OSU football: Beavers will need complete game for Civil War upset

2011-11-26T06:15:00Z 2012-02-01T20:42:17Z OSU football: Beavers will need complete game for Civil War upsetBy CLIFF KIRKPATRICK, Corvallis Gazette-Times Corvallis Gazette Times

Not too long ago, the Civil War was a focal point of college football.

The outcome of Oregon State's annual football showdown with Oregon had national ramifications with who went to the Rose Bowl and the national title game.

Not this year.

The Beavers have known today's 12:30 p.m. Pacific-12 Conference game in Autzen Stadium would be their last of the season for three weeks.

Oregon's national title hopes were dashed last week in a loss to Southern California. The Ducks need to win today just for the opportunity to play in the conference title game next Friday.

While the No. 9 Ducks (9-2, 7-1) are still playing at a high level, the Beavers (3-8, 3-5) have hit a low with their second straight losing season.

"It's pretty evident what they've done and done to us," OSU coach Mike Riley said. "That's good for them. We want to work to where we are playing that game again like we were two, three years ago."

It has been a rebuilding season for the Beavers, who have gone with a young team and took their predictable lumps.

However, they hope to avoid the biggest lump against Oregon.

The Beavers are a four-touchdown underdog, and it's going to take their best effort to keep it close.

"Every phase of the game we'll have to play at an extremely high level to compete, but our team will compete hard and is looking forward to a great opportunity," Riley said. "We need to play our finest game of the year. We have a lot to get ready for."

Riley looks at the challenge as another learning experience. Being able to handle the intensity of a heated rivalry game will prepare the Beavers for whatever comes next.

However, that doesn't mean they are not going to try to make it interesting.

"The outcome of the game will be a lot different than people think," OSU defensive end Scott Crichton said.

OSU plans to keep it simple, particularly on defense. Defensive coordinator Mark Banker made the mistake in the past of being too fancy in dealing with the speed of Oregon's offense.

"It's going to come down to open-field tackles," OSU cornerback Jordan Poyer said. "They have a lot of speed. They are going to get theirs. We have to worry about the next one."

The focus in practice this week was on the basics, such as gap responsibility, pursuit angles and tackling.

The only wrinkle is the speed. Oregon uses a fast-break approach on offense, so the tempo was faster in practice this week.

"Besides all the stuff that goes into the game, it's going to be football," Riley said. "It's going to be blocking and tackling and throwing and catching. You have to prevent big plays, which is always a key to winning."

OSU's offense must hold the ball as long as it can to help the defense. That means more than just running the ball.

The Beavers can't afford to turn the ball over, or possibly even punt. Keeping the game close means keeping up with the Ducks' scoring.

"We will have to score points," Riley said. "This team will score points. When we get the ball down in the red zone we have to take advantage of it."

The Ducks score quickly, and making it easy for them with short fields will be deadly.

How OSU freshman quarterback Sean Mannion plays will be key for the Beavers. He will likely need to win the game with his arm.

He has had ups and downs this year, as would be expected.

So, can he play his best game of the season?

"You always want to finish strong, especially against your rival," Mannion said. "We just have to execute, and we can."

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