Decade Anniversary: Ducks win memorable 2001 Civil War
An entire decade ago to date, the 105th edition of the Civil War was set. Both teams had waited weeks for this game after a long absence, as ABC had given each school one million dollars to postpone the battle for a national television audience prior to the start of the season. Expectations for both schools were very high in the preseason rankings, but only Oregon had managed to have the prestigious season many predicted of both schools. Many renowned preseason press polls (such as Sports Illustrated, who picked OSU #1 nationally) had goofed at predicting Oregon State’s finish after so many seniors were lost from the successful 11-1 2000 season/Fiesta Bowl Championship Team. Oregon State was 5-5 heading into the game, hoping to at least get a winning record and bowl berth; while Oregon sat at 9-1 with the conference title in their own control and every other team with at least two conference losses. Though guaranteed of at least their second consecutive share of the Pac-10 title, Oregon had a lot to play for. A win meant their first outright conference title since 1994, as well as an outside chance to play for the national championship.
The much hyped contest was set and ready to go, and the day Oregonians had long waited for had finally arrived. The weather was sunny in the morning after overnight showers, with a chance of showers predicted for the game. Every Oregonian knew to be prepared on that sunny morning and wisely chose to pack rain gear. After a sunny pre-game, the kickoff was just around the corner as precipitation began. The game would be the final home game for 13 seniors who had guided Oregon to a better record each season since most had arrived in 1997. A huge round of applause was given for the outgoing stalwarts, and the crowd erupted as the legendary Joey Harrington came out of the tunnel. Soon, the game was underway. Oregon would receive the ball to start the game. Allan Amundson returned the ball to the Oregon State 30, and Quarterback Joey Harrington took the field for his final game at Autzen Stadium to cap an outstanding career. Oregon State’s usually inept defense was primed and ready to go, not allowing anything by the powerful Oregon offense on the first series and forcing a three-and-out. Oregon would punt, and Oregon State made the most of their opening drive from their own 40. OSU would convert a third down beyond midfield by the powerful tailback Ken Simonton, looking to complete his fourth 1,000 yard season. From the Oregon 26, OSU faced third down. OSU QB Jonathan Smith had a wide open receiver in the red zone, but overthrew him to force a field goal attempt. Native Oregonian and UO transfer Yliniemi came on for OSU in his first game as a starter to nail the kick from 32 yards out to put OSU on the board to cap a successful opening drive. 3-0, Oregon State.
Harrington attempted to answer back. Harrington threw to Justin Peelle for his first completion of the day for a first down. Soon after, Harrington found Howry at midfield on a hook route, who hauled it in to make the catch just inside Oregon State territory before slipping on the wet (and short-lived) NexTurf. The rain proved to be a huge factor, as Harrington would fumble the wet ball (but recover it) on first down, followed by a slip by Onterrio Smith and a failed third down conversion to force another punt. Both teams traded possessions, and the first quarter was winding down. The sun came out for the remainder of the quarter, and gave Oregon State a spark to move the ball, but OSU had to punt following an incomplete third down pass. Keenan Howry gave Oregon a spark on the punt return (which he would top later in the day.) Howry fielded the punt at his own 15, sneaking right through OSU defenders and spinning his way to the Oregon 40 to give Oregon the momentum. On first down, Harrington pitched to Maurice Morris in motion to the left. Morris made the most of a block by Josh Line, and used his quick speed to race beyond midfield and down the sidelines. In a footrace, Morris dashed 35 yards to the OSU 25 before being tackled and sliding ten feet on the slick NexTurf for the first down. Oregon’s momentum would stall from there, as OSU’s defense held strong, sacking Harrington on third down to force a field goal attempt. Freshman Jared Siegel had been strong all year, and continued his hot streak by answering with a 44 yard field goal to get Oregon on the board and tie the game. 3-3, to end the first quarter.
Oregon State took possession to begin the second quarter. OSU QB Jonathan Smith threw a perfect 50 yard strike to receiver James Newson to get OSU into the red zone, and OSU appeared in control to take the lead again. However, on third down, a miscommunication between Smith and his receiver occurred for the pass to fall incomplete and force a field goal. Yliniemi would miss the kick and the game remained tied. Both teams failed to find a spark on their next possessions, continually having to punt back and forth. Midway through the second quarter, the rain rolled back in as a light drizzle, only worsening as the game progressed. The Beavers would take possession with seven minutes remaining, and maintained possession for the remainder of the half by milking the clock on a long drive. The drive stalled as Oregon’s defense prevented a touchdown in the red zone, but Ylienemi connected on a 28-yard field goal against the fierce wind and rain to give Oregon State the lead going into the half. Each team had struggled defensively all year, yet it proved to be a huge defensive battle in the first half. Oregon State led with 200 yards to Oregon’s 98; but neither team found a big spark and held the other in check when it mattered most. The Beavers would led by only three (with no penalties the entire half.) 6-3, Oregon State at halftime.
