EUGENE — Last year, Oregon trampled Oregon State’s Rose Bowl hopes by stampeding the Beavers in Reser Stadium.
The Ducks rolled up more than 600 yards of total offense and took a 65-38 win.
Instead of the Rose Bowl, the Beavers wound up in El Paso, Texas, playing Pittsburgh in the Sun Bowl.
A second Civil War for the Rose, a second disappointment for OSU.
This time the Beavers played the Ducks close to the end, but Oregon held on for a 37-33 win in Autzen Stadium.
“It hurts, it really does hurt,” linebacker Keith Pankey said. “Because you work all year, you dream about this when you want to get a scholarship out of high school, and when it’s right at your fingertips, especially two years in a row, it hurts.”
This one came down to the wire, but in the end it was a mob of green-clad UO fans celebrating a Pacific-10 Conference title and their first Rose Bowl since 1995.
The close final score did little to ease OSU’s pain.
“It’s never easy to fight hard and you put yourself in the position you worked hard all season for,” Pankey said. “A ton of what-ifs, a ton of maybe-you-could-have-done-better, but at the same time I applaud our guys. We played our hearts out (Thursday) and Oregon, they were a better team. They’re going to represent the Pac-10 well in the Rose Bowl.”
When the winner takes the Pacific-10 Conference title and a berth in the Rose Bowl, expectations are high.
When the game is the Civil War, it can’t get much higher.
It didn’t disappoint.
The Beavers had their chance to pull it out late, but Sean Canfield’s pass on fourth-and-15 from the UO 27 fell short.
Oregon got the ball back, converted on two fourth downs and ran out the clock, setting off most of the 59,597 in attendance.
The game was loud from the opening kickoff.
“The atmosphere was electric. There was a lot of energy,” Pankey said. “A ton of people, extremely loud stadium. I think both teams fed off of it. It’s the Civil War and it’s a big deal now.”
Unlike last year, the spotlight really didn’t find the Beavers until late in the season.
The Beavers entered the 2008 Civil War game with the Rose Bowl at stake, but it was no surprise.
A win over Southern California put the Beavers in the driver’s seat for the rest of the season. Win out and the Pac-10 title was theirs.
The Beavers put themselves in the position to take the title, but it was at a cost. They managed to grind out a win at Arizona in the final game before the Civil War with a late field goal, but it was a drain on the players and the team lost star running back Jacquizz Rodgers.
Facing the Ducks in Reser Stadium seemed to be an advantage, but Oregon overwhelmed the Beavers with a balanced attack out of their spread option and throttled OSU.
The Beavers came into Thursday’s game flying well below the radar.
Back-to-back home losses to Cincinnati and Arizona in late September left OSU 2-2 and all but dismissed by the media.
Steadily and surely the Beavers made their climb. A win at Arizona State and a home win over Stanford got them to 4-2.
Then there was a road trip to Los Angeles to take on USC. The Beavers made a late push but fell short, 42-36. The result was tough to take for the Beavers, but their confidence was not shaken.
A shot at the Rose Bowl seemed slim at that point, but it was still there. Wins over UCLA and Cal and suddenly it seemed much more likely with a home game against Washington and a trip to Washington State left.
The Beavers took care of business against the Huskies and Cougars, setting up the big showdown with the Ducks.