Today’s Civil War game had the feel of an awkward geek who somehow managed to land the hottest chick at school to show up as his date.
She knows she’s compromising well below her standards, but she goes anyway to prove to her friends that she’s not stuck up. Which, of course, she is, but she doesn’t see what everyone else does.
Oregon State, a team that showed up looking wrinkled and frumpy yet stylish, adorned black helmets that appeared to be their own answer to one of the 75 helmet colors of the uniform-challenged Ducks. The Beavers had stripes down the middle of the helmet to match those on the pants.
Nice, but missing was the Beaver logo that we all love so much. Plus, orange numbers on black jerseys looked sorta cool. What else can you do with the Halloween colors of orange and black?
Perhaps they could have done what the Ducks did. Completely abandon a century of school tradition and instead show in colors ripped off from the old AFL Oakland Raiders. Silver helmets, gray pants and white shirts, with that dopey feather thing on the shoulder pads.
And indeed it was a huge improvement over their normal green shirts with yellow helmets and the Disney logo, but there’s something unsavory about a program so powerful that it just does whatever it wants while flipping off all the generations of students and players that came before them.
But we’re used to this sort of behavior from Oregon. The Ducks feel they have outgrown tedious things like tradition and NCAA rules. Which is why star running back LaMichael James is still driving around in a "borrowed" Land Rover instead of a 1962 white Pontiac Tempest with the push-button transmission and why the team is taking "magic pills" that no other team in the country has.
As the game started we had squealing fans dressed in orange dominating the stadium with haphazard student activity that parents likely would be frowning at. In other words, just another game at Reser Stadium.
Meanwhile reluctant Beaver fans across the land dreamed of how wonderful life would be if only somehow this team of underachievers could find a way to dethrone a rival that has clearly lost perspective on how much helmets and uniforms cost and better ways to use that money (like maybe scholarships for kids who can't otherwise go to college, instead of new pretty helmets and threads for every single game?).
The game started with the Ducks kicking off. The Beavers returned it 24 yards before going 3-and-out. But on the punt return, the Ducks fumbled, and the Beavers jumped on it for what looked like a very promising 1st-and-10 at the Duck 28. The Beavers got four yards off a Jacquizz Rodgers run, but the Ducks’ Terrill Turner picked off Cody Vaz’s pass.
Oregon marched 32 yards on eight plays to the Beaver 34, but the Ducks turned it over when Josh Huff fumbled and Oregon State’s Keith Pankey jumped on it at the Beaver 38. Fifteen plays and 62 yards later, Ryan Katz hit Rodgers with a short pass and a touchdown, and the Beavers held a 7-0 lead before a flabbergasted yet humbled Duck nation with 3:23 left in the first quarter.
The Ducks responded with a quick 60-yard drive in nine plays, ending when Kenjon Barner stumbled into the end zone. But Rob Beard’s extra point was blocked, so the Beavers clung to a one-point lead with 34 seconds left in the first quarter.
Oregon State was not impressed and answered with a 27-yard drive that was snuffed out when Talmadge Jackson picked off a Katz pass and returned it 52 yards to the Beaver 12. But a 3-and-out later, Oregon was forced to settle for a 32-yard field goal and a 9-7 lead.
The Beavers answered with a 22-yard, seven-play drive that ended with Michael Clay picking off Katz for a third Oregon interception, suicide watches were issued across Corvallis County for despondent Beaver fans. Clearly Oregon State was outplaying the Ducks thus far, but it still trailed the game.
Our pals from Eugene, as they often do, stuck with their hurry-up offense and whipped out another touchdown, going 74 yards on seven plays in only 1:48 for a 16-7 lead with 6:56 left in the half. After a depressed Beaver side followed with a quick 3-and-out, Oregon was back in business.
The Ducks put together their longest drive of the day after a near-perfect punt by Oregon State’s Johnny Hekker that skipped out of bounds after landing at the Duck two-inch line with just under five minutes left in the half.
