Civil War, a building block for the future

Redshirt freshman Marcus McMaryion reads the Oregon defense in the first quarter of the 2015 Civil War.

Brenden Slaughter, Sports Reporter

The final score was Oregon 52 and Oregon State 42 Saturday at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. But often times final scores don’t tell the story of a game. In this instance, the final score told everything about how a Oregon State program is on the rise.

The Beavers were underdogs, massive underdogs in fact. They were supposed to lose the Civil War by 35 points. Not exactly a whole lot of reasons to be confident heading into the game if you were an Oregon State coach, player or fan.

Head coach Gary Andersen said in the week leading up to this game that he believed that to rebuild a program properly, you need to have “that game” that springboards you to success.

Well, the Beavers just had that game. 

The focus this offseason has to be on rebuilding a defense that couldn’t win Pac-12 games over the last few years under the previous coaching regime. Both Andersen and defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake have to go out and sell recruits on immediate playing time to build the defense with young, strong athletes so OSU doesn’t have as many defensive collapses as 2015.

The Beavers have a number of things to fix in the offseason, including depth and talent on the defensive side of the ball, which was evidently lacking on Saturday as Oregon racked up over 700 yards of offense. 

Positively, the offense, which seemed absent for most of the 2015 season, finished drives and finally found its footing en route to scoring 42 points and racking up 427 yards. 

They held their own against the Ducks who had won five games in a row with marquee wins over both then-No. 5 Stanford and then-No. 24 USC. Oregon was improving on defense, and their offense was rolling along since senior quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. returned from injury.

The Beavers fought, scraped and clawed their way back into the football game after being down 31-7 at the half. They came all the way back and brought the game to within three points in the closing minutes.

Ultimately though, the Beavers lost to Oregon on the last drive of the game as Adams and junior receiver Bralon Addison proved too much to handle for the young OSU defense.

However, a football team is judged on their number of wins and losses. And for this season the Beavers went 2-10 and a woeful 0-9 in conference, their first winless season in conference play since 1997. 

But make no mistake, this is the type of game that gives OSU life going into the offseason. Unlike the previous week against Washington, where the Beavers hung their heads and gave up, they fought back and made the Civil War a game.

They made a strong statement against the Ducks on Saturday, they proved that even after the pitiful season that they had prior to that point, they weren’t going to lay down and roll over.

But most importantly for the Beavers, they found two players who are going to be building blocks for their program.

Both true freshman Seth Collins and redshirt freshman Ryan Nall played well beyond their years and made a UO defense look just plain awful.

Collins was particularly impressive, as he returned from injury to lead the Beavers with three touchdowns; all on quarterback runs.

“Seth is going to be a vital part to this offense as we move forward,” Andersen said. “You just have a real hard time not putting a kid with that much athletic ability in different spots on the field and using him consistently in different ways.”

Nall, who was making just his second career start, was impressive from start to finish, accounting for over 200 all-purpose yards and cutting through the Duck defense like it was swiss cheese. 

Bottom line, Collins has to be in the rotation next season because he is a threat to score every time he touches the ball. 

From my perspective, Nall is looking more and more like former Stanford and current Jacksonville Jaguars running back Toby Gerhart. Both Gerhart and Nall were recruited to play fullback and moved to running back. I see a lot of similarities, including a powerful running style and very decisive speed. 

Quite frankly, with the majority of the players on offense and defense returning and only graduating three starters on offense and only four on defense, the future is bright for this young OSU squad, and it all started with finding their groove against their hated rival.

On Twitter @b_slaught

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