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Friday, December 4, 2009
Oregon State couldn't make critical plays

By staff

EUGENE, Ore. -- The games couldn't have been more different, but for the second consecutive year Oregon State isn't going to the Rose Bowl because it lost the Civil War.

It hurt in 2008 when the Ducks rolled over them 65-38. And it hurt Thursday night when the Ducks outlasted them 37-33.

“It is never easy," Beavers linebacker Keith Pankey said. "We fought all season for this and it slipped through our fingers. We played our hearts out today.”

It came down to a couple of plays. It always seems to in tight games.

Tom Hauck/Getty ImagesOregon State coach Mike Riley has seen his teams' Rose Bowl chances plucked away by Oregon in each of the past two seasons.

Both offenses mostly had their way, but the Ducks made the critical conversions in the fourth quarter and the Beavers could not.

Oregon State jumped ahead 30-21 after driving 75 yards for a touchdown on their first possession of the second half, but the Beavers wouldn't reach the end zone again.

There were two contrasting, critical fourth-quarter drives that told the final story.

Down by four, the Beavers had a first down on the Oregon 22-yard line as the clock wound down in the fourth quarter. But three plays later, they faced a fourth-and-15 with 6:16 left.

Coach Mike Riley looked at the clock and thought about the Ducks offense. He decided he needed to go for it.

"On 4th and 15, we did not know if we would get another opportunity and if they scored a touchdown it would be over," he said.

But Sean Canfield, the most accurate passer in the Pac-10, couldn't connect with James Rodgers.

The Ducks took over and wouldn't give the ball back, twice converting on fourth down during the game's gutsy, poised final drive.

One team made plays in the fourth quarter, one team couldn't.

The Beavers, who last played in a Rose Bowl in 1965, now may likely fall all the way to the Las Vegas Bowl, based on how the bowl-selection process will go, despite tying for second in the Pac-10. The Holiday Bowl will select the winner of the USC-Arizona game on Saturday, while the Sun Bowl likely will exercise a "no-repeat" clause and choose a team other than the Beavers, who were in El Paso last year.

“We cannot sit here and sulk," Pankey said. "It did not go our way, but we have one game left.”

Canfield was outstanding in a losing effort. He completed 24 of 36 passes for 306 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. It likely will be between him and Oregon's Jeremiah Masoli as to who is named first-team All-Pac-10 quarterback.

"Sean Canfield is the real deal," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said. "He's the first guy I've seen come into Autzen Stadium and not get rattled."

The Beavers (8-4, 6-3) didn't seemed rattled in the least. They just got beat.

“They were the best tonight," Riley said. "Our conference this year was one of the strongest and most balanced it has ever been.”

Each Civil War loss -- a humiliating blowout in 2008 and a what-might-have-been in 2009 -- hurts in its own way.

The Beavers have nothing to be ashamed of this go-around. But that won't be much consolation when they watch the Ducks take the field opposite Ohio State in the Rose Bowl and they think, "That could have been us."