Beavers and Ducks: A study in opposites
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) – The Oregon Ducks and the Oregon State Beavers couldn’t be more different.
The Ducks are slick and polished, with countless uniform combinations and a state-of-the-art locker room courtesy of megabooster and Nike co-founder Phil Knight.
The Beavers are seen as a blue collar team from what one writer has dubbed “Lunchpail U,” who toiled well under the national radar until this week.
The two foes will meet Thursday night in the Civil War. The victor will go to the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day against Ohio State.
While the annual rivalry is always a big deal in the state of Oregon, never before has it been a winner-takes-all path to Pasadena.
Seventh-ranked Oregon (9-2, 7-1) has not been to the Rose Bowl since 1995, while No. 13 Oregon State (8-3, 6-2) hasn’t been since 1965.
“It is really hard to focus in classes and sleep at night. My grandma is even asking me if I am ready to play in the game,” Oregon State cornerback James Dockery said. “We just want to come out on top. It is on my mind 24 hours of the day, which makes it a very exciting time to be a Beaver and we are just anxious to get out there.”
The national scrutiny on the game has further brought out the differences in the two teams.
Oregon, with its innovative spread-option offense, was expected to achieve under new coach Chip Kelly, the team’s offensive coordinator for the past two seasons.
Oregon was ranked No. 16 going into the season. But in the nationally televised opener, the Ducks’ high-flying offense crashed in a 19-8 loss to Boise State. The loss got additional unwanted attention when LeGarrette Blount punched a Broncos player afterward.
Blount was suspended and Oregon moved on without him, putting the loss and controversy decidedly behind them with a seven-game winning streak. The Ducks’ only other loss this season was on the road against Stanford.
As predicted, Oregon’s strength this season has been its offense – guided by quarterback Jeremiah Masoli. The junior, who was booed early in the season by fans who didn’t think he was a competent passer, has started to get Heisman notice.
Masoli has thrown for 14 touchdowns with just four interceptions, and he’s run for 619 yards and 12 scores. Coupled with redshirt freshman running back LaMichael James, who has rushed for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns, the Ducks boast the eighth-best rushing offense in the nation – averaging 231.4 yards a game.
“Everything is on the line,” Oregon senior receiver Ed Dickson said. “The national coverage, the Rose Bowl, the Pac-10 championship. It’s great to have it come through the state of Oregon. Both teams have played well this year, we’ll see who can put it together for one last game.”
Oregon State’s path to the deciding game has been a bit more circuitous. Lyle Moevao, expected to be the Beavers’ quarterback, never quite regained his arm after offseason rotator cuff surgery. Sean Canfield stepped in and became a steadying force, leading the Pac-10 with an average of 254.3 passing yards and 19 touchdown passes.
Oregon State’s losses this season came to Cincinnati, Arizona and USC. The Beavers kind of sneaked up the Pac-10 standings down the stretch with a four-game winning streak going into the Civil War.
“A lot of people did not notice us until all of a sudden, poof, you look up at the end of the last game and we are playing for the conference championship,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said.
The Beavers are all about sophomore running back Jacquizz Rodgers and his older brother James, a flanker.
Quizz, as Jacquizz is known, has run for 1,313 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. He’s also caught 67 passes for 436 yards and another score. Quizz has even thrown a touchdown pass.
The elder Rodgers has caught eight touchdown passes this season, and leads the league with 173.6 all-purpose yards a game.
While Oregon has made an art of the spread option, Oregon State has thrived with some of those unexpected plays, like the fly sweep. This season they’ve toyed with the wildcat formation.
Because the Beavers have defeated the common opponent, Stanford, they would have the tiebreaker for the Rose Bowl.
Last season Oregon State was headed to the Rose Bowl with a victory in the Civil War. But the Ducks came to Reser Stadium and romped to a 65-38 victory. The year before, the Beavers visited Autzen and won 38-31 in the second overtime, on James Rodgers’ fly sweep.
“It’s definitely exciting to be a part of this, and having the Civil War deciding the Pac-10 champion and who gets to go to the Rose Bowl,” Oregon linebacker Casey Matthews said. “It’s exciting for our communities and the state of Oregon.”