Oregon’s 1996 comeback, Part II: 100th Civil War

Approximately 15 years ago to date, Oregon headed to Corvallis’ Parker Stadium for the 100th Civil War game.  Sitting at 5-5 overall, Oregon wanted their third consecutive winning season and a shot at a bowl game.  Oregon State was 2-8 overall, but always wanted to end their season on a high note by beating their instate rival.  The previous two years, Oregon State had come very close to dashing Oregon’s bowl dreams, but the Ducks had pulled two consecutive fourth quarter comebacks in 1994 and 1995.  Oregon State was coming off a huge win the week earlier, and hoping to knock Oregon out of the bowl picture to win the 100th Civil War contest.

All week leading up to the game, the Willamette Valley had seen record rainfall, causing Parker Stadium’s drainage system to clog and flood the field.  Days before the game, the old Astroturf surface of Parker Stadium had to be professionally drained to the best of the crew’s abilities.  Finally on Saturday November 23rd the oldest rivalry on the west coast was set and ready to play. Oregon took the opening kickoff and went three-and-out, having to punt.  Oregon State made nothing out of their first drive either, and were forced to punt right back to Oregon.  At first, many thought the game would be another defensive battle, as it had been in years before.  Throughout the 1990’s, neither team had scored more than 20 points in the series, and this appeared to be shaping up as another offensive struggle.  However, Oregon soon broke the trend, exploding on offense starting on their second offensive series.  Saladin McCullough returned from a one week injury absence to run the ball 20+ yards to midfield and set up the first score. Senior Tony Graziani then fired a pass to receiver Jibri Hodge for a gain of 35 yards and into the red zone.  From the OSU 15, McCullough would rush for a first down to the four, then take the next play into the end zone for the opening score. 7-0, Oregon.

Oregon’s defense came alive on Oregon State’s ensuing possession, with the seniors proving “Gang Green” was not completely gone from Oregon’s last ranking in total defense.  Oregon State’s QB Tim Alexander was renowned for beating defenses with his legs, being a three Deep in their own territory, OSU attempted a drive with their Wishbone Offense attack, but Oregon Senior Defensive Lineman Mark Schmidt made his presence felt by stuffing the OSU rusher for a huge loss.  On third down, OSU QB Tim Alexander attempted to run the option, when he was met by Oregon Senior Linebacker Reggie Jordan.  Jordan read the triple option, blitzed, and was there to hit Alexander just after the snap; causing the ball to pop up and be pulled down by Oregon Safety Jaiya Figueras to give Oregon the ball and great field position.

Oregon’s offense took advantage again.  Graziani converted a third down with a completion to the OSU 13 to get Oregon into the red zone, followed by a screen pass to Tailback Kevin Parker.  Parker picked up where he left off in his huge game the previous week.  Similar to the winning touchdown two years earlier from Danny O’Neil to Dino Philyaw, Parker raced his way down the sidelines and 13 yards into the end zone untouched. 14-0, Oregon.  Parker (now a recruiter/coach assistant at University of California) recalls the intensity of the play.  “It was a play we used to call ‘crack screen left.’  Great blocks from the line got me right in.  I remember it was raining and trying not to slip, getting ready to celebrate.  To score a touchdown against your rival is big.” Parker also recalls the vibe from the sidelines following the play.  “Vibe was real nice.  Anytime you put points on the board, you have reason to celebrate, especially in a rivalry game.  Just playing in that stadium, they had some serious fans and they love their football; but doesn’t matter what record is in the Civil War.  OSU fans leave you alone once you score, and look back at them, as you have something to throw back a them.  Once you get opportunity to quiet crowd, it’s big.  For me to get chance to catch and run in was a team effort, and it makes you proud to know you helped.”

Things only got worse for Oregon State.  OSU managed to move the ball to midfield, but a huge sack was made by senior Nose Tackle Bryant Jackson.  On third and long, Figueras made another huge play, running down OSU Fullback DeShawn Williams in the back field for a huge loss to force another punt.  That would end the first quarter with Oregon leading 14-0.

