Let the Civil War begin

Civil War for the Roses
2009-12-02T23:30:00Z Let the Civil War beginBy Cliff Kirkpatrick, Gazette-Times Reporter Corvallis Gazette Times

Tension is at an all-time high.

The buildup to the Civil War was longer than usual this year since both teams had a bye week to prepare.

Something has to give after all the extra practice, preparation and talk comes to an end this evening in Autzen Stadium.

In the past, the rivalry game was for the right to live in the state. When the No. 13-ranked Oregon State football team faces off with No. 7 Oregon tonight, a Rose Bowl berth goes to the victor.

"We are excited," tight end Joe Halahuni said. "We have a great opportunity in front of us. We've been preparing for a while. We are anxious. We can't wait. I wish we could have forgotten the bye week. We didn't need time off."

The winner of the 113th meeting between the teams will represent the Pacific-10 Conference in the Granddaddy of Them All on New Year's Day against Big Ten Conference champion Ohio State.

If the Beavers (8-3, 6-2) win they share the conference title with Oregon and own the bowl tiebreaker in head-to-head competition. If the Ducks (9-2, 7-1) win they claim the title outright.

"We have everyone reminding us that the Rose Bowl is at stake," linebacker Keaton Kristick said. "We are just trying to put that behind us. We have a big game against the Ducks. It's more than just the roses."

This is the first time in the game's history that both teams can go to the Pac-10's highest level bowl game with a win. However, the heated rivalry remains the focal point to those involved.

While long-time fans can point out details of the long history between the two programs, the players have a narrower scope. And they are the ones playing.

That's where last year's game, when the Ducks blasted the Beavers 65-38 in Reser Stadium to crush OSU's dreams of the Rose Bowl, comes into play.

"It took me three years to find out why so many people don't like the Ducks," Kristick said. "I was iffy about it. We had won two years in a row, and then they take everything away from us.

"As a defense it hurt to see a team put up that many points against us. We are in a similar spot this year, and we would hate to see an opportunity go away twice."

That's where history ends and the game becomes about the present. The Beavers are 10-point underdogs but should fare better this time for many reasons.

Being healthy is the primary one. Star running back Jacquizz Rodgers was out last year with a shoulder injury.

He has come back strong and is a dark horse in the Heisman Trophy race. Rodgers remained a standout runner, and added receiver and passer to his credentials.

"What he means to this team, he has impacted our team a lot," coach Mike Riley said. "I think he's one of the best football players in the country, and should be considered like that. I'm glad Quizz is playing in the game. It means a lot to us."

The Beavers also have a healthy quarterback performing at a high level. Lyle Moevao played last year with a shredded throwing shoulder that needed offseason surgery.

Sean Canfield goes into tonight's game as the top passer in the conference and will stretch the field. At the same time he's playing smart.

"Offensively, there are two things that are important," Riley said. "To get started is poise. We'll be dealing with crowd noise and being away from home. And with poise, it's playing fast."

Canfield said the Beavers have to maintain what they've been doing and everything will work itself out.

Cornerstone defensive tackle Stephen Paea didn't start last year's Civil War due to a knee injury. He played a support role, limping on one leg. Paea's presence should affect Oregon's running game.

The defense is rested. The Beavers were worn out after a long stretch of tough games last year. A bye week and an easier schedule leading into tonight's game has allowed the defense to prepare better.

"We just have to capitalize on the plays," Kristick said. "When we get opportunities we have to make the most of them. We can't let them get on a roll. It's a fast-pace game."

The Beavers know they have to stop Oregon's running game, led by running back LaMichael James. They know they have to contain mobile quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

Big plays are a killer, which the Beavers know all too well.

"You play your best against the best," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said of last year's offensive success. "It wasn't a scheme deal. Our players made plays that day. That's what it came down to."

Forcing turnovers, while avoiding them are crucial for the Beavers. The offense has to deliver, and it would help if the special teams mixed in a big play.

Both teams have talent, momentum and confidence. After a long season and extended buildup, the game comes down to its bare essentials.

"The team that plays the best that day wins," Riley said. "For a long time it was the home-field advantage, but it's not in place anymore. It's going to be a great challenge but that's what we have to point to (playing well today). Our goal is not what happens after the game."

Copyright 2016 Corvallis Gazette Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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