Civil War week has arrived and for Oregon State, it’s full speed ahead.
With the annual gridiron showdown on the horizon, players had a little extra bounce in their step during practice on Monday.
Rivalries create such excitement, but even more so when there’s a chance to snap a four-game losing streak to Oregon.
“I feel like you think about this game all year,” senior cornerback Jordan Poyer said. “We felt we could play with these guys. They are another football team like we are. They lace on their shoes like us. We just have to be assignment sound.”
The No. 16 Beavers are 13-point underdogs going into the Pac-12 game with the No. 5 Ducks. But OSU is playing its best football since the 2009 Civil War when a Rose Bowl berth was on the line.
OSU (8-2, 6-2) is coming off a dominating win over California while Stanford upset the Ducks (10-1, 7-1) to put a serious damper on their national title hopes.
Can the Beavers play another near-perfect game? Are the Ducks emotionally drained?
“We think we have a chance to beat them, especially with Stanford beating them this week,” Poyer said. “We are going to look at that tape and see what they did and how they stopped them.”
The last time the Beavers beat the Ducks was in 2007 in Autzen Stadium. James Rodgers scored on a dramatic fly sweep in double overtime.
That game remains one of OSU’s greatest highlights in the rivalry, but it has become a distant memory. Players on this season’s roster were still in high school when that happened.
“It was a great football game and it was hard,” coach Mike Riley said. “James made a great play. Howard Croom made a great block on the edge. Jonathan Stewart was stopped on fourth down by Dorian Smith. We made great plays on both ends.”
Since then, OSU hasn’t been able to stop Oregon’s powerful, speedy spread offense. Occasionally, the offense made it close but it just couldn’t keep up for a full game.
Riley and his staff have endured plenty of pressure to win. They know beating the rival is paramount in their profession.
In many parts of the country, losing four straight to the rival is a fireable offense. The Beavers, however, won’t allow any of those issues to hang over their heads.
“We are not sitting here thinking we have not beaten them in a long time,” Riley said. “We know that. That’s not our focus. We just focus on our team to win this game.”
The Beavers have installed their nickel and dime defenses this year to stop passing teams and get more speed on the field, but it has also worked against spread running teams.
That will be put to the ultimate test this week. The Ducks are potent both running and passing.
“We need to tackle better,” Riley said. “We are going to need a terrific day tackling in space against a lot of speed. We need better attention to detail.”
The Beavers have been studying their mistakes against Oregon for the last four years. Most of them were minor that the Ducks made worse. Players were young the last two years and didn’t put up much of a fight.
Success this season has come from those young players maturing and playing better and eliminating mistakes.
“Understanding and doing it are two different things, but experience is always good,” Riley said. “You have thoughts for the next time.”
Riley plans to see what Stanford did to hold the Ducks to 14 points. They average 51.1 points a game.
“The one thing everybody has to know now is Stanford has a good defense,” Riley said. “A lot of that is what they did and talent they have and how they play. Can you duplicate that, I don’t know. We’ll try to in a style that’s more of our own.”