The Beaver Beat (October 31, 2006)

The year was 1999. Oregon State had amassed five wins and was headed into a game with California in Corvallis. Your intrepid reporter had his season ticket on the 50-yard line. Game conditions were optimal. Kickoff rolled around. Naturally, YIR was right where you'd expect: Sitting in a crappy diner in Florence, eating cold French fries.

The year was 1999. Oregon State had amassed five wins and was headed into a game with California in Corvallis. Your intrepid reporter had his season ticket on the 50-yard line. Game conditions were optimal. Kickoff rolled around. Naturally, YIR was right where you'd expect: Sitting in a crappy diner in Florence, eating cold French fries.

This week, there was another big game in Corvallis. Can you guess where TBB was this time around?

Yes folks, that's right. The biggest victory in Corvallis since LBJ had us in that OTHER misguided war, and your intrepid reporter was jammed on to a Frontier Airlines flight, sitting next to an 80-year old woman, nearby a sleeping baby. Sure, there was a TV in the seatback ahead of me. And it offered all of the amazing viewing experience that six inches of low-definition television can offer. What it didn't offer was Fox Sports. Or, for that matter, any screen functionality when the game had about six minutes left.

So, your intrepid reporter did what any self-respecting Beaver fan would: He stole the audio jack of the old lady next to him and started changing the channels on her armrest until he could find ESPN.

In this edition of Da Beat, we'll be dissecting possibly the worst way to ever watch a football game; talking about the magnitude of the victory in and out of Corvallis; preview the rest of the year, including this week's upcoming game against the team coached by your intrepid reporter's favorite DB (ACRONYM HINT FOR NEW READERS: Think feminine hygiene, not secondary); and finish with the Pole of Power.

BACK TO OUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED PROGRAMMING…

When the plane departed from Atlanta to Denver, the ESPN game update came on to show Matt Moore rolling into the end zone for the 7-0 lead over the Mighty Trojans. Rather than resign himself to watching the game updates scroll on the bottom of the screen, your intrepid reporter opted instead to pull out his copy of "The Communist Manifesto", put on some Moby on the iPod and fall into a sleep-like stupor.

When I awoke, the in-flight map showed us somewhere over Nebraska. I looked out the window and confirmed that it did, indeed, look like we were flying over Hell. Then, suddenly, I remembered the football game.

Flip, flip, flip. Wait, wait, wait (does anyone really care about Ohio State playing Minnesota? COME ON). "Oregon State…33…USC…25."

What came out of my mouth next made the lady with the baby suddenly look very angry. The grandma next to me actually looked kind of turned on. I quickly turned back to the screen.

With six minutes left, ESPN broke in with the game update. Oregon State had been up 16-10 at half. Then came the Joe Newton touchdown in the back of the end zone. Then Sammie Stroughter reaching paydirt on the punt return.

Naturally, the unbiased commentators at ESPN passed these off as mere aberrations, as USC was now storming back against the Beavs. "Superman wears Steve Smith underwear!" the ESPN commentator excitedly shouted as the USC receiver scored a touchdown on the screen. Soon after he made out with his autographed picture of Pete Carroll and kicked a live beaver across the set.

So with 33-25 on the scored board and just five minutes to play, I was greeted with the depth of coverage one can only expect from the network that employs Stephen A. Smith: They went back to talking about the Ohio State-Minnesota game.

With about three minutes to go in the game, the ESPN talking head broke in with the news that Oregon State had the ball and was marching into Southern California territory. I defecated myself. Again, the old lady next to me seemed not to mind.

With one minute left, ESPN actually began to fathom that their oral servicing of the Trojans might be in vain, as Lou Holtz lisped spit all over the "How will the USC loss affect the BCS?" graphic scrolling on the bottom of the screen. USC now had a fourth down at about midfield. The game was on the line.

I found out about the outcome of the game with a throwaway comment: "Well, before we get back to our next replay of the Ohio State game, we do want to break in and say that there is a celebration going on in Corvallis right now, but first, let's see the Buckeyes again…" I open-mouth kissed the old woman next to me. She died happily in my arms.

At this point, the video screen in front of me cut out.

I commandeered the audio jack in Grandma's seat and switched to USC in time to see the end of the game. The catches by Steve Smith on the sideline. The touchdown pass. And finally, Jeff Van Orsow cementing his status as God with the deflection of the John David Booty pass. The game was over and Beaver Nation was going crazy. In seat 20A of the Frontier Airlines flight now making its final descent into Denver, so was I.

I tried calling my family at the game. Nothing. Tried calling someone else. Finally, another human. "Intrepid reporter!? Did you hear, we won!?"

