Stakes higher in this Civil War
This is 'not just a game' for OSU coach Mike Riley
CORVALLIS ÑMike Riley fancies himself a bit of a Civil War historian, and we aren't talking about the men in Blue against the Gray.
Riley grew up with the Oregon-Oregon State football rivalry as the son of OSU assistant coach Bud Riley. In Mike's six years of junior high and high school in Corvallis, the late Dee Andros' Beavers beat the Ducks every time, though four of the outcomes were by five points or fewer.
'I remember Dee saying it wasn't just a game, it was for the right to live in the state,' Riley says. 'I know exactly what he meant. They were always bitter, hard-fought games.'
That is precisely what Riley expects Saturday at Autzen Stadium. Each team will be seeking an eighth win, better bowl positioning and respect from the opposing side. The latter will come more quickly than warm feelings about the other guys.
'I don't have to say much about this game,' says OSU sophomore receiver Mike Hass, who will be participating in his first Civil War game. 'We don't like each other, and that's the basis of the rivalry.'
Riley would never make that kind of comment, but he still regards the Beavers' 44-41 double-overtime victory over Oregon in the 1998 Civil War game in Corvallis as the greatest of his college coaching career.
'It's hard to think you could duplicate that one,' he says.
Riley would prefer to win handily, but he knows how difficult it is to get it done on the road in this series, which began in 1894 with OSU's 16-0 triumph in Corvallis. The home team has won six in a row, and OSU hasn't won at Autzen since coach Jerry Pettibone pulled it off with a 15-12 decision in 1993.
'That is a big challenge for us,' Riley acknowledges. 'Somebody has to break that string by going into the other guys' place and winning.'
Wary of the Ducks
Other than a bowl game, the Oregon game is the most important on Oregon State's schedule every year. '
'No doubt about it,' Riley says. 'It's such a great rivalry. It's important for the team, for the seniors, for the program, for the fans.'
Both teams bring two-game winning streaks into Saturday's duel, and Riley is wary of the Ducks, especially after their victories over California and UCLA.
'They have had good wins the last two weeks,' the OSU coach says. 'Their comeback against Cal was really big for them, the way they performed in the clutch.
'They played pretty darn good defense against UCLA, and their offense is solid and balanced. Their quarterbacks are good players who have been efficient all year. They have really good team speed, and their return game is special. It's going to take a great effort by us to go in there and beat them.'
Oregon State is coming off its most dominant performance of the season, a 43-3 win over Stanford on Saturday that was even more one-sided than the final score. The Beavers stuffed the run against the Cardinal, who had minus-12 yards on the ground, the third-worst total ever by an OSU opponent. Oregon State's had a huge advantage in total offense (663 yards to 133) and first downs (29-8). It won't be anything like that against the Ducks.
'We have played pretty good defense all year, and we match up well with most anybody,' Riley says. 'But Oregon's offense can be explosive. We have to handle their speed. (Receivers) Samie Parker and Demetrius Williams, those guys are fast and good players. They will test us for sure.
'Their defense is obviously playing well, too. We are going to have to protect the quarterback (Derek Anderson) and find a way to run the ball consistently. I know they will pay a lot of attention to Steven (Jackson).'
Last year, Oregon State had its way with the Ducks in a 45-24 rout in Corvallis. Anderson had what was probably his best career performance in a crucial game, completing 21 of 37 passes for 370 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. Two years ago at Autzen, the Beavers led into the fourth quarter before Keenan Howry's punt return for a TD rescued the fourth-ranked Ducks in a 17-14 UO victory. That might be the kind of game it will be Saturday. 'It's going to be a hard fight,' OSU linebacker Richard Seigler says. 'It always is against Oregon. But we are going to go down there and try to take one.'
A sellout crowd of more than 56,000 at Autzen will be the largest the Beavers have played before this season. Riley says he will explore the possibility of piping in noise to simulate Autzen during practice sessions this week. É James Newson has caught at least one pass in 34 straight games. He still needs one TD reception to break his tie with Vern Burke for the school career record. Both have 19.