So other Pacific-10 Conference schools have their “Cups” and their “Big Games” and their “Victory Bells,” but they don’t have war.
The Oregon-Oregon State matchup is called the Civil War, but it’s more “War” than “Civil.” It
divides the state into black-and-orange vs. green-and-yellow. It’s Ducks and Beavers.
“It’s the most important game of my life,” Oregon senior defensive lineman Seth McEwan said. “It’s always the most important game of my life, because it’s a pride thing and it’s for the ownership of Oregon.”
“It’s the biggest rivalry I’ve ever been in,” Oregon State head coach Dennis Erickson said.
This year, the game takes on a theme seen in many recent Civil Wars: It’s about more than just in-state supremacy.
This year, the Ducks and Beavers will be competing for a chance to be pulling slot machines on Dec. 25. That’s the date of the Las Vegas Bowl. Or they’re playing for a shot at a bowl game in a baseball stadium — Bank One Ballpark in Phoenix for the Insight Bowl on Dec. 26.
Whatever way you look at it, the Civil War has postseason implications.
That means the teams have come a long way since the infamous 0-0 “Toilet Bowl” of 1981.
“We have a lot to play for, that’s the biggest thing,” Bellotti said.
The key matchup on the field Saturday will be Oregon’s struggling offense against Oregon State’s Pacific-10 Conference-leading defense. Much of the Ducks’ offensive woes start at the quarterback position, where Jason Fife has struggled and was even replaced by Kellen Clemons in the third quarter of last Saturday’s loss to Washington.
“He’s having some situations now that are probably the result of some inexperience,” Bellotti said. “Overall, he’s done a great job and been a great leader.”
Bellotti said he had no plans to replace Fife again Saturday. But Fife isn’t the only offensive question. Onterrio Smith is out of the contest with a knee injury, and the Ducks will turn to freshman Terrence Whitehead and redshirt sophomore Ryan Shaw at tailback.
Then there’s the question of Oregon’s normally-steady special teams, which have sputtered in many ways recently.
“There’s a challenge on special teams for us to win that battle,” Bellotti said. “That’s obviously the one area we can say, here we have a great place-kicker and our punter’s doing a great job, and we have the return people to break a game open, so certainly we’re looking to make a statement in that area.”
On the Oregon State side of the ball, the Beavers will ride the legs of running back Steven Jackson and a stifling defense. The Oregon State defense is first in the Pac-10 in several categories including
Erickson said the game could very well be decided by defense, on either side of the ball.
“When you get down to this time of year, defenses control a lot of what happens,” Erickson said. “To me, it’s like any game — turnovers and who plays the best defense is probably going to decide the game.”
But according to McEwan, the Civil War is always about more than pluses, minuses, x’s and o’s.
It’s about passion.
“There’s a certain pride to it, owning the state of Oregon,” McEwan said. “The emotion and intensity go up 10-plus.”
Because it’s a war out there.
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