When historians look back at the 2012 season, they’ll point to the great turnaround for the Oregon State football team.
After two years of losing, the Beavers came back strong to flirt with a Bowl Championship Series berth.
But closer examination will show the Civil War as a blemish on the schedule.
For all the improvement and success, the Beavers are still light years away from hated rival Oregon.
The No. 5 Ducks raced to a 48-24 Pacific-12 Conference victory Saturday over the No. 16 Beavers before an announced school-record crowd of 47,249 in Reser Stadium.
Oregon has now won five straight Civil Wars, mostly in dominating fashion. The Ducks (11-1, 8-1) have been going to BCS games in that stretch and will likely go to another one this year.
The best the Beavers (8-3, 6-3) can do for the postseason is probably the Holiday Bowl, which would still be the best they’ve done since the 2000 season.
“It hurts, I wanted this, we wanted it really bad,” receiver Markus Wheaton said. “We didn’t get it done and that’s what it is. This one hurts maybe a little bit more because of the interstate rivalry.”
The Beavers just don’t possess the athletes to stop the Ducks. Oregon’s speed advantage was terribly evident.
Oregon ran by the Beavers for 570 total yards, 430 rushing alone. Even OSU’s good-looking defensive plays gave up yardage.
‘It was the same stuff we went over in practice,” linebacker Michael Doctor said. “Everyone wasn’t assignment-sound and didn’t execute the right play. That was the outcome of the game.”
The Ducks weren’t deceptive in what they normally do in their spread offense, they were just a better team. The Beavers didn’t tackle well when they had the chance to make a big play.
It didn’t matter who was running the ball — Kenjon Barner, De’Anthony Thomas or Marcus Mariota — they made big plays as Oregon averaged 6.7 yards a carry.
Barner ran wild for 198 yards and two touchdowns, and he even missed some of the game with a rib injury. Thomas added 122 yards and three TDs.
“They did what we expected them to do,” cornerback Jordan Poyer said. “It was their tempo was fast. If you weren’t in the right spot one time they will find it. That happened a couple times.”
OSU’s offense couldn’t get going fast enough and had to play catchup most of the game. That allowed Oregon’s defense to play aggressively with the lead.
The Beavers had their opportunities, and the game was within three points early in the third quarter after an impressive scoring drive to start the half.
The rout came later when the Beavers became one-dimensional. Quarterback Sean Mannion was under pressure and threw three of his four interceptions.
Mannion played efficiently enough into the third quarter and there was progress in the running game. It just didn’t matter when the Beavers were unable to finish drives because Oregon kept scoring.
“It had to do with turning the ball over,” Mannion said. “We had to do a better job sustaining drives. We can do a better job finishing.”
Six turnovers — four by the offense and two by the return teams — were at the core of the meltdown.
“We had a lot of uncharacteristic plays,” coach Mike Riley said. “We haven’t turned the ball over much. We’ve been second to Oregon in the turnover ratio and that’s one of those reliable stats that indicate who wins, and it did today for sure.”
The turning point came on fumble by Devon Kell on a squibbed kickoff in the third quarter to set the blowout in motion.
Oregon ran away with the game from then and there was nothing the Beavers could do.
It’s a similar story to the previous four Civil Wars. The Beavers haven’t been able to find an answer, so the series has belonged to the Ducks.
“You just try to get over it,” Mannion said. “Tomorrow the sun is going to come up and we are going to have a new opponent to prepare for.”
Cliff Kirkpatrick covers the Oregon State football team for the Corvallis Gazette-Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.