Go Ducks!

Nov. 28, 2008

Editor’s Note: Paul Buker is a native of Spencer, Iowa who covers sports in the great Northwest and will be in Corvallis, Ore., Saturday for the college football “Game of the Week” for fans of the Iowa Hawkeyes: The 112th Civil War between Oregon and Oregon State. hawkeyesports.com asked Paul to provide an exclusive and educated preview of the game for fans of the Hawkeyes. Enjoy!

Special to hawkeyesports.com by PAUL BUKER

CORVALLIS – If you are an Iowa fan, and you suddenly feel this strangely overpowering allegiance to the Oregon Ducks on the eve of the 112th Civil War football game between Oregon and Oregon State, there is good news and bad news as you stare at those BCS standings and dare to dream about a Jan. 1 bowl game.

The good news is that Oregon (8-3 overall, 6-2 Pac-10) can be a dangerous team when its high-tech spread offense is clicking. They make it look like a video game.

Also take note that Ducks have had an extra week to prepare for their arch-rival.

They seem grimly determined to snap a two-game losing streak to the hate Beavers, the self-described “Lunchpail” and “Blue Collar” school just a half hour up the I-5 freeway.

The Ducks like to think they own the hearts and minds of the majority of state-of-Oregon football fams.

But the Beavers stole their thunder this season, and it began with a 27-21 upset of No. 1-ranked USC on Sept. 25, the game in which the rest of America discovered OSU’s 5-foot-7 true freshman tailback Jacquizz Rodgers (more on Quizz later).

Go Ducks? … Dickson and his teammates can hear that cry coming all the way from Iowa.

A disgusted Ed Dickson, who just happens to play tight end for Oregon, told media this week, “there are a lot more Beavers’ jerseys going around the city of Eugene. This is Duck City.”

UO center Max Unger, one of a handful of players in this game who figure to be playing on Sundays next Fall, said this is the last chance for Oregon seniors to avenge two particularly painful losses in 2006 and 2007, both of which came down to the last seconds.

Unger said the Ducks’ motivation goes beyond just knocking Oregon State out of the Rose Bowl.

“You can dress it up and say it means a lot more (to the Beavers) ,” said Unger. “We’re not going to spoil anything. We’re not going to `stop’ anybody from going anywhere. We’re going to win the game.”

A guarantee? As close as it gets. And maybe Unger’s on to something. Oregon leads the Pac-10 in total offense (458.5) and scoring offense (39.8) and if you know anything about Nike’s adopted University, you also know the Ducks have a gazillion different uniform combinations and no less than four helmets to choose from on game day.

It is what’s inside those glitzy uniforms that give Iowans hope, starting with the quarterback.

UO’s Jeremiah Masoli – a kid who doesn’t wow any NFL scouts with his arm but runs like the wind – accounted for 387 yards total offense and five TDs in Oregon’s last game, a 55-45 track meet with Arizona.

Masoli, who can turn a busted play into a 40-yard scramble, might be the one player that the swarming OSU defense cannot account for.

But everyone in this state, Duck fans included, wonder if the UO offensive circus plays well in Corvallis.

And here is the bad news for Iowa fans.

Oregon has not been a good road team, evidenced by blowout losses at USC and Cal.

The Ducks are waddling into hostile territory on Saturday. Extremely hostile territory. As in walk-through-the-parking-lot and get a bloody Duck carcass thrown at you hostile.

While Corvallis police are braced for the usual drunken hijinx of a few over-zealous fans (does anything like that happen in Iowa?) Oregon State (8-3, 7-1) has the home-field advantage (very important in this series) and there is also this Rose Bowl thing.

If OSU wins, the Beavers clinch at least a share of their first Pac-10 title since 2000 with a victory and more importantly barge into their first Rose Bowl game since the 1964 season, when gas was 30 cents a gallon and the Johnson administration was getting us involved in the Vietnam war.

1964. … a long, long time.

For the Iowa State grads out there, that comes to 44 years.

So you might say No. 17 Oregon State is due.

This is a school that endured 28 straight losing seasons before its football renaissance began under Mike Riley, then Dennis Erickson, then Mike Riley again.

If history means anything, the Beavers – who were slim three-point favorites all week – are in good shape.

They haven’t lost to the Ducks at home since the 1996 season. They have won eight straight at Reser Stadium (mockingly called The Big Burrito by UO fans), and 13 of their last 14 at home overall.

Since an 0-2 start, which included a 45-14 loss at Penn State, Riley’s team has won eight of its last nine games and if it wasn’t for a controversial last-second 31-28 loss at Utah it would be nine in a row and the Beavers might be a top ten team.

There are several schools of thought about this UO-OSU game:

1. The Beavers are a team of destiny, they have the momentum, they have the homefield, and they are simply a better all-around team than Oregon – which can look like a top five team on its good days and be exceedingly horrid on its bad days.

2. Oregon is motivated, rested, and in better health than the Beavers, who figure to be without Rodgers – the Pac-10’s leading rusher. OSU coaches say they have complete confidence in No. 2 tailback Ryan McCants and No. 3 tailback Jeremy Francis, but Quizz has been a sensation. Iowans might remember he sliced through USC for 186 yards and two touchdowns. But Quizz suffered a left shoulder sprain in the first quarter at Arizona. He could barely lift his arm this week.

No Quizz, no prayer? … well, it’s not that dire. But the little guy was a major OSU weapon. Now, the offensive pressure falls on quarterback Lyle Moevao, who missed last week’s last-second win at Arizona with a sore shoulder, James Rodgers’ the ultra-quick fly sweep specialist who is Quizz’s older brother, and wide receiver Sammie Stroughter, one of the nation’s most dangerous big-play pass-catchers and punt returners.

3. It has been such a crazy college football season, count on the Ducks to win at OSU for the first time in 12 years, throwing the Pac-10 and the BCS into further disarray, especially if UCLA knocked off cross-town rival USC.

Go Ducks? … Dickson and his teammates can hear that cry coming all the way from Iowa.