Oregon held the ball for the next 14 plays, going down to the Beaver 7-yard line but ended with two ugly losses with a missed field goal to the right side from close in.
It was 16-7 at half, which was not bad considering how much superior the Ducks consider themselves over the Beavs and every other college and professional team that has ever roamed a football field. Announcers praised the selfless discipline of the Ducks, while the rest of the nation, albeit impressed with Oregon’s ability to lead a game after being outplayed the first half for the fourth game this year, felt a bit nauseous at all the Duck hysteria on ABC.
Oregon State was feeling pretty good too, with a burst of momentum from that failed last Duck fiasco, according to our crack ABC crew. But once Oregon opened the second half with a 43-yard drive on seven plays, perhaps the Beavers were feeling a bit less rosy?
Or perhaps not because, for the second straight drive, Oregon turned the ball over on downs.
The Beavers responded with a 3-and-out but not to worry because so did the Ducks.
That is, however, before Oregon fake-punted from its 28 and ran the ball to the Beaver 9-yard line that was followed three plays later with another touchdown. Teeth were gnashing on the Beaver side for the pure arrogance it takes to fake a punt from almost your own red zone. But Oregon got away with it. After a short pass to DJ Davis, the Ducks held a commanding 23-7 lead with 8:33 left.
And yet just like every game they’ve played this season, the Beavers felt good about how they were playing and certainly were not being bullied. But they still trailed by a couple touchdowns halfway through the third quarter, which has been about the only tradition the Ducks have adhered to this season.
The Beavers answered with four first downs, mostly in the face of blitzes and ended up at the Duck 12-yard line with a promising 1st-and-goal. But a penalty and five plays later, the Beavers had to settle for a field goal and a 23-10 deficit.
The Ducks answered with an all-ugly drive from their own red zone, aided by several penalties and a very lucky LaMichael James fumble recovery of his own miscue on his team's 4-yard line.
From his own end zone, the Ducks’ Alejandro Maldonado hit a lazy short punt to give the ball back to the Beavers at the Duck 38. Oregon State brought back to the Duck 10-yard line with a first down and another very promising red-zone possession late in the third quarter.
But three plays and only five yards later, the Beavers had to settle for another field goal and now trailed 23-13.
Like they’ve done in every game this year, the Ducks answered with a touchdown with a six-play, 71-yard drive for an overwhelming 30-13 lead with just over 12 minutes left in the game.
The Beavers, like every other team this season, looked bedaffled and shell-shocked on the sidelines against the Ducks, wondering how they could possibly be trailing by three touchdowns when it still felt like they were outplaying their inferior little upriver sister?
The Beavers answered with another promising drive to midfield, but after the Ducks' John Boyett picked off yet another Katz pass, Oregon State fans were seen beating their heads against brick walls and strangling their loved ones.
The Ducks, in their oft-seen, completely classless trailer-trash manner, continued to pass the ball via a hurry-up offense with all their starters in the game. Cheater-in-chief LaMichael James rushed 10 yards for a touchdown long after the game was decided when most teams would have been content to run out the clock.
The score was 37-13 in favor of Oregon. After nine games, they still trailed the rest of the world when it comes to understanding what teams with big leads are expected to do in college football.
Oregon State, showing remarkable heart and drive, finished the game with a Markus Wheaton 12-yard touchdown after going 67 yards on nine plays with four minutes left, sending the Ducks a message that it won’t be that long before roles are reversed.
Clearly this Duck team and head coach Chip Kelly have never been taught football etiquette and common decency so prevalent with every other team in the country. How else does one explain running a passing game when they clearly have the dominance to run out the clock on runs up the middle, which they've now done to half a dozen teams this year.
Opposing teams tend to not forget such behaviour in years that follow. Nor do fans.
When the game ended, the Ducks had another victory in their march towards an undefeated season. But with patrons across the nation a bit aghast at how this team finishes games, chances are most of those championship parties out west will be flying Auburn flags!