One year later, the Civil War looks a lot different
Following the Ducks’ 30-28 victory over No.11 Utah last year, there were many who believed that the win would allow Mark Helfrich to keep his job as head coach.
The following week, Oregon dropped a 34-24 contest to Oregon State to conclude the season.
Gut-wrenching. Heartbreaking. Rock bottom.
It was a fitting way to end a disappointing 4-8 campaign. Helfrich was fired days after the loss, and soon after, Willie Taggart was brought on as head coach. In the one year since, Taggart and the Ducks have experienced many highs and lows. While Taggart is the program’s first outside hire as head coach since 1976, he is more than aware of the significance attached to the Civil War.
“It’s two teams that don’t like each other,” Taggart said. “We got that bitter taste in our mouth that we’ve had for an entire year.
“You can throw the records out in a ball game like this. You got to come ready to play.”
When Oregon takes the field on Saturday against the Beavers, much will be different than when the two teams faced off 364 days prior. The restructuring of the Ducks, which includes “swag surfin” and messages to “do something,” has added even more flair to a program already known for its style on the field.
Off the field, Taggart and his staff seem to be hitting their shots. 247 Sports has the Ducks with the No. 6 ranked recruiting class in the country. It’s an impressive feat in the year since the Civil War loss, and it speaks to the culture established in a short time frame. But while eyes are on the future, the present – specifically Saturday’s contest versus the Beavers – isn’t forgotten.
“Even though we enjoyed Saturday (48-28 win vs Arizona), as guys were leaving the locker room, I think their focus quickly shifted to the game and the importance behind it,” offensive line coach Mario Cristobal said.
Entering Saturday’s contest versus Oregon State, the Ducks have already clinched a bowl game appearance with a 6-5 record. That includes a 5-1 record when Justin Herbert — who will be back next season — is in action. It’s impossible to be certain, but the season might have had a different outlook had Herbert not broken his collarbone versus Cal.
While all signs point to Oregon being on the path to turning it around after hitting the reset button, the same can’t be said for Oregon State.
Following last season’s victory in Corvallis, Oregon State students rushed the field. Head coach Gary Andersen ran to midfield pumping his fists in celebration. It looked like the Beavers were celebrating a Rose Bowl win, much less the end to a 4-8 season of their own.
After years of misery, could it possibly be that the 2016 victory over the Ducks would end up being a turning point in the program’s history and lift them to bigger and better things down the line?
Oregon State enters Saturday’s game winless in Pac-12 play with a 1-10 overall record. Anderson resigned as head coach in October, trashing assistant coaches in texts.
Oregon State won on the field last season. But in the year since, the Ducks have blown away the Beavers in how they have operated off the field.
There were no championship-level expectations for the Ducks in the first year of the Taggart era. There have been signs of encouragement for the Ducks.
No matter the situation, though, one expectation always remains the same for them: Beat the Beavers.
Follow Cole Kundich on Twitter @ckundich
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