OSU still searching for what the Ducks found
EUGENE Ð As the inevitable postgame throng of kids, fraternity goofballs and drunks dashed around the chilly turf in Autzen Stadium, two teams tried to explain what had happened.
After this game, we know so much more about them.
The Ducks had dominated the Beavers at the line of scrimmage and won the Civil War. Steven Jackson, who looked like anything but an NFL player on this afternoon, carried the ball twice for 48 yards. Oh, yeah Ñ he also carried it 16 other times for 20 yards.
In a tiny hallway near the $320 visitors' locker room, the Beavers tried to figure it out.
'We couldn't run the ball,' OSU coach Mike Riley said. 'It was a back-and-forth game for a while, but even then I didn't think our 'back and forth' was going as well as theirs. They were balanced, and we weren't.'
In a comfortable chair and a warm media room near the home team's $3.2 million locker room, Oregon coach Mike Bellotti tried to explain how his team recovered from a midseason swoon to finish 8-4, 5-3 in the Pacific-10 Conference.
He struggled to find reasons. He talked about leadership from underclassmen and what he learned from a trip to Detroit during a bye week to watch Joey Harrington play for the hapless Lions.
'Players need unconditional love,' he said. 'Just like your children.'
In other words, don't get too down on them when things go bad.
And really, it has been a pretty good season for both teams. The Ducks have a nice record for a young team and can always cherish a win over Michigan that looks better now that the Wolverines have defeated Ohio State. The Beavers are 7-4 with a game left against USC that they probably can't win Ñ but for all their problems, that isn't bad.
Oregon State has found its own worst enemy in the mirror all season. This team not only turns the ball over and gets penalties, it does so at the worst possible times. It must have been a frustrating team to root for Ñ because it seemed capable of so much more.
Just about every loss was the Beavers' own doing. Except, perhaps, in the Civil War, as the Ducks outplayed them most of the game.
Riley likes to talk about how resilient his team is, but the Beavers didn't look ready for another game. In the final moments, OSU all but quit Ñ as did the coaches, who punted on fourth down, staring at a 14-point deficit.
It will be interesting to see if Riley's extended presence and his recruiting will somehow change the dark side of that program Ñ away from the trash talking, inexplicable mistakes and stupid penalties that have been a trademark for the last few seasons.
And it will be intriguing to see where the Ducks go from here. A win over a quality opponent in a bowl game would set them up for a very big 2004 season.
The Ducks have rediscovered their identity, and the Beavers are still searching for theirs.