Smith’s Oregon State plays for bragging rights in Civil War
Jonathan Smith played in four Civil War games between Oregon and Oregon State, but one moment stands out from 2000 when the No. 5 Ducks played the No. 8 Beavers.
Smith was quarterback for the Beavers while Joey Harrington was behind center for the Ducks. The game had big postseason implications for both teams.
Smith set the scene: “Sun was out. It was cold. Keith Jackson — the whole thing.”
He threw a pair of touchdown passes to Robert Prescott and Jake Cookus (currently an assistant for the Beavers) pulled down three of Oregon State’s five interceptions. The Beavers went on to win 23-13, reaching 10 wins for the first time in school history, then played in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame. The Ducks finished 9-2 and played in the Holiday Bowl.
“When you go 10-1 at a school that has never been 10-1, and was at rock bottom a few years ago, it doesn’t get any better than that,” Beavers coach Dennis Erickson said afterward.
Smith said this week: “Probably one of my favorite memories of playing was taking a knee to win that game.”
The other Civil War that sticks out for Smith is the 1998 double-overtime Oregon State victory. He finished his career 2-2 in the rivalry game.
The stakes are nowhere near as high in the 122nd Civil War. The Beavers (2-9, 1-7 Pac-12) are essentially playing for bragging rights in Smith’s first season as head coach in Corvallis.
The Ducks (7-4, 4-4) are looking to improve their bowl prospects. First-year Ducks coach Mario Cristobal said emphasizing the postseason implications is just part of the team’s preparation.
“I think you always assess yourself, the opponent, you talk about both. We’re rebuilding a program, too,” he said. “To me that’s the biggest focus of anything else. We’ve got to understand where we are, where we’re going and the progress that we’ve made, and we want to continue it, so I’d say the bulk of the focus is on that.”
Oregon leads the all-time series 64-47-10.
Here are some other things to know when Oregon and Oregon State meet:
HERBERT’S LAST? Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert may or may not be playing in his final Civil War. Herbert is widely considered one of the top prospects at his position should he decide to skip his final year of eligibility and declare for the NFL draft. If he stays in Eugene, he’ll get a chance to play with brother Patrick, a four-star tight end who has committed to the Ducks.
Herbert has passed for 2,883 yards with 27 touchdowns this season. His streak of 26 games with a TD pass is the longest current streak in the nation.
LUTON’S LAST? The Civil War could cap quarterback Jake Luton’s tenure at Oregon State, which has been marked by injuries. Last season he suffered a thoracic spine fracture against Washington State. This year he had a concussion and a high ankle sprain that kept him out of four games.
Smith said there’s a possibility that Luton could petition for a medical hardship waiver for a sixth year of eligibility. Luton told The Oregonian this week that he’d be open to returning for another season.
MITCHELL HISTORY: Oregon wide receiver Dillon Mitchell has 68 catches for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He ranks atop the Pac-12 for receiving yards and is ninth in the nation with an average of 100.2 per game. He needs just 36 yards to break Josh Huff’s single-season school record for receiving yards.
FRESHMAN SENSATION: Oregon State true freshman running back Jermar Jefferson has rushed for 1,316 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. His total yards lead the nation among freshmen and his average of 119.6 yards puts him at seventh among all rushers nationally.
“Obviously the back has garnered a lot of attention, and rightfully so, as a freshman he’s widely considered one of the best freshmen in the country. The offensive line has done a tremendous job for him,” Cristobal said in assessing the Beavers’ offense.
THE LAST TIME: Oregon State capped a turbulent year with a 69-10 loss to the Ducks at Autzen Stadium. Beavers coach Gary Andersen had abruptly left the team in the middle of a one-win season. Royce Freeman ran for 122 yards and two touchdowns and Herbert passed for 251 yards and three scores. It was the final game of a one-year stint as head coach for Willie Taggart, who left for Florida State in early December.