Unfortunately for Civil War fans around the country, the week's festivities have been tarnished by the indefinite suspension of four OSU players. (DE Joe Rudulph, DE Ryan Rainwater, WR Anthony Wheat-Brown, and OL Whitfield Usher)
"What I have basically discovered is that we had players involved in actions and an incident that we don't condone in any way. We haven't found out everything about it, so that's why we have an indefinite timetable for the suspension," head coach Mike Riley said.
"It will definitely last through the week, so these players won't play in the game (against Oregon). And there is, as we speak, an ongoing investigation of what is going on. As we find out more - as we have, and that's why the additional suspensions - we will act accordingly."
Starting in Anthony Wheat-Brown's place will be senior George Gillett, who has had an up and down year. Standout freshman Sammie Stroughter will serve as Gillett's backup. Sophomore Derek Hall and redshirt freshman Jeff Van Orsow will fill the vacant spot defensive end spot. Redshirt freshman Whitfield Usher and freshman Ryan Rainwater have not played this year.
Despite the suspensions and the on going investigation, Riley is excited about the Civil War and the Beavers chances to extend their winning streak in Reser over the Ducks to four in a row. According to Riley it is one of the finest, if not the finest, rivalries in the country.
"It's certainly one of the great games in the country every year, I think. I've been fortunate to have been part of some great rivalries, but I don't think any match the Civil War," said Riley who is 1-2 versus UO while at OSU. "With the long, long history; with the relatively small state, you're on one side of the fence or the other."
The last time Riley coached an Oregon State team at home the Beavers came out with a 44-41 victory in double overtime. The 1998 Civil War has been tagged by many as one of the best Civil Wars ever. Although the Men in Black did not finish with a winning record, many fans point to the '98 contest as the turning point in the program.
When asked if he will use form players and memories of Civil War games to help his team prepare Riley said it will mainly be status quo, but a well timed trip down memory lane doesn't hurt either.
"We'll focus on the details of our preparation, but we'll also talk about some memories from some of those games, what it's going to be like, how to deal with it," Riley said. "I think we have a good rhythm to what we're doing; I think it's important to stay in that rhythm as we go into this game.
"But as we go through the week, talking about this game and how really great it is to be a part of. I don't want to make it sound too melodramatic - but it's a great, great game to be involved in and I think these young guys won't really get it until they see one and then they're here for a while, and that's when it really hits you."
Oregon State has most of the momentum as they are at home, have won their last four of five, and have been oppressing on defense since the beginning of the second half of the season. The defense has forced 18 turnovers in the last five games while grabbing 18 sacks in the last six. Cornerback Aric Williams leads the conference in passes defended, safety Mitch Meeuwsen leads the conference in interceptions, and linebacker Trent Bray is second in tackles. With the defense playing so well, it looks like a blowout. Not so fast says Riley.
"Physically up front on both sides of the ball they're very good.," Riley said. "They dominated the game in that aspect last year so we're going to have to do a better job of handling their defensive front and controlling their offensive front."
Riley is also concerned about the athletic quarterback Kellen Clemens who has passed for 2,422 yards and 19 touchdowns while completing 61-percent of his passes. Clemens can throw and run as he has amassed 216 yard and four touchdowns on the turf. The orange and black defense has struggled all season with mobile quarterbacks and Clemens already knows he can hurt the Beavers on the ground as he ran for 64 yards and one touchdown a year ago in Autzen.
"I'd have to say that I have a ton of respect for (Oregon quarterback Kellen) Clemens - he is a really good football player and is a versatile football player," said the Corvallis native. "He does some things with his athletic ability where we had problems at certain times during the year.
"He not only has designated running plays that he's good at - the quarterback draw, the option, the counter - but he'll also pull the ball down on a pass play and hurt you running the football, which he did numerous times against us last year. So he's definitely a concern."
Linebacker Jonathan Pollard is doubtful for Saturday's match-up, but don't be surprised to to see the fifth year senior on the field as it will his last game in Corvallis in a Beaver uniform. Junior Chaz Scott will take his place in the starting lineup if Pollard's high ankle sprain keeps him out.
Joining Pollard will be 14 other players who have a combined 222 starts between them. The school's leading passer (Derek Anderson), sack leader (Bill Swancutt), and interception leader (Mitch Meeuwsen) will all be playing their final home game.
"Derek has been a great Oregon Stater. As you go through, and it gets time to be close to the end, I think you start to appreciate even more so what it's been like to play in many big games and especially all the Civil Wars he's been involved in," Riley said. "Whatever happens in this game, Derek's legacy here will be a long-term positive. This guy has been a part of the resurgence of this program. He and Jonathan Smith have won more games than anybody in the last 30 years here.
"He's the most prolific quarterback in the history of this school and it will be hard to break his records. Had he had a redshirt year, where he only threw 41 passes his freshman year, and not played that year he would break every Pac-10 record that is notable by mid-year next year. This guy has had a tremendous career, and we at Oregon State should all be very, very thankful that he's been the quarterback."
Despite the five hundred records and the chance of playing a low tier bowl game, Riley calls this Civil War one of the most important Civil Wars in his lifetime because of all the ramifications. A swarm of recruits will descend on Reser and the winning team will most likely make the best impression. Going to a bowl also gives the coaches more time to work with the players and give the local football talent a chance to see the Beavers in action.
"I think it would probably, for the moment, rank as the greatest. That's how you feel. All the other games I either saw or coached in here were memorable because they were Civil War games. This one, we are absolutely enveloped in our own football teams," Riley said. "this game has some added attractions for sure, so it's a big game with a lot of ramifications for the future play of either team. It's a great game to be a part of. Oregon has a very good football team, and we're going to have to play very well to win the game."