Forget rivalry week at the end of the regular season. This is rivalry month for the Oregon State football team.
The Beavers begin their Northwest swing Saturday with a Pacific-10 Conference home game against Washington. Road trips to Washington State and Oregon follow in the next three weeks.
While the Civil War draws the most attention, the OSU vs. Washington meetings tend to get heated.
"All of us in the northwest relate to one another," coach Mike Riley said. "And we do have players, as they do, from the other state. It's always fun. It's always been a very good game for everyone around here."
Junior defensive end Gabe Miller grew up in Lake Oswego as an OSU fan rooting against the Huskies. However, he looked at the contest as just another Pac-10 game.
Then he experienced playing in the 2007 showdown in Reser Stadium. That game turned into a near-riot when Washington quarterback Jake Locker was hurt and the officials lost control of the game.
"I never saw it as a rivalry until my redshirt freshman year," Miller said. "That game alone made it a rivalry in my mind. There were all those fights and people getting kicked out of the game. It was a crazy game, and they showed a lot of disrespect for us on our home field."
Beyond that strange game, the players remember when they cross paths with Washington.
The hitting is hard and games are close, even though the Huskies have been in a down cycle. The Beavers won the last five meetings and six of the last eight.
"They are physical, we are physical and we wanted to beat each other bad," tight end Joe Halahuni said. "And it showed on the field."
Second-year running backs coach Reggie Davis played tight end for the Huskies from 1994-98, and his teams beat the Beavers each time. Then he felt what it was like to defeat his former school as a coach last season.
"The emotion is there," Davis said. "They don't need us to hype it up. They get it from the outside. We have to bring them down to earth."
Recruiting is a big part of these northwest games. The Beavers find some of their athletes from the state of Washington: 11 are on the current roster.
"The competition comes in the recruiting," Davis said. "The best of the northwest gets the best players in the northwest."
Center Alex Linnenkohl, punter Johnny Hekker and Halahuni are key Washington residents for the Beavers. Receiver Geno Munoz, offensive lineman Colin Kelly and safety Anthony Watkins are up-and-comers.
The Huskies have two Oregon players on their roster, receiver Jordan Polk from Lincoln High and offensive guard Scott Schugert from Oregon City.
"There are tons of residuals to a game afterward that are real, but that's not our primary focus," Riley said. "That main focus is just taking care of the game. That's the beautiful thing. They can take care of themselves if we take care of the games."
Halahuni grew up a fan of the Huskies, but circumstances brought him to OSU. He's happy with his situation, and enjoys playing against them.
Rivalries have a way of changing alliances.
"I wanted to play for them, but playing against them is a good experience," Halahuni said. "Every Pac-10 game is a rivalry game, but this one is getting to be more special than most."