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Monday, November 23, 2009
Beavers wanted all-or-nothing game with Ducks

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

That a bus full of men driving out of Eugene, Ore., was cheering the Ducks on Saturday night is not surprising at all. That it was full of Oregon State Beavers, well, that's something entirely different.

But the Beavers celebrated the Ducks thrilling 44-41 double-overtime win over Arizona just like many residents of the state that will become the center of the college football universe on Dec. 3.

"I think everybody saw the irony in that," Oregon State coach Mike Riley said.

Forgive the Beavers if they found a way to love on their rival Ducks. Their reasoning is sound, even from the perspective of this being another college football case of Hatfields and McCoys, though some Beavers fans may still be shaking off a frisson of disgust over such behavior.

"What they wanted for everybody's sake was a clear-cut deal," Riley said.

Clear cut? How about a Civil War with the stakes being nothing less than the Rose Bowl for the No. 8-ranked Ducks (9-2, 7-1) and the 16th-ranked Beavers (8-3, 6-2)?

The winner goes. The loser doesn't.

Two teams enter, one team leaves for Pasadena. The other listens to trash talk for 364 consecutive days.

Oregon hasn't played in a Rose Bowl since after winning the Pac-10 in 1994 (it also won the conference title in 2001 but was forced to play in the Fiesta Bowl because the Rose Bowl was the BCS championship game that year).

The Beavers Rose Bowl drought stretches all the way back to 1965.

Funny fact about 1965: That's the year a 12-year-old Riley moved from Wallace, Idaho, to Corvallis. The coach who led the Beavers to the Rose Bowl, Tommy Prothro, had bolted for UCLA, and the school replaced him with Dee "The Great Pumpkin" Andros, who hired Bud Riley as his defensive coordinators.

So Riley is well aware of how long it's been since the Beavers played in a Rose Bowl.

"Hopefully, there's some kind of significance there," he said, politely playing along with a reporter's insisting that there was.

Both teams will be off this weekend. It would seem to benefit the Beavers that they get extra time to prepare for the Ducks spread-option attack. Last year, the Beavers could have earned a Rose Bowl berth with a Civil War victory at home, but the Ducks and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli whipped them, 65-38.

The extra days, however, mean extra hype and extra thinking time. That's why Riley broke his normal routine and immediately talked to his team Sunday about the game and its meaning.

"It's lurking out there and everybody knows it," he said. "There's no sense not talking about it."

But his message probably sounded a lot like what Chip Kelly is telling his Ducks. The Ducks mantra is "win the day." Riley instructs his Beavers to "stay in the moment."

It might sound yawningly simple, but a consistent applying of both takes on the same message is a notable reason why these teams are in position for the big prize. Neither, after all, got caught up in dwelling on the past when things didn't start well.

Oregon's slow start at Boise State is a part of the permanent, national tapestry of the 2009 season. Oregon State's consecutive defeats to Cincinnati and Arizona were less loud but no less dispiriting for a program that was hoping to end a pattern of starting slowing.

"I had no idea who this team could be early-on," Riley said. "And when we lost those games, you naturally worry."

What happened next is Oregon State became itself -- a team that makes a late charge into the national rankings seemingly every season. The Beavers have won six of seven since the calendar flipped into October.

Now, to quote, Riley, "It's all out there in front of you."

They've got nine days to "live in the moment" and try to avoid thinking about the Rose Bowl.

Good luck with that.