It’s hard to believe, but it’s that time of year already: CIVIL WAR! What’s even harder to fathom is what’s at stake for the 120th match-up between the two bitter rivals: Last place in the Pac-12 North. Seriously, at the beginning of the season, who would’ve expected the Beavers and Ducks to be next to each other in the standings? So, if you think about it, this Saturday’s game got a whole lot more intense.
While Oregon is a 3-point favorite, a lot of onlookers like Oregon State’s chances to end its nine-year Civil War drought because Oregon’s defense has resembled Swiss cheese this season, and Ryan Nall has punished defenses this year, especially weak ones. But as always, anything can happen in the Civil War, because state pride is on the line. Plus, both teams are coming off big wins.
All things considered, this could be one of the closest affairs in the game’s history, and could very well come down to one key play. Fittingly, if I was a betting man, it seems like the game will come down to whichever defense rises to the occasion the most. So, without further ado, here’s a quick breakdown of what the Beavers need to do to finally dethrone the Ducks.
Pounce First. Oregon is coming off a huge upset of No. 12 Utah, providing the team with much needed momentum going into this game. So, the Beavers can’t afford to let the Ducks get rolling first. OSU needs to come out strong on its first drive, whether its offense or defense, and set the tone. After all, a loud and wild crowd from the get go, would provide a huge boost. With that in mind, if the Beavers get the ball first, they should take a shot downfield ASAP.
Ride Nall All Day. What can Ryan Nall do for an encore? Last season against the Ducks, he rushed for 174 yards on 19 carries, one of which was a 66-yard scamper for touchdown. Considering Oregon’s defensive woes this season, want to bet Nall is chomping at the bit to run wild against the Ducks, and provided he’s healthy, that’s exactly what the coaches need to allow him to do — anything less than 20 carries would be a crime.
Rattle the Frosh. Justin Herbert has been a godsend for the Ducks. Since becoming the starter at quarterback, he has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,756 yards, 18 TDs and 4 interceptions. Still, he is a true freshman and will be playing in his first Civil War. So the Beavers need to get inside his head and rattle him, the earlier the better. Hopefully, they blitz often and hit him hard, albeit legally. Another key will be to make sure he doesn’t hurt them with his legs, as he’s mobile for a 6-5 kid.
Win the Turnover Battle. Nothing makes things easier than forcing turnovers. It halts your opponent’s momentum, and can give your offense awesome field position. That said, if OSU can win the turnover battle, it would help them slow down the UO offense. Plus, Nall with a short field to work with is an exciting prospect. The key will be to force Herbert to take chances downfield and then let the secondary come up big!
Go Over the Top. If the Beavers can run the ball successfully against the Ducks, they need to take some shots down the field — mainly because we’ve seen what Marcus McMaryion can do when he has time to throw. And the trio of Victor Bolden, Jordan Villamin, and Timmy Hernandez could present match-up issues for the UO secondary. Much like the coaches opened the playbook last year, the Beavers shouldn’t hold back. It’s go time!
For the first time in awhile, it feels like the Beavers have an excellent shot at winning the Civil War. But as die hard fans of either team will tell you, it’s the Civil War and anything can happen. While Arizona isn’t a great team by any means, beating them big was a huge a accomplishment for the Beavers, and so, they have to be careful not let the hangover from that win carry over. They must come out focused and strong. If they can do that, Reser Stadium might just be one big party by 4:30 or so…
Blitzers, what are your keys to an OSU Civil War victory?