The vitriol is real. They make shirts that read, “I hate your Ducks.” The last time I went to Corvallis for the Civil War was back in 2010 (the year Oregon went to the Natty), and it was brutal. My friends and I were bombarded with Duck calls, people threw bread at us, and all around us were words of distaste. There was even a group of Beaver fans that wanted to fight us because we had Oakland A’s hats on (Duck colors) and they were wearing San Francisco Giants hats (Beaver colors)…. I loved it; this was everything that a rivalry should be.
The Civil War may not get the pub of the Iron Bowl (Alabama-Auburn) or the notoriety of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry, but you’d have a hard time convincing the residents of Oregon that the Civil War isn’t on par with any other rivalry game in the country. To shed some light on the great rivalry, I’d like to go back to the greatest Civil War battle that we’ve ever seen.
The Ducks hadn’t played in the Rose Bowl since 1995, and the Beavers hadn’t smelled the roses since 1965, but all of that was about to change. The stakes had never been higher when the two met in the 2009 Civil War; the winner would play in the Rose Bowl. The game was appropriately dubbed, “The War for the Roses.”
(Just a year prior, Oregon State was poised to win the Pac-10 and reach the Rose Bowl for the first time in 44 years. The only obstacle standing in its way was the rival Ducks. Oregon’s squad came into Reser Stadium and stomped out any dreams that Oregon State had about Pasadena. The Ducks soared to victory, 65-38. Oregon’s 65 points were the most points that Oregon State had ever given up to one opponent.)
The Civil War is always huge for residents of Oregon, but this time the Ducks and Beavers had captivated the entire country. College football enthusiasts across the nation would not be disappointed; the game would live up to the hype.
It was an absolute battle.
The Ducks found themselves in trouble early. Quarterback Jeremiah Masoli threw an interception on Oregon’s first drive, and Oregon State took over on Oregon’s 22 yard line. The Beavers scored seven plays later on a one yard run from running back Jacquizz Rodgers. Oregon State-7, Oregon-0.
Oregon answered right back, going 73 yards on eight plays to tie the game at seven apiece. The Ducks and Beavers exchanged scores throughout the the rest of the first half, and Oregon State was up 23-21 at the midway point. By the end of the third quarter the Ducks led 34-33.
Oregon State’s Sean Canfield played lights out, throwing for 306 yards to go along with two touchdown passes. The Rodgers brothers (James and Jacquizz) also gave Oregon all it could handle all night long. Jacquizz had 102 yards of total offense with a touchdown, while James racked up a total of 168 yards and added a touchdown of his own. For Oregon, it was the LaMichael James show; James ran for 166 yards and three touchdowns. James’ biggest play came in the third quarter when he broke open for a 52 yard touchdown run to put the Ducks up 34-33.
The deciding play in the game came with 3:29 left in the fourth quarter.
The Ducks led 37-33 and faced a 4th-and-3 on the Oregon State 32, and Chip Kelly decided to go for it. This began Kelly’s legacy of making gutsy calls. What happened next will forever remain as one of the greatest moments in Duck history.
Jeremiah Masoli got the snap, rolled right and took off upfield where he was met by Beaver linebacker Lance Mitchell with one yard between him and a first down. Masoli was not going to be denied. He lowered his shoulder and plowed right through Mitchell, sending the linebacker to the ground, then spun off him and picked up the first down.
The Ducks had done it—they were going to Pasadena. For the second year in a row, the Ducks dashed the Beavers’ bid for a Rose Bowl.
That 2009 Civil War was a turning point for both the Ducks and Beavers. Oregon made its first Rose Bowl appearance since 1995, and has been a perennial power ever since. The following season Oregon played in the BCS Championship, and earned a BCS Bowl game in four consecutive seasons; Oregon has won at least 11 games each year dating back to the 2010 season. Oregon State, on the other hand, has gone 29-32 since the “War for the Roses.”
Oregon will look to write another chapter in what has been a storybook season when it enters Reser Stadium on Saturday. The No. 2 Ducks are poised to play in the College Football Playoff, and they know that the Beavers will bring everything they have to try to spoil their title hopes.
Top Photo by Kevin Cline