Oregon moved the ball to midfield until a controversial fumble gave OSU back the ball.  OSU managed a field goal off of the fumble to get on the board. 14-3, Oregon.  Oregon immediately responded, moving the ball at will.  Graziani threw a bomb to Damon Griffin for a gain of 40 yards and into Oregon territory.  The next pass was a flap pass completed to Fullback AJ Jelks to get Oregon into the red zone.  Two plays later, Saladin McCullough ran untouched into the end zone to add to the Oregon lead. 21-3, Oregon.  OSU failed big on their ensuing posession.  Corvallis native Oregon Defenseive Back LaMont Woods stuffed the OSU Tailback on second down, forcing a third and long.  Derrick Barnes made a miraculous play, chasing Alexander backwards and into his own end zone.  Alexander lost control of the ball while still on his feet and Barnes appeared to recover for the score, but the official ruled Barnes had Alexander down after pressuring him enough.  However, OSU would be forced to punt, and the Ducks took full advantage.  Graziani and company moved the ball at will again; with Graziani throwing for three first downs, and McCullough accounting for three as well.  On third and four from the Oregon 8, Graziani rolled left and found wide open fullback Eric Winn for the touchdown to cap a 16 play, 65 yard drive. 28-3, Oregon.

Oregon State, known for their wishbone offense and running game, was not known for throwing the ball during the Jerry Pettibone era.  Oregon had their number rushing, so OSU finally went for a pass attack late in the first half.  QB Tim Alexander found a wide open Freshman WR Roddy Tompkins downfield, who outraced his defender and into the end zone for only the second touchdown thrown by Alexander all year.  28-10, Oregon, as would end the first half.

Oregon State took the opening kickoff to begin the third quarter.  Assisted by penalties, Tim Alexander and company moved the wishbone attack forward and into the Oregon red zone.  In ten plays, OSU went 60 yards to average an unusual six yards/play.  However, Oregon State’s season-long struggle to move the ball through the air continued, as there were several misfires to the end zone, capped by a Reggie Jordan sack to foil an Alexander option run.  The Beavers would have to settle for a field goal. 28-13, Oregon.

From there, Oregon struck and never let up.  With great field position, Oregon’s Saladin McCullough took the handoff at the Oregon 40 and crossed midfield.  Parker ran the next carry for 15 yards, followed by a pass interference to give Oregon the ball in the red zone.  Graziani would complete a pass to the five, followed by a touchdown strike to receiver Jibri Hodge who forced his way into the end zone for the score for his first and final touchdown as a Duck. 35-13, Oregon.

Things only got worse for Oregon State from there.  A fumble on second down was recovered by Reggie Jordan, and the Ducks were in business again.  Oregon overcame a penalty as Graziani found Parker on a screen pass, who burst his way into the red zone.  Little by little, the Ducks marched closer, until Saladin McCullough (who appeared to be down at the two) forced his way into the end zone for a three yard score. 42-13, Oregon; giving the offensively inept Beavers little opportunity for any type of comeback.  In the process, McCullough would set a new Oregon record for the most touchdown runs in a season with 15.  OSU managed nothing, and the third quarter would end with Oregon on fire and Oregon State completely deflated.

Early in the fourth quarter, Oregon’s unstoppable offense struck again.  Senior Quarterback Ryan Perry-Smith had done a lot for Oregon all season, improving his game each week as an outstanding leader for Oregon’s senior class.  Perry-Smith made his presence felt as soon as he temporarily stepped in for the shaken up Graziani, leading Oregon on one final drive to cap a big season for himself.  Perry-Smith came out firing on all cylinders, leading Oregon downfield and into the red zone.  Senior Tight End Josh Wilcox added to his lead atop of all-time Tight Ends in Oregon history with a terrific reception.  Parker nearly made it into the end zone on a run right, but was stopped at the goal line.  Tailback Derien Latimer finished the job on the very next play, rushing for his fourth touchdown of the season. 49-13, Oregon.

Graziani returned for Oregon to move the ball in the process.  Midway through the fourth quarter, Coach Mike Bellotti (knowing the team had the victory wrapped up) pulled all of the seniors at the same time to honor their contributions to the team.  A standing ovation was given by the many fans at Parker Stadium who made the journey to Corvallis for the final game.  Yardage was added by the offense for statistical purposes, while the defense continued to dominate the struggling Beaver ground game.  The clock would tick away in the cold rain, and the celebration was on for Oregon.  A dominating performance by Oregon to win their third straight game marked a reflection of this team’s determination and will to win despite adversity through the mid-season.

The 49-13 (36-point difference) marked the largest margin of victory for Oregon in the series since 1987.  Parker recalls the intensity of the game, and the energy of the team at the end.  “We were on a mission to go to a bowl game, and we always wanted to do well in a rivalry game, whether your record is 10-0, or 0-10, you definitely want to get that win.”  The win was huge for Oregon, giving them a winning record and overcoming a five game losing streak with three consecutive wins to end the season strong.  The outgoing veteran seniors played a huge roll in the comeback.  Parker, a sophomore at the time, recalls the senior class that made a difference for the younger players in his class.  “When you lose 5 games and go through a rough point, everyone points fingers.  That’s where strong team leadership has to surface, offense and defense going against each other.  Good leaders then told us to pick it up and we did.”

