I know they’re looking forward to a great opportunity.”
Only two current Oregon State players — receivers James Rodgers and Darrell Catchings — have beaten Oregon. Rodgers scored the winning TD in the 2007 game, taking a fly sweep 25 yards for a score.
A lot has happened to the Beavers and Rodgers since then. Rodgers suffered a serious knee injury in 2010 and didn't return to the field until game three this year. He's yet to regain his All-American form, and he suffered a sprained ankle in the win over Washington, which makes his status questionable for Saturday.
Of course, Rodgers, despite sporting a boot on his injured foot, said this week he has no doubt he will play. This will be his last game as a Beaver and he said it was important to "try to get some respect back."
Still, the stakes for Oregon after the USC loss are no longer just bragging rights. If the Ducks lose, Stanford wins the North, and the Ducks likely end up in the Alamo Bowl. You'd think that would be enough to keep them focused Saturday.
The Ducks are looking to win a fourth consecutive Civil War, which would be their longest winning streak since 1994-97. If the Beavers lose, this would mark their first season with three wins or fewer since 1997, Riley’s first season at Oregon State.
Make no mistake: Oregon State's downturn is even more notable when juxtaposed with Oregon's rise. That has some Beavers fans chirping about the program trending downward under Riley.
The tangible stakes are huge for Oregon. But there's plenty for the Beavers to play for, too.
Said Crichton, "It would help us a lot. I know we can win this game, and it definitely would bring momentum to us and everyone else who doubts us."