OPINION: For Beavers, Civil War matters

Junior OL Bright Ugwoegbu celebrating with Whetzel.

Riley Youngman, Sports Chief

Oh how the times have changed.

Last year on a rain-soaked November day, thousands of Oregon State fans hurdled the barrier at Reser Stadium and rushed the field in celebration of the Beaver football team reclaiming the Civil War title for the first time since 2007.

Players were hoisted and rode through the crowd. Gary Andersen stood at midfield among the sea of people and smiled. His team finished 4-6 in his second season, but the program found itself at a turning point. With his first three conference wins under his belt and the future looking bright for the Beavers, Andersen had the team and the fanbase behind him going into the offseason.

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Then came 2017 and everything changed.

Now 1-10 going into the final game of the season, the Beavers remain winless in Pac-12 play. Their only win of the year came against a Portland State team that competed to the last second of the game. In what is the largest story of the year out of Corvallis, Gary Andersen shocked both the team and the college football world when he resigned halfway through his third of a seven-year contract and left his remaining compensation on the table as he walked.

Interim coach Cory Hall managed to provide an immediate spark in Andersen’s wake. His impact on the team was noticeable in the locker room and on the field. Yet in the end, Hall has had zero impact on the win column for the Beavers. Following a close loss to Colorado and a heartbreaker to Stanford, OSU returned to their usual losing ways and lost soundly to Cal and both teams from Arizona. The #HALLin buzz has faded. The fan’s confidence and passion is dying. Reser is emptying. The program and the players are finishing the year misguided at best.

I’ll be completely honest here—this year’s edition of the Civil War does not pack a lot of punch. OSU (1-10 overall, 0-8 conference) will look to defend their Civil War title against a mediocre Oregon team (6-5 overall, 3-5 conference). The Ducks are already bowl-eligible and fighting for a place in the middle of the Pac-12 standings. The Beavers clinched last place in the conference several weeks ago. The OSU defense has been outscored 447 to 238 on the season, a margin of 209 points. For comparison, last year’s margin was 52 (though still in favor of OSU opponents). The team has coughed up 25 turnovers. The list of positives for the season would be much shorter to list than the negatives.

For Hall and the team, this is a chance to hit the reset button for the Beavers before a new coach takes over in the coming weeks. This is most likely Hall’s last game in charge of the team—I do not see OSU keeping him in the head coach position. With a win, the team can wash the bad taste that was the 2017 season out of their mouths. At the very least, the taste of Duck will be enough of a palette cleanser for the disappointed Beaver Nation.

The chances of the Beavers going into Autzen and coming away with a win? Not high. But that is what makes this matchup significant. There is simultaneously nothing and everything on the line for this team and their supporters. For the returning players, this game matters. For the incoming and on-the-fence recruits, this game matters.

For Beaver Nation, this game matters. For anyone else, not as much.