With the win, Oregon capped its regular season on a three game winning streak, scoring at least 40 points in each match.  Though Oregon was not selected for a bowl, they finished with a 6-5 record and proved the heart of the team with their performance in the Civil War.  The 100th game between Oregon and Oregon State (the longest rivalry on the west coast) was in the books, and Oregon had sent its seniors out in impressive fashion to prove the heart of the team to overcome its mid-season slump and finish strong. Final score, Oregon 49, Oregon State 13.

 

Interview with Kevin Parker

When interviewed, former Oregon Tailback Kevin Parker gave his thoughts about the memorable game.  Questions and Answers with Oregon Tailback Kevin Parker:

Q.)  In your memory, what play sticks out the most?

A.)  “The ‘crack screen left’ play was very successful against Oregon State, proving to be the Civil War game winner to send Oregon to the Rose Bowl two years earlier.  Parker learned the play from Philyaw, having been mentored and trained by Philyaw from the start of his career.   When I first came to camp, Dino picked me up and I stayed with him for two weeks before camp.  I remember scoring that one, and calling him to tell about it–that I had scored on his same play–the same as his in 1994.”

Q.)  What was the morale of the team like following the victory?

A.)   “Morale of team was really huge.  Partied hard in locker room, but we were thrilled to beat a rival.  We made to benchmark, morale was very high.  The ride back was exciting, and crowd back home was awesome.”

Q.) What was the key to beating Oregon State on the day?

A.) Just pure domination.  We had their number that day.  49, or 1 point, winning that game is huge!  That day seemed like 100 points.  No matter score, just want win.  To think we had post season game was huge.  Another thing I see that it sparked was a bowl selection.  To find we weren’t selected, our seniors were crushed, but as young guys, it sparked us to pick up pace and not let happen again and get back to work.  We finished 1997-1998,  It Built character to control destiny.  It did teach us that you can’t put yourself in that situation, gotta play to win, and that’s what they’ve been able to do–keep winning!

Q.)  What was it like to beat Cal, have the same record at 6-5/3-5, yet have them selected for the Aloha Bowl and be left out by every other bowl game?

A.)  Even though they chose Cal, we knew we earned it since we beat them.  But we stuck together, it was a family affair.  With Reggie, Graz, etc., we wanted to extend their college career.  You want that extra game just to be with those guys an extra time if you don’t have to move onto NFL.  Another game to travel, go with the fellas one more week.  Once it’s over, all said and done (for one’s career) if you don’t get opportunity to go to league.

Q.)  What was the emotion like to send off the seniors (at least with the victory if not the bowl game?)

A.)  Huge.  Those guys really had a lot of foundation they brought to the big game.  As young guys played as rose bowl youngsters.  It was a nice sendoff of our seniors, and the young guys like us wanted to make plays and win–not only against our rivals, but we wanted to have something to talk to them about.  Mainly so, on a team, you want to play for the person next to you, when they’re a senior, you want to let them get a ring.

 

EPILOGUE:  TRIBUTE TO OUTGOING STALWARTS

The 100th annual Civil War marked the final game for many terrific Oregon seniors who had stuck together to overcome many deficits.  Many veterans from the 1994 Rose Bowl season were sent off with a bang, including five of six veteran offensive linemen, two leading quarterbacks, and six major senior defenders left over from “Gang Green.”  After beginning the year strong and weathering a mid-season slump, the team’s outstanding leadership led to a third consecutive winning season for Oregon.  Though Oregon would not go to a bowl game, they would finish with a winning record.  In addition, the 1996 Oregon team planted the seeds to improve upon each season to come until 2001, earning one additional win every year (six in 1996, seven in 1997, eight in 1998, nine in 1999, ten in 2000, and 11 in 2001.)  Sadly for Oregon, (despite an equal record with California and head-to-head victory over California,) the Aloha Bowl selection committee chose Cal over Oregon and Oregon did not receive a bowl bid.  However, the 49-13 victory sent fans and seniors away happy and made way for the underclassmen to work even harder to earn a bowl bid the following year(s) to come.  Special Thanks to the 1996 Oregon greats to work together to overcome a mid-season slump and finish as a team.

