The gap is how wide?
Well, digest these numbers put up by Oregon against Oregon State on Saturday: 39 first downs, 102 offensive plays, and 671 total yards.
Six sacks of Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion, along with two interceptions.
How wide again?
Few Oregon regulars were on the field with a quarter to go. They would have received even more of a rest if some drives early in the game hadn’t faltered.
On a sunny day at Autzen Stadium, the Ducks made mincemeat of the Beavers in a 49-21 shellacking that will officially go down as the 115th Civil War game. In so doing, Oregon captured the Pac-12’s North Division title and set up a showdown with UCLA on Friday for the Pac-12 Championship and a berth in the Rose Bowl.
Oh, and left no doubt which college football program rules the state of Oregon.
Much will be made in the media that the victory makes it four straight now for the Ducks over the Beavers. And that the average margin of victory in that stretch has been 19 points a game. And that only one of the match-ups — the 2009 game — was anywhere close.
Throw in the advantage Oregon enjoys with its facilities and marketing and Nike connection, and you’ll read that Oregon has suddenly opened a big gap on Oregon State.
Stop passing that gravy.
This isn’t some new-fangled dish. Yes, there is a gap. But it’s been around for, well, nearly four decades now.
Since 1975, Oregon is 27-9-1 against Oregon State. The Beavers have captured two in a row just once during that period (2006-07). The 2007 overtime contest, in fact, saw an injured UO team turn to its third- and fourth-string quarterbacks. Meanwhile, the Ducks have won eight straight (1975-82) and reeled off four straight three times (1984-87, 1994-97, 2008-11).
What Chip Kelly is accomplishing today is akin to what Rich Brooks enjoyed in his stint as an Oregon coach and then after him Mike Bellotti.
OSU coach Mike Riley was said to have spent some time this week educating his players about the history of the Civil War game. Reports vary but he apparently used up parts of two days rehashing the old plays and stories. It’s likely the names of Dee Andros, Terry Baker and Bill Enyart were mentioned more than once.
Following Saturday’s game, he was asked pointedly by reporters about the “gap.”
“You know, I hope not,” said Riley, who dropped to 4-7 in Civil War contests. “I’m going to look at this thing real hard and try to be realistic. I’m going to try not to look at it too much with rose-colored glasses. … It’s a valid question, but I think that we may not be that far apart.”
Yes, the Beavers are, coach.
And have been for awhile now.
Give them credit for playing hard, but the Beavers were only in Saturday’s game for a quarter-and-a-half — and that because their defense stopped a sputtering Duck attack three times inside the OSU 40.
The game was tied at 7-7 after Oregon State running back Jovan Stevenson took a Sean Mannion pass and scooted 58 yards early in the second quarter. Game on? Not exactly. Needing a stop to make a further statement, OSU subsequently allowed Oregon to drive 80 yards in nine plays to go up 14-7.
Eight minutes later, as the players headed through the tunnel for half time, the score was 28-7 Ducks, thanks to touchdown passes from Darron Thomas to De’Anthony Thomas and Kenjon Barner.
The talk inside and outside Autzen then turned to whether Oregon would beat the 28-point spread.
By game’s end, Thomas had thrown for 305 yards and four touchdowns — including 10 completions to De’Anthony Thomas and eight to tight end David Paulson — despite a shaky start. LaMichael James had 141 yards rushing and would have had more if not for an injured elbow. De’Anthony Thomas had another spectacular performance with 197 all-purpose yards. And Barner added 64 yards on the ground and a couple TDs for the Ducks (10-2 overall, 8-1 league).
The fast Oregon defense, meanwhile, seemingly toyed with Mannion and Co., alternating blitzes with coverage schemes and throwing a blanket over any OSU attempt to generate a running attack. Dion Jordan and Terrell Turner each had two sacks. Linebackers Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso had interceptions. Midway through the third quarter, Oregon State (3-9, 3-6) had only a half-dozen first downs and less than 175 yards of total offense. The last two scores by the Beavers came against Oregon’s second- and third-stringers.
“Our defense played outstanding,” Kelly said.
Oregon State has now dropped 17 of 25 games since playing Oregon in 2009 with the Rose Bowl going to the winner. The Ducks have won 22 of 26 since that cold Autzen night and are staring squarely at their second appearance in Pasadena in the past three years.
It’s not hard to understand why Oregon State fans are troubled and a bit uneasy. Given Riley’s success from 2003-2009, many Beaver fans anticipated continued success.
Duck fans shouldn’t be overly gleeful, though. Yes, they should go ahead and celebrate and soak the victory in. And give their neighbor or their co-worker or their brother-in-law a hard time for a week or two — or three.
But here’s to the idea that a good Oregon State program is actually good for Oregon.
That is not to say anyone who bleeds green and yellow (and silver and black) should wish for a timeout in this decades-long dominance. Quite the opposite.
But from high above looking down, no clear-thinking Duck should want the Corvallis side to stay in the bottom rung of the Pac-12 for long.
Think the viewing public outside the Pacific Northwest cares to witness a 9-2 Duck squad versus a 3-8 Beaver squad year after year?
For the longest time, the Civil War was one of the most unwatched historic rivalries. From 2008-10 — with two Rose Bowls and a BCS National Championship Game on the line — it was one of the most watched rivalries.
Each of those wins gave Oregon a late-season, strength-of-schedule boost in the BCS madness.
It made late November and early December more relevant.
Saturday’s game generated some interest, too, with half of the country getting ABC’s telecast. If the Beavers had upset the Ducks — a long shot given the individual match-ups and season-long strengths — it would have knocked UO from the Pac-12 title game and opened the door for Stanford.
Still, this year’s Civil War — both the run-up and the contest itself — didn’t quite have the juice.
A victory over a downtrodden rival doesn’t taste as good.
Clear off the leftover turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes from the table. The truth is as plain to see as grandma’s old-fashioned butter roll.
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