Sun had turned to clouds early in the game, clouds had turned to drizzle as the first half progressed, and drizzle turned to pouring rain by halftime. Both teams came out fired up to begin the second half, but something about the pouring rain extinguished the flames of both teams. Heavy rain turned to hale at times, and neither team could manage a thing to begin the third quarter. The wind was blowing the rain eastward as the third quarter wore on, and both teams continually struggled. The tough weather and defense by both teams did a number on each team’s offense, and no points were managed all third quarter. A potential late third quarter touchdown pass from Harrington to Parker in the end zone was just overthrown, and Seigel would miss a field goal to come as close as possible to any third quarter points. The score remained 6-3, Oregon State; sending the game into the one of the most dramatic fourth quarters in Civil War History.
Oregon State had possession of the ball to end the third quarter, and faced a third down to begin the fourth being backed up in Oregon territory. Unable to move the ball, Oregon State would punt early in the fourth quarter. Under dark and stormy skies, OSU Punter Carl Tobey kicked directly to Keenan Howry at his own 30 yard line. Arguable the best punt return in Oregon Football history, Howry made the most of his first two blocks near him. Howry ran directly down the center of the field with his famous speed, sprinting through the -O- at midfield and outracing every potential tackler to the end zone for a 70 yard touchdown. Prior to the play, ABC’s announcer Keith Jackson told the audience Howry was dynamite. Howry proved Jackson’s point, exploding Oregon State’s special teams unit and changing the momentum of the entire game to give Oregon the lead. 10-6, Oregon.
Once they had the lead, the Ducks poured on the defense in a downpour for the ages. The house was delirious and electrifying, only making it harder for OSU. Raining and blowing harder than it had all day, the hale was now coming. However, Oregon’s defense completely weathered the storm and found the momentum they had lacked all game, completely shutting down Oregon State’s attack on the ensuing drive. Simonton was stuffed by the Oregon Defensive Line on all three runs to go three-and-out and force OSU to punt the ball right back to the Ducks. For the first time all game, Oregon was unstoppable on offense. From their own 20, the Ducks began a nine minute drive. Morris ran right through the Oregon State defense en route to another 100 yard performance to begin the drive from the 20 to the 30. Two plays later, Harrington threw a perfect strike to Howry down the middle, who made a sliding catch directly at midfield for the first down. Harrington then hit Jason Willis at the OSU 40 for another fresh set of downs. Morris continued the job, carrying twice to get another first down at the OSU 20. Oregon gradually made their way into the end zone and faced Third and 2 from the 12. Morris took the handoff running right and just made it beyond the OSU 10 for the first down to keep the drive alive to milk the clock to under five minutes. On first down, Morris continued his hot streak, running up the middle and powering his way forward using his blocks from Josh Line and Jim Adams. Morris appeared to be down around the three, but used his strength for on the second effort to plow through OSU defenders and fall forward into the end zone for the score. In 12 plays, Oregon had gone 80 yards and eaten up nearly eight minutes, having all the momentum at that point with a two score lead. 17-6, Oregon, with only 4:36 remaining.
Many thought Oregon was in full control, but it was the Civil War. Oregon State was not about to give up, and showed they were ready to fight until the end. Jonathan Smith led OSU right down field, converting several third downs and one fourth & inches. On third and 15 from the Oregon 25, Smith threw an impressive strike to a receiver in double coverage who managed to reel in the ball for the score. Oregon State went for two and converted to pull within three. 17-14, Oregon; and Oregon State was right back in the ball game.