In their honor, the outgoing players were:

-Tony Graziani: Quarterback.  Graziani finished his career FIFTH ALL TIME, leading Oregon to a 14-5 record as a starter, and only falling short of other records due to injury.  Still ranks as the only starting left-handed QB in Oregon history.  Renowned for his ability to rally the team, Graziani started his first game in place of Danny O’Neil as a sophomore, leading the at USC in 1994 to begin the Rose Bowl run, and throwing for nearly 300 yards and a touchdown in a 22-7 victory—their first in Los Angeles since 1971.  Took over for the graduating O’Neil in 1995, leading team to four come-from-behind victories (and one in 1996,) and individually ranked #8 in total offense among all NCAA Football players in 1995, along with a Cotton Bowl berth in 1995 in their 9-3 final ranking.  Only injuries during Graziani’s senior season prevented him from finishing his career with additional statistics, but Graziani well overcame his knee injury to lead Oregon to a winning record and finish strong.  Though unable to lead Oregon in a bowl, Graziani went to the former Blue-Gray all-star game to lead the North team to a come-from-behind victory to cap his NCAA career.  Graziani would continue on to the NFL for a career as a backup, followed by a very successful career in the Arena Football League as the league’s top QB and highest paid player.

-Dameron Ricketts: Wide Receiver. A veteran for Oregon, the most experienced receiver, and four year starter.  Had an outstanding career, making receptions at most crucial times for Oregon.  Had two catches in Oregon’s most famous 1994 drive against Washington from Danny O’Neil.  When pinned at their own two, O’Neil threw from back of end zone to find Ricketts for 35 yards.  O’Neil’s next pass from midfield to Ricketts led Oregon into Washington territory, taking several defenders to drag Ricketts down to lead to the go-ahead touchdown.  Ricketts started as a Quarterback, moving to an outstanding receiver with six career touchdowns and 84 receptions for nearly 1,200 yards.

-Kaon-Jabbar East: Defensive back, outstanding senior leader among the fastest on the team, very fast and successful, going on to pursue a semi-professional football career.

-Lamont Woods: Cornerback:  Also a standout athlete for Oregon Track and Field, Woods saw a lot of playing time for Oregon Football.  Starting every game in 1996 and finishing his career strong, Woods went out on a high by beating his hometown team.

-Jibri Hodge: Wide Receiver.   Came in as transfer student at the start of his junior year in 1995, improving drastically and becoming a leading receiver for the team with 629 yards and finally earning his first touchdown in the Civil War for his final game as a Duck.

-Ryan Perry-Smith: Quarterback, and special teams holder for all four years of his career.  Finished 1996 season among Pac-10 leaders as a backup for the injured Graziani (when only playing in six full games), leading team to three 1996 victories and one in 1995 over Illinois.  Earned team’s most improved player award in 1996.  Held football for kickers all four years of his career, helping those kickers be very successful in their role.

-Ronnie Gipson: Defensive back.  Earned his way to second string and a few starts, a much improved player.

-Chad Williams:  Llinebacker. Walk-on native Oregonian, getting playing time/great hits on special teams and only injuries preventing from seeing more of field.

-Pulou Malepeai:  Fullback.  One of three brothers to leave Oregon on a high after memorable career.

-Derek Allen: Linebacker.  Backup for majority of career, earning starting spot in 1996 and among best tacklers.

-Reggie Jordan: Outside Linebacker. Stalwart anchor of the “Gang Green” and near the top of the list in leading tacklers in 1994, 1995, and 1996.  Jordan led Oregon’s “Gang Green” defense in tackles for loss and QB sacks in 1994, and had an interception return to set up a touchdown in the 1995 Rose Bowl.  Jordan finished with an outstanding Civil War performance to cap a memorable career at Oregon, and would return to Oregon as an academic counselor for student athletes.

-Bob Baldwin, offensive guard.  Was a veteran anchor of Oregon’s line, seeing action for three years and starting all games as a senior.

-Mark Schmidt: Defensive End.  Four year letterman, very successful on Oregon’s Defensive Line.  Was well known for his contribution to “Gang Green” defense, having huge sacks and stuffs of runs.  Had a sack against Cal in 1994 at the one yard line to set up a blocked punt for safety, as well as three other terrific sacks in 1994 to add to the success of “Gang Green.”

-Jerome Perryman: Defensive Athlete.  Outstanding athlete, playing linebacker and defensive lineman throughout career.  Was only prevented from major career due to injuries.  Currently remains the most athletic of 1996 squad as a Portland Fire Fighter, and a champion in weight lifting competitions for Crossfit Fitness.

