CORVALLIS — The Oregon State Beavers aren’t so discouraged about the season that they can’t get up for the 119th Civil War game against the rival Ducks.
It’s been a disappointing year for the Beavers, to say the least. They’ve only won two games overall and they’re winless in Pac-12 conference play with an eight-game losing streak.
The latest loss was a 52-7 drubbing at home by Washington last Saturday. The Beavers (2-9, 0-8 Pac-12) travel to No. 18 Oregon for the final game of the season on Friday.
First-year coach Gary Andersen had already moved his team on to rivalry week just minutes after the last loss.
“Rivalry games are very, very, very important. That’s what I told them when we left the locker room — they’ve got an opportunity to play in a rivalry game that’s right up there as one of the best in the country, if not the best in the country,” he said. “The fact of the matter is you’ll remember that forever.”
It was expected that the Beavers would struggle this season, following the departure of both head coach Mike Riley and prolific quarterback Sean Mannion. Andersen installed a new spread offense and new defense.
The Beavers also grappled with a group of inexperienced quarterbacks. Dynamic freshman Seth Collins was the starter at the beginning of the season, but he didn’t play in the last four games because of a knee injury.
Collins, known for his speed and athleticism, has thrown for 891 yards and six touchdowns in seven games, but also has four interceptions.
Redshirt freshman Nick Mitchell, who entered the season as the third-string quarterback behind Marcus McMaryion, also a redshirt freshman, initially started in Collins’ place.
But Mitchell missed his first seven passes against the Huskies and was replaced by McMaryion, who threw for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Last week, Andersen said Collins was done for the season, but on Monday he was at practice — playing at wide receiver.
“If we have an opportunity to use him and we think it’s the best thing for the offense, then we absolutely will,” Andersen said following practice.
Following the loss to Washington, Andersen said it was possible that Mitchell and McMaryion would both play against Oregon, but he did not reveal a starter.
Collins’ possible return aside, the ultimate outcome against the surging Ducks seems predictable.
But running back Storm Barrs-Woods, who has played in a couple of Civil Wars, said he sees no motivation issues in what will be Oregon State’s final game of the season.
“That game in itself is such a rivalry, it’s such a big game, that I’m not worried about anyone on our team. The atmosphere of that game alone, you can’t be flat,” Barrs-Woods said.
Oregon (8-3, 6-2) has won five straight — coinciding with the return of senior quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. from a finger injury that dogged him at the start of the season. However, three losses this season prevented the Ducks from repeating as Pac-12 North champions and cost them the opportunity to defend their conference championship.
Adams has been stellar in his return. He’s thrown for 300 or more yards and at least four touchdowns in three of the five games since his return. In Oregon’s 48-28 victory at home over USC last Saturday, Adams threw for 407 yards and matched the school record with six touchdowns.
“Vernon now seems to be, I’m sure, exactly what they envisioned at the beginning of the season,” Andersen said. “He’s completely at peace with the offense.”
Oregon has won the last seven Civil Wars.
The Ducks will await their bowl destination following the game. The Beavers’ season is over.
Still, there is a sense that, however unlikely, an upset win over the Ducks could perhaps make up for Oregon State’s frustrating season.
“If anything, I’m gonna tell them not to get too over-pumped. Just calm down. Play football. Be positive,” Barrs-Woods said. “This is one of the greatest rivalries, and it’s a blessing to be a part of it.”