Oregon seniors brace for final game at Autzen against rival Oregon State

Oregon’s senior football players will take the field at Autzen Stadium for the last time in Friday’s annual Civil War game against Oregon State.

“It’s kind of crazy,” senior defensive lineman DeForest Buckner said. “Time flies, to be honest. Me and the seniors just have to soak it all in.”

Buckner’s favorite Civil War memory was in 2013, when Oregon beat Oregon State 36-35. Former Oregon wide receiver Josh Huff made an acrobatic catch in the end zone on Marcus Mariota’s pass to take the lead with 29 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Buckner was on the field during the Ducks’ final defensive stand, which ended with a fumble recovery by defensive lineman Tony Washington as time expired.

“It came down to the wire,” Buckner said. “It was just crazy — probably one of the craziest games I’ve ever played in.”

Oregon’s win against Oregon State in 2013 gave the Ducks a legitimate shot at BCS bowl game. Ultimately they ended up in the Alamo Bowl, but even so, the Civil War game gave them something to fight for.

This year, not so much.

Back then, the Beavers were 4-4 in conference play entering the rivalry game. This year, they’re 0-8.

The BCS no longer exists, and Oregon, who opened the week a 30-point favorite over Oregon State, has no shot at competing in the College Football Playoff.

Still, the Ducks insist the Civil War in 2015 has as much meaning as ever.

“A rivalry game is a rivalry game,” Buckner said. “No matter what your record is, everyone comes out to play. It’s a pride thing.”

Graduate transfer quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. will also play his final game at Autzen Stadium on Friday.

“It happened so fast for Vernon,” offensive coordinator Scott Frost said. “He was here and gone, but I sure am glad he’s here.”

Adams said the emotion of playing his last game at Autzen will probably set in later in the week.

Although it’s his first Civil War game, Adams has experience against Oregon State. He stunned the No. 25 Beavers in Corvallis in 2013, leading Eastern Washington to a 49-46 upset. Adams completed 23 of 30 pass attempts for 411 yards, four touchdowns and no picks in that game.

Since his return to full health from a broken index finger this year, the Ducks have won five straight games and climbed their way to No. 18 in the latest AP Top 25 Poll.

Oregon also leads the Pac-12 in scoring offense, total offense and rushing offense. Adams gave running back Royce Freeman profuse credit for the team’s success in the season’s second half.

“He’s probably the most underrated back in the country,” Adams said. “He should definitely be in the Heisman talk. I tell him every week he’s the best running back in the nation, and he is the best running back in the nation.”

Frost echoed Adams’s thoughts on Freeman’s contributions.

“I don’t think Royce has gotten as much attention as he deserves,” Frost said. “We can count on him to carry the load, and really everything else that’s working in our offense gets started with the way we run the ball.”

Frost commended the offensive line for the job it’s done protecting Adams and blocking for Freeman.

“Our offensive line this year has played as well as any group since I’ve been here at Oregon,” Frost said.

Three starting offensive lineman, Tyler Johnstone, Matt Pierson and Matt Hegarty, are seniors who will graduate from the program this year. Pierson, a former walk-on, and Johnstone, a projected first-round NFL draft pick, both started with the program in 2011.

“If you last four or five years here, by the end you’ve had a special experience,” Frost said. “The program does a good job turning those kids into special people.”

Follow Kenny Jacoby on Twitter @KennyJacoby


Kenny Jacoby

Kenny Jacoby

Kenny is the senior sports editor for the Emerald. He spent two years studying computer and information science before changing his major to journalism. He also freelances for the Register-Guard, interns for the Eugene Weekly and works as a research assistant for UO journalism professor Seth Lewis.