Guest Column: U of O's perception of Civil War
Published: Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 03:11
Leave it to Chip Kelly to take the fun out of the Civil War.
Since the fourth-year coach took the head job over from Mike Bellotti, the Ducks have painted the state green and yellow. Ever since Jeremiah Masoli trucked Lance Mitchell on fourth-and-3 (never forget), each Civil War has been more lopsided than the last.
And although Kelly paid his token respects to the rivalry this week after practice — “It’s a huge game; the state of Oregon is on the line.” — everyone who’s followed Oregon knows the coach preaches nameless, faceless opponents. No team on the schedule is bigger than any other. It’s an effective mentality, but it douses the players’ rivalry flames. Just ask the Huskies.
Of course the Oregon faithful don’t totally buy into that. I mean, you don’t see Ducks fans burning Utah T-shirts. But many here in Eugene feel former Ducks cornerback Cliff Harris said it best in 2010: “You know we [are] the big brother.”
Since 1975, Oregon’s record in the Civil War is 27-9-1. The Ducks won 15 of those games by at least two touchdowns. Most students on campus expect another Oregon rout on Saturday. Not even a heartbreaking loss can change that.
Look, I know how good Oregon State has been this year. After many analysts predicted a last place finish in the Pac-12 North, the Beavers have redefined resilience.
I was ready to write off the Beavers after Sean Mannion’s injury, only to see Cody Vaz explode onto the scene. I was ready to write them off again when Vaz injured his ankle, before Mannion came back with a vengeance.
Outside the hashmarks, they’re equally talented. Oregon defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti has enough respect for the Markus Wheaton/Brandin Cooks wide-out combo that he’s compared them to USC’s obscenely talented duo of Marqise Lee and Robert Woods.
“Last time I checked we didn’t do real well [against that combo],” Aliotti said Tuesday.
On the other side of the ball, the Beavers have a top-25 defense and were just given a blueprint of how to beat Oregon by Stanford last week: Clog running lanes up the middle, throw Kenjon Barner off his rhythm and catch touchdowns out of bounds (hey, we can be a little bitter too, can’t we?). If Oregon State can keep it close in the second half, who knows what could happen? Maybe Mike Riley will take the team on a road trip down to Redding for some In-N-Out on their way to the high-profile bowl game.
But I don’t think it’s smart to put too much weight on last week for either team. The Beavers romped, yes, but Cal pulled the plug on its on season a long time ago. And with the pressure of a perfect season off its redshirt freshman quarterback, Oregon is free to play its own distraction-free game — you know, games where it scores eight touchdowns before halftime?
I heard Corvallis celebrated when we lost to Stanford last week. That’s fair, even if it was just for tradition’s sake. But there’s a banner that hangs in the Moshofsky Center where the Ducks practice: “Tradition has a scary mascot,” the banner reads. “Tradition wears three colors. Tradition practices at ‘half speed.’ Tradition milks the clock. Tradition punts on fourth down. Tradition eats turkey on Thanksgiving.”
As long as Chip Kelly prowls the sidelines, Oregon doesn’t deal in tradition. When Kelly takes his talents to the NFL oh-so-soon, it will be okay to expect a little more out of the Civil War. But until then, it’s just another game.
Matt Walks, sports editor at Emerald Media Group