Oregon got the ball back and began to milk the clock. Around midfield, Oregon was conservative and cautious. OSU called a timeout with just under two minutes remaining. On third and nine, Harrington had one of the few low moments of his career occur. Being pressured, Harrington would drop the wet ball and Oregon State would recover to give Oregon fans a heart attack. With 1:38 remaining, Oregon State had the ball at the Oregon 33, and near field goal range. However, Oregon’s defense was more than strong, preventing disaster from the start. The first pass was outside, and proved to be a loss of yardage as the defense held strong and forced OSU back. On 2nd and 13, Smith would fumble the snap in shotgun formation to lose the down and four yards with no timeouts remaining. As the clock ticked down to under a minute, the Beavers faced Third and 17 in the pouring rain with screaming fans louder than ever in the final game of the original Autzen Stadium era. Smith fired downfield, but had failed to consider the direction he was throwing. Oregon’s legendary cornerback Rashad Bauman had an outstanding career for in his time as a Duck, and was considered among the Pac-10’s best for a reason. Bauman made the most of his final play on the Autzen Stadium field, beautifully picking off Smith’s pass and returning it into Oregon territory to seal the deal for the Ducks. Bauman recalls his victorious game-winning interception to go out with a bang. “We knew we had to make the stop. We knew someone had to make it to give us what we needed to get the win. I wouldn’t say it was anything special other than we were very prepared. It was more of a shock to me that they came to my side, that was probably the biggest. I never would have expected them to come my way, but it was big to be there.”
Joey Harrington would take his final snap as a Duck and go right to a knee to run out the clock. The celebration was on at Autzen, and the crowd, players, and coaches would celebrate the victory and conference championship under the Autzen lights regardless of the pouring cold rainy night. Oregon finished with only 209 yards on the day versus Oregon State’s 360, but only points would matter. The outright Pac-10 Title belonged to the Ducks, and the memorable senior class went out in style with the tight win over their in-state rival. OSU Tailback Ken Simonton only needed a 100 yard game to reach his goal of his fourth consecutive 1,000 yard season. However, as icing on the cake, Oregon’s defense held Simonton to only 84 yards rushing on 26 carries, stopping him just short of his goal. Bauman recalls the feeling of victory to prevent Bauman from achieving his goal in the Civil War. “That game was Ken Simonton’s chance to be the first-ever Pac-10 rusher to rush for for 1,000 yards all four seasons of his career. I remember the defense taking pride in not allowing him to get that record on us. We made the plays we needed to and took pride in stopping him. The whole game was a physical game, but always is when you’re playing against the Beavers. Making the stop was our goal, and we came through.”
The house was delirious, as Oregon was assured of at least the Fiesta Bowl and had an outside shot at the national title (as they should have been selected for after every other team lost on the day to give Oregon #2 in all human polls.) The following seniors would go out with a bang: Joey Harrington, Steve Smith, Maurice Morris, Rashad Bauman, Wes Mallard, Ty Tomlin, Gary McGraw, Josh Line, Zack Freiter, Ryan Schmid, Jim Adams, Justin Peelle, and Chris Tetterton. Oregon finished with their first ever ten win regular season, and made a nation stand up and take note. Final Score: Oregon 17, Oregon State 14.
Memories with Rashad Bauman
When interviewed, the 2001 senior cornerback gave his thoughts about the memorable game. Questions and Answers with Oregon Great Rashad Bauman:
Something you may not know about Rashad:
To remain focused, Bauman had a method of focusing primarily on his role as a defender, rarely watching offensive plays. Bauman did not even see Howry’s punt return for the touchdown until a few years ago. “I never even saw the Keenan Howry punt return. When it happened, I knew the stadium erupted and heard about it, but I never got a chance to see the play itself. It’s a lot easier to deal with game to focus on your part only. Very few plays I can remember anyone on offense. There were lots of games I never saw.”
How did Howry play change the chemistry?
I think any time you’re in a game like that, I think you feed off the crowd, emotions, etc. Because a lot of players feed off that emotion, sometimes it’s needed to spark the whole change of tide, momentum switch, etc. That’s always a big adrenaline rush when something of that magnitude happens.
What was unique about the 2001 Civil War Victory?
The fact that it was Oregon State. For us, our preparation was almost like for a professional team. You don’t want to make it seem too high, but at the same time that’s where we were–we were a powerhouse. We were a force to be reckoned with, we knew it. At that point in time, us beating up on OSU wasn’t that big of a deal, we felt we’d already arrived at that point, playing more for ourselves than any team. That was a very special team and our leaders led well and younger guys followed well.
What was biggest focus to win the game?
It was special, but that team was on a different mission. That year, we didn’t see a team, it was a goal.
What was the most intense moment?
I remember I dropped a pick earlier on one drive, I couldn’t believe it. (In OSU’s second to last drive.) Next thing I know, they came right back in the game. (From 17-6 to 17-14) That was huge. For a minute we had it locked up until the turnover. (Until Bauman made the winning interception)
What was it like to have such a special final play at Autzen Stadium, making the game-clinching interception?
It was just what we wanted it to be. It couldn’t have gotten drawn up any better. The game came down to the defense, and it was what we all knew it was to be. For me as a senior to make the play was perfect. I never would have expected them to come my way, but it was big to be there.