Breaking up is hard to do: Goodbye, Oregon State
As Oregon flies through its final season in the Pac-12, The I-5 Corridor pays respect to the opponents the Ducks face for the final time as conference foes.
Brian Davies didn’t know he had the shot until halftime.
He knew Marcus Mariota did something special. He knew he got a burst of shots off.
But, frankly, he thought he got beat.
Thomas Boyd and Chris Pietsch were both shooting from the side and got full lenses of Mariota hurdling an Oregon State defender late in the second quarter that November night at Reser Stadium in 2014. Davies captured it head on, which he didn’t think would give much justice to the dynamic play from the dynamic quarterback.
Then the Register-Guard photographer looked at what he had.
“I go through that sequence and it’s maybe eight or nine frames — Boom. Boom. Boom. — and then he’s jumping” Davies said. “But right before he jumps, he makes this Heisman pose.”
Davies’ shot turned the next morning’s RG sports page into one of the most iconic layouts in this state’s newspaper history — and now accompanies Mariota’s bio on the actual Heisman Trophy page.
It was a once in a career type of shot, in a game that 127 times has led to a lifetime of memories for the players, coaches, fans and media members.
This isn’t the definitive look back at the entire history of this game. I’m not nearly qualified for that. What this is, however, is a small collection of stories and memories from people who cared a lot about the Ducks, Beavers, this state and what Northwest football is about.
Because this game, at its best, can produce magic.
Just ask Davies.
“That was the only time I think you could make that picture and have it resonate with people,” he said. “It was him literally making his case for the Heisman trophy and he was a legitimate candidate and he needed a big game and he delivered. I don’t think it would have worked in any other game.
“It had to be that game.”
Goodbye, Oregon State
“Where else am I going to wear that thing?”
Josh Wilcox understands why Oregon did what it did.
This isn’t the first time conference realignment has happened, he says, and while he’s blue collar at heart, he also knows that in the top-levels of sports you have to do what you have to do to survive.
He’s a Dan Lanning fan. He buys him as a shepherd of the program.
And he’s also pretty ticked that this game is ending in its current capacity.
Wilcox is as Oregonian as they come. He’s from Junction City, from a family that’s seen Dave, John, Justin and Josh each play for the Ducks in the rivalry.
It’s nice to not have to look far for one, Wilcox says.
“It’s the people at the grocery story with green and yellow or orange and black,” the former Oregon tight end says. “It’s simple, but those are the types of things you’re going to miss out on.”
Wilcox has good memories of this game: Beating the Beavers in Eugene in 1995 to clinch a berth in the Cotton Bowl.
Wilcox has bad memories of this game: He remembers Oregon State seniors being carried off the Autzen turf after Oregon State’s upset in 1993.
“Man, just going to the game. That’s one of the few times where I’ll ever wear my Letterman’s jacket,” Wilcox says. “Where else am I going to wear that thing? I’m not going to wear that thing around jus ponying up at any place.
“It really just sucks.”
Pete and Alicia Clausen were Oregon season ticket holders for two decades. Pete remembers attending the Fog Bowl together. The Josh Huff game in 2013 was a marvel, too.
But when he thinks about the times he and Alicia spent together in Autzen Stadium, it’s the 2009 War for the Roses that first comes to mind.
“When Masoli sealed the game, I remember jumping around, and Alicia said I was making seal noises,” Pete said. “We hugged for a good while.”
Pete wasn’t planning on coming to the game in 2023. Alicia’s years long battle with cancer became too heavy earlier this year, and Pete’s wife of 23 years passed away in October.
In the weeks since, Pete has juggled grief with exhaustion with unexpected gratitude for the team Alicia loved. He’s been flooded with messages from Oregon fans and players. The Ducks’ coaching staff sent hand-written letters of condolence.
“These have been the toughest times of my life,” Pete wrote before the USC game. “But the Ducks have been amazing.”
Pete says there are more memories he and Alicia had together at this game and he apologized for his thoughts being a little fuzzy. The last month has been a lot. But he does know this: While Alicia watches her Ducks from above on Friday, he’s going to be watching from Autzen — the Oregon staff invited him to the game in honor of Alicia.
“I’m sure it’ll shoot up the list,” he said.
Nate Jolly, Oregon class of 2004
Oregon Pit Crew Co-Founder
My favorite Civil War memory was in 2001. It was down pouring all game and I was all sorts of wet from getting in early to help lay out pom-poms for the game.
At the start of the 4th quarter I was invited onto to the field to help with something (I can’t remember exactly) but I was standing in the west end zone and got to watch the game get broken wide open as Keenan Howry ran right towards me as the rain just let up for Oregon to finally take the lead as he ran a punt back 68 yards for a go-ahead score.
I was in the right place at the right time for an incredible view of one of the Civil War’s most memorable plays.
Keeping up with tradition
Geoff Schwartz would worry about this:
In the world of the transfer portal, who tells people about tradition? Who tells the young offensive linemen just how cold that rain can feel after losing to Oregon State in Reser? Who tells them just how sweet the locker room is after a win at Autzen?
“You just don’t really know the importance of a rivalry until you’re in it,” said Schwartz, a Californian who took a crash course in the Civil War during his four years in Eugene. “I think that’s something you lose a little bit from the transfer portal. You don’t have that veteran offensive lineman telling everyone just how much you hate Oregon State.”
Again, Schwartz would worry, if it wasn’t for someone like Dan Lanning. Schwartz said keeping rivalries alive is going to be more dependent on the coaching staff than ever before.
And how did Lanning respond this week?
Do you remember the fourth quarter of last year’s game? When Oregon State ran the ball over and over and over and over and over and over and over again to come from behind and beat the Ducks?
The Ducks remember. Lanning has had it on a loop inside of the locker room all week.
“I look at it and I smile because I know the vibe is different in our building right now,” center Jackson Powers-Johnson said. “I think normal programs don’t show that stuff and try and shy away from the past. It’s a reminder every day that this isn’t our state, and to have the opportunity to play a state championship on a Friday night, I think that’s kind of special.”
Seems like the coach is doing his job.
Pain scale: 5/5
It feels like this has been delayed, hasn’t it? Maybe it was because the Ducks and the Beavers kept winning.
You can’t worry about the future when the present is so dang good!
But as the weeks have ticked off the schedule and the finality of this game approached, reality has started to sink in. Sure, maybe the Ducks and Beavers meet again in some September. Maybe the bitterness settles. Maybe the sports world will collectively snap its fingers and call for a redo.
But maybe none of that happens.
There’s a lot of wishful thinking around these two programs continuing on as rivals. The field is tilted, and the Beavers could begin to feel the first dramatic effects of missing out depending on the result of Michigan State’s coaching search.
It took a near perfect storm for this game, here in 2023, to be one featuring top 25 opponents. The Beavers lost 11 games in 2017. They still have the 11th-ranked talent in the Pac-12. And they’ve more often than not outclassed that talent to impose their will on the opposition.
Even without the backdrop of this being the last normal version of this game, having the No. 6 team host the No. 16 team in the country with a spot in the Pac-12 Championship game on the line?
That might be as good as it gets.
Breakup song: No, it isn’t — +44
Curse my enemies forever
Let's slit our wrists and burn down something beautiful
This desperation leaves me overjoyed
With fading lights that lead us past the lives that we destroy
— Tyson Alger, The I-5 Corridor
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