Oregon State not looking rosy
Around here, they waited. They waited through eight presidencies, and they waited through the interminable, NCAA-record string of 28 consecutive...
Seattle Times colleges reporter
CORVALLIS, Ore. — Around here, they waited. They waited through eight presidencies, and they waited through the interminable, NCAA-record string of 28 consecutive losing seasons.
But Saturday, they were at the doorstep. Oregon State was finally going to throw off the shackles of the assorted demons that had kept the Beavers out of the Rose Bowl since the 1964 season.
It was going to be where football and fate intersected.
And then Oregon showed up here at Reser Stadium, a blowtorch on a gasoline spill. The Ducks scoffed at Oregon State's proud defense and turned the 112th Civil War into an offensive clinic, burying the Beavers in an avalanche of yards and big plays and points that nobody in orange would have thought possible.
The final was 65-38, as preposterous as it was prodigious. The Rose Bowl destiny that Oregon State had held in its hands is now turned over to the fragile mitts of UCLA, an offensively faulty team that must beat USC next week to put the Beavers in the Rose Bowl.
"It was a great run to get to this point," said Mike Riley, the Oregon State coach. "But the bubble burst."
"I think we still have a chance," said Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea, referring to UCLA-USC. "The key word is 'if.' "
The Beavers (8-4) are going to their eighth bowl in 10 years, so no shame there. Oregon State has long since lost its reputation for buffoonery.
But, youth being about short memories, I'm not sure all the OSU players can appreciate the pain of their longer sufferers — the ones who were cheering for the Beavers when Tommy Prothro took them to Pasadena 44 years ago.
At the height of the failed Jerry Pettibone regime in the 1990s, one year the Beavers turned heads with the No. 1 graduation rate in the country. Bert Babb, a Eugene grocer and donor to OSU, told me wistfully, "I'd trade a few of those graduation-rate points for a few more victories."
A little later, the Beavers went out and began getting them. And with one more here on a stunning, 62-degree late November afternoon, they were going to send their fans scrambling for reservations to Pasadena.
Not to be.
"We weren't trying to knock somebody out of the Rose Bowl," said Oregon's standout center, Max Unger. "But we weren't going to come up here and give it to them, either."
This was the Pac-10's No. 2 defense Oregon was facing, at a skimpy 289.6 yards per game. Oregon had 200 after one quarter, 442 at halftime. The offense was an orgy of big plays, Jeremiah Johnson breaking for 79 and 83 before halftime. In the first half, Johnson had 203 yards, more than anybody had rushed for in the previous 111 games in this series.
The Beavers were only allowing 112 yards per game on the ground. Oregon (9-3) finished with 385, and 694 in total offense.
Not that the run game swamped the contribution of Jeremiah Masoli, the 5-foot-9 dynamo quarterback. His 11 completions on 17 throws averaged 25 yards.
Oregon coach Mike Bellotti admitted to surprise that Masoli has come so far after not arriving at Oregon until July, with a wrist still in post-surgery mode.
"What he's done this year with this system, it's a perfect match," said Bellotti. "He has an amazing arm."
Said Masoli, a transfer from City College of San Francisco, "Coming into the game, we could see they were very aggressive, especially their safeties. So we established our running game and opened it up with play action. That got the safeties moving up, and we threw it over the top."
What the game should have done is showcase the head-coaching candidacy of Chip Kelly, the Oregon offensive coordinator. He's supposed to be a possible target at Syracuse, and if the head coaches on Washington's list fall through, maybe he ought to be on the Huskies' radar as well. This was record scoring by an Oregon State opponent.
"Chip's the wizard," Unger said. "He's got a lot of stuff in his head. I hope he stays."
Asked if he thought this would make it harder to keep Kelly, Bellotti said, "No, I just don't think so."
Bellotti doesn't think he'd leave? "No."
Oregon's victory helped crystallize the bowl picture. It likely sends the Ducks to the Holiday, Oregon State to the Sun, probably puts USC in the Rose Bowl, and fires up the chances of Ohio State and Boise State for a BCS berth.
The Beavers battled. They fought. But without injured freshman wunderkind Jacquizz Rodgers, they had no inside running game. And on this day, they also had no defense.
"We knew it was going to be hard," said Paea.
The faithful, the ones around this program for all those tough years, can tell you just how hard.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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