Pride on the line for the 117th Civil War
EUGENE, Ore. (AP)
Oregon state coach Mike Riley and Oregon coach Mark Helfrich don't need to be schooled about the significance of the Civil War to the state.
Riley grew up in Corvallis and was the son of an assistant coach for the Beavers, while Helfrich was raised in Coos Bay, on the southern Oregon coast.
''I was an Oregon fan and certainly growing up there was that back-and-forth in the community that will happen after this game, and you wanted to be on the right side of that, for sure,'' Helfrich said this week before the 117th edition of the annual rivalry game against the Beavers.
But Helfrich had bigger things on his mind. He is tasked with righting the No. 12 Ducks (9-2, 6-2) after their deflating 42-16 loss at Arizona last weekend.
Oregon has lost two of its last three to drop out of the race for the national championship, a BCS bowl and the Pac-12 title game. But the stunned Ducks are still looking for their sixth straight 10-win season, along with their sixth straight victory over their in-state rivals.
''I know what (the rivalry) means,'' he said this week. ''It's more important this week for us to play better. To execute. To compete. To play our way.''
The Beavers are also mired in a slump.
Oregon State (6-5, 4-4) is looking to avoid a fifth consecutive loss, which would be its longest losing streak since the Beavers dropped six straight to conclude the 1997 season. The Beavers are coming off a 69-27 loss at home to Washington, which Riley described as ''horrible.''
''I would have to say that's as out of character as I've seen us play, ever,'' he said.
Oregon State started the season on a low note, losing at home to lower-tier Eastern Washington. But then the Beavers rebounded with six straight wins and there were hopes for a strong finish in the tough Pac-12 North behind Stanford and Oregon. Now they are one of nine Pac-12 teams vying for a spot in the seven conference bowl games.
Here are five things to look for when Oregon hosts Oregon State on Friday:
MARIOTA'S KNEE: The health of Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota's knee continues to be a mystery. Mariota appeared with a brace on his left knee after halftime against UCLA and has worn it for the past three games. Known for his scrambling ability, Mariota had negative yardage in games against Stanford and Utah.
COOKING COOKS: Oregon State's Brandin Cooks was announced as one of the three finalists for the 2013 Biletnikoff Award for the nation's best college receiver. Mike Evans from Texas A&M and Sammy Watkins of Clemson are the other finalists. Cooks has a school single-season record with 15 touchdowns receiving, 110 receptions and 1,560 yards receiving. He leads the nation with an average of 141.8 yards a game.
RECENT HISTORY: For the past two seasons, Oregon has had a shot at the national championship game, but late losses thwarted it heading into the Civil War. Last season the top-ranked Ducks fell 17-14 in overtime to No. 14 Stanford the week before the regular-season finale. The year before, No. 4 Oregon lost 38-35 to USC. This season, of course, there's the loss to the Wildcats, which dropped the Ducks from No. 5 to No. 12 in the rankings.
TOILET BOWL ANNIVERSARY: It has been 30 years since Oregon and Oregon State played in the Civil War's ''Toilet Bowl.'' The game, a muddy mess played in a driving rain, featured 11 fumbles, five interceptions and four missed field goals between the two teams, and ended in a futile 0-0 tie. The NCAA later brought in overtime, which means it will likely go down in history as the last 0-0 finish in college football.
AVOIDING CONTROVERSY: Oregon receiver Josh Huff and teammate De'Anthony Thomas both caused a stir last week when they said they would be disappointed with a Rose Bowl berth because it wasn't the national championship game. Then the Ducks lost to Arizona, knocking them out of a trip to Pasadena. Helfrich said this week that both players spoke out of turn.
''They learned from that. In no way are those guys spokesmen for our team,'' he said. ''Unfortunately, that got a ton of press. I think that kind of devalues Arizona's effort and just takes the focus away from where it needs to be, and that's preparing every day.''