It has been six years since the Oregon State football team ended the regular season with an opponent other than rival Oregon.
The No. 16 Beavers will face Nicholls State, a Football Championship Subdivision team, for an 11:30 a.m. clash on Saturday in Reser Stadium.
The postponed season opener due to Hurricane Isaac created an odd schedule, but coach Mike Riley plans to keep the buildup to the nonconference game the same as if it was Civil War week.
The team will work on game situations on the same preparation schedule and coaches will drill players on fixing any issues involving defense, special teams and turnovers.
“We have a routine now,” Riley said. “There’s no need to change it. It’s our 12th game. It was scheduled and we are going to make the most of it. We’ll learn about their personnel and what they do with it.”
The Beavers don’t officially have to win the game for any postseason considerations. They are up for the Alamo or Holiday bowls depending on Pacific-12 Conference standings.
So keeping players motivated in the wake of the Civil War loss may be a challenge.
“It will be good to bounce back and put pressure on ourselves to execute well,” quarterback Sean Mannion said. “Nicholls State is going to come in here and give us their best game.”
The Beavers are expected to easily beat the lower-division team that struggled through a miserable 1-9 season.
The Colonels don’t have anything to lose. They finished last in the Southland Conference and are on a seven-game losing streak.
Many of the team’s losses weren’t close and the only win was a 73-17 victory over Evangel, an NAIA team. Statistically, the Colonels are one of the weaker FCS teams in the nation.
A trip out west from Thibodaux, La., to play a major college team is Nicholls State’s unofficial bowl game.
“This team is close,” Riley said. “They play hard and with enthusiasm. We just have to get ready for what they do, the best we can.”
And then of course there’s the Sacramento State reminder when the Beavers were upset by an FCS team to begin last season.
Most of the players on the team lived through that experience and don’t want a repeat.
“Nicholls State is going to come in here and try and beat us,” Mannion said. “We have to prepare for them and get ready to play.”
Riley doesn’t plan on getting cute and prepare backups to play instead of starters or change the game plan since the Beavers are heavily favored with no postseason pressure.
He is more concerned about improving all his players at a normal rate, and winning a game.
“I won’t do any of that,” Riley said. “We are approaching this game like we always do. The first thing we have to do is win the game. The second-stringers have to be ready anyway. When they are called they will go in.”
The Beavers hope to finish strong in their 11th straight week without a bye. There will be a chance to rest next week when the Beavers take the week off for finals before preparing for the bowl game.
“Right now I want to finish off this season on a positive deal, trying to win this week and getting ready for a bowl game and enjoy this team the last two games,” Riley said.