-Clay Mauritson: Linebacker.  Hard working walk-on to see playing time on special teams and mop-up duties.

-Derrick Barnes: linebacker.  Veteran linebacker for “Gang Green” squad, starting majority of games in 1995 and 1996, among leading tacklers.  Pac-10 player of the week after final home game.

-Rob Williams: Guard. Walk-on native Oregonian from Lebanon.  Died in 2008 of unknown causes.

-Matt Nichols: Lineman.  Saw playing time on special teams.

-Mark Gregg: Center.  Veteran lineman having an outstanding career among Pac-10’s best.  Started nearly every game from 1994-1996, and was a quiet leader among seniors.

-Paul Wiggins: Offensive Tackle.  Veteran lineman, outstanding athlete.  Anchor of Oregon’s line, Wiggins started nearly every game in 1995-1996, and went on to NFL.

-Tasi Malepeai: Offensive Guard.  Veteran lineman, largest/strongest player on team.  Started nearly every game from 1994-1996, and was an emotional leader for team.

-Willy Rife: Offensive Tackle.  Veteran lineman, Eugene area native.  Very active in Oregon’s trip to Rose Bowl, starting many games as sophomore.  Large 6’6, 310  build assisted protecting Oregon’s backfield in many games.  Only injuries prevented a very successful senior season.

-Christian Anderson: Tight End.  Outstanding reserve Tight End.  Only scored one touchdown as a Duck, but was an anchor of line, and played big part in many big plays.  Best play of career came at USC in 1994, making a remarkable downfield block on defenders to assist Dino Philyaw on the season-best 63 yard TD.  Possibly most underrated player on offense, would have started at most schools, but had to battle other outstanding tight ends Josh Wilcox and Blake Spence for playing time.

-Josh Wilcox: Tight End.  Outstanding career at Oregon, renowned for his great blocks and abilities in receiving corps. Career leader in receptions by a tight end, already broken entering season.  Finished with 103 receptions for 1415 yards and 15 touchdowns

-Bryant Jackson: Nose Tackle/Guard.  Outstanding Defensive Lineman, winning award to get most playing time despite physical adversity.  Finished career at Oregon very successful, very active reserve player in 1994 Rose Bowl season and starter 1995-1996.  Had one of team’s nine sacks in 1994 USC upset, and a huge tackle for loss on All-American running back Shawn Walters.

-Kenny Wheaton (Junior):  Though only a redshirt junior, Wheaton would play his final game as well.  The first Oregon Football player ever to leave school a year early for the NFL, Wheaton finished with four career touchdowns (three on defense each year played, and one offensive touchdown as a freshman.)  As any Duck fan knows, Wheaton is most renowned for “The Pick” of 1994, when he foiled the game-winning drive against Washington by reading a pass and taking it back 97 yards for a touchdown to add to Oregon’s lead and make a statement to a 31-20 victory.  Wheaton did so much more for Oregon, being an emotional leader on and off the field.  Weeks prior to “The Pick,” Wheaton had his first big play against USC in the 1994 upset, intercepting a pass right out of the USC receivers hand in the opening USC drive.  Things seemed to get better each week for Wheaton, who had a fingertip interception against Cal, followed by “The Pick.”  As his career continued, Wheaton had two additional interceptions returned for touchdowns against Pacific in 1995 and Fresno State in 1996; and led Oregon in tackles and interceptions to complete his final season as the team’s MVP.  The week prior, Wheaton had a remarkable fumble recovery in the very spot where he made “The Pick” to give Oregon the ball/momentum and prevent a comeback.  Recently (October, 2011), Wheaton earned a spot in the Oregon Hall of Fame for his outstanding leadership and athletic abilities, and remains in the hearts of every true Duck as he continues to this day to send chills down the spines of all who replay “The Pick.”

 

Print Friendly
Powered by
Dave Melo

Dave Melo

Dating back to his childhood in 1993; Melo has gone to Duck games, practices, and gotten to personally know generations of Oregon Football players. He is a historical stat genius of Oregon football, particularly knowledgeable of the seasons of his childhood/youth years from 1994-mid 2000's. A big Duck football fan, Melo is known by many former players as the "Stats Guy" for remembering statistics of games and each Oregon team through the years. Melo also has had a personal tradition over the years of e-mailing a list of former players during football season on anniversary dates of milestone victories in Duck history. The tradition continues with a large e-mailing list that grows each year, and to a much larger audience as Melo joins Fish Duck to share his passion of Oregon Football history that got the Ducks to where they stand today.