Oregon is in the midst of a bad season with a 4-7 record, but they are coming off its best win of the season, a 30-28 upset over No. 11 Utah. The win not only gave the Ducks a much-needed victory, but it gave them a renewed confidence in themselves and the coaching staff.
As for the Beavers, they are in the middle of a rebuild, but they too have confidence as they defeated Arizona 42-17 for their third win of the season. Oregon State is just 3-7, but it has been much more competitive in 2016 and has a bright future.
A Civil War win would be a huge boost to Gary Andersen’s program. The Beavers have an eight game losing streak against their in-state rivals, but for the first time since the streak started, Oregon State has a legitimate chance of breaking that streak.
Before last Saturday, the Beavers very well could have been the actual favorites in the contest that will be televised by the Pac-12 Network at 1 pm. Oregon was reeling by winning just one game in its last eight games of the season and rumors were swirling around campus that head coach Mark Helfrich’s time as a Duck was winding down. Longtime booster Pat Kilkenny was even compelled to go on the radio to defend the coach and reassuring fans everything will be all right.
When true freshman quarterback Justin Herbert found receiver Darren Carrington in the corner of the end zone for the game-winning touchdown with two seconds left, Oregon got the win and the huge cloud hovering around the program dissipated for the moment.
That catch was the best play in the Duck season and it might have been the worst play for the Beavers. They needed Oregon to come into Corvallis with doubt hanging over it. Now the Ducks will come into the Civil War with an attitude and a sense of urgency, which usually means bad news for the Beavers.
Even with the Ducks’ attitude adjustment, Andersen has built his OSU program on toughness and grit, so although Oregon will come in with the best possible mindset, the Beavers won’t just lay down and roll over. Oregon State proved that last season when the Beavers came into Autzen and gave Oregon a big scare before going down 52-42.
“We’ll be excited going into the Civil War, which is a huge game. I got my very first taste of it last year and it’s a tremendous rivalry and we’ll start on that in the morning,” Anderson said after OSU’s victory over Arizona.
The Ducks aren’t the only team in the state to change quarterbacks. But the Beavers had to make changes after starter Darell Garretson went down with a broken ankle in the Utah game. Last year’s quarterback Seth Collins saw some reps, but Andersen has gone with Marcus McMaryion for the last five games.
The sophomore has rewarded Andersen’s faith in him as McMaryion had a career game against the Wildcats last week with five touchdown passes and 265 yards.
McMaryion will definitely be the focus of the Duck defense, but perhaps Oregon’s biggest worry will be tailback Ryan Nall, who is quickly becoming the best running back in the conference. The sophomore from Sandy, Ore. is averaging nearly seven yards per carry and 88 yards per game. But Nall has shown he can explode for big games with the best of them.
Nall managed 221 yards on the ground against Cal, 131 yards against Washington State and 124 more yards against Arizona. The Ducks saw first hand what a load the 234-pounder can be when he gained 174 yards on 19 carries (9.2 ypc) and a touchdown.
Oregon will have to come up with something defensively because a lot of rushers have had big games against the Ducks and Nall is looking to be the next one. Brady Hoke’s defense is 11th in the conference by allowing 250 yards per game on the ground.
For the Ducks’ sake, the defense might be coming together as the Civil War approaches. They are coming off their best game of the season. Oregon held the Utes to 453 total yards and 28 points. Those numbers don’t sound impressive, but it was the Ducks’ best effort since the conference season began and it’s something to build on for the Civil War and for Spring practice leading up to the 2017 season.
~ Don Smalley