"Yeah, I know, I killed the lady next to me!"

"What?" Then the phone died.

So, with television screen and cell phone dead, I put on my Oregon State stocking cap, pushed the dead body next to me into the aisle and walked proudly into Denver International Airport, thinking just one thing:

Best. Flight. Ever.

SO WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN, BASIL?

So is Riley the Savior? Is Matt Moore bound for an NFL career? Will USC lose the rest of their games and resign in shame from the Pac-10? Will Pete Carroll be fired? Will ElCinoStrikesAgain ever finish the second grade? What's the injury report look like this week?

The answer to all of those questions is "No". But it was a good win.

In terms of the Pac-10, as was pointed out to me shortly after the game and by the Register-Guard today, OSU's victory on Saturday probably cost them $450,000. That's how much they would've gained if USC would've won out and, with Cal, helped the Pac-10 qualify two teams for a BCS bowl.

However, the Ducks also lose $450,000. When you look at it what way, it can be called a scratch.

Also, the conference standings themselves look like they haven't in a long time. Suddenly, a USC loss to Cal (or any other team) coupled with Oregon State winning out would give the Beavs the tiebreaker and propel them to a better bowl than the Trojans. In that same scenario, if Washington State lost just one game, the Beavers would be in the (gulp) Holiday Bowl.

But let's talk about what the game means for the Beavers. The discussion after the victory on Saturday for many OSU fans immediately turned to "Was this the biggest win ever?"

On paper, it ranks as the second-best victory in school history. The best team that OSU ever beat in terms of rankings was the #1 Trojans in 1967.

But how about in terms of real impact? The victory over Notre Dame in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl was probably the most important game in the history of the program. Other important victories include the 1998 game against Washington (when Riley I actually made Beaver fans believe they could be winners), the 1998 Civil War (when Riley I made Beaver fans believe they WERE winners), the 1999 Cal game (when Erickson clinched OSU's first winning season and broke "The Streak") and victories over USC and Oregon in 2000 (which cemented in the minds of Beaver fans just how good that team was).

The win on Saturday will be good for recruiting, good for confidence in the program, good for image and good for Riley's job security. It will be in the same echelon of wins as the games above. But it will always be a little bit less.

The Boise and Cal games are partially why. The feeling that USC might be down a bit this year is another reason.

But really, this win "feeling" less monumental is a testament to the program's progress itself. If we beat the same USC team in 1996 instead of 2006, the impact would be entirely different.

If nothing else, the USC win shows that Oregon State, as a football program, has turned the corner. 5-6 was good in 1998; now we have five wins and want more. Coming up short against a team like U-Dub in 1998 was good for confidence; now we expect to win. We are now a football program that expects to have winning seasons, expects to go to bowls and EXPECTS to beat teams like USC every year. Corvallis would be Euphoria Central for a month if the Beavs beat a team like USC five years ago. Now, we are more concerned with finishing the rest of the season.

Dennis Erickson deserves a lot of the credit for that. But at the same time, perhaps even more so does Mike Riley. Mike kicked it all off, brought talent into the program that Erickson used to build a magical team, then came back and started fixing the holes in the program. For all of the talk about what Erickson did for Oregon State, Riley has perhaps done more. Erickson will always have the Fiesta Bowl, but Riley built the foundation for everything Erickson did and everything Riley does today.

Instead of focusing on this game as part of Mike Riley's "legacy", the victory on USC should serve as a good time to compare where we are now to where we were in 1998. It's a good look back.

And now that we've looked back, we can get back to looking ahead.

THE ROAD AHEAD… Here's a quick recap of the remaining schedule for Oregon State:

Arizona State: No coach in the Pac-10 engenders more hate than Dirk Koetter. He's an ex-Duck, which is bad. He's an ex-Bronco, which is bad. He shamelessly puts up the "shocker" hand sign, then tries to pass it off as supporting the devils, which is bad, but also cool. He screwed over a quarterback we all really didn't care about anyway. You get the feeling he would steal your girlfriend, were he not secretly sporting a man-crush on Mike Stoops. As Bobby Boucher's mama might say, "Dirk Koetter is DA DEBBIL".

ASU's once worrisome defense has now devolved into a rushing game mixed with short passes (sound familiar, Beaver fans?). There's nothing spectacular about the Devils, plus the game will be played in the cold of Reser Stadium, but at the same time, they're solid enough to give the Beavers fits if they come into the game with a hangover from the USC game. Oregon State is and should be favored to win this game, but they need to play the game they can on offense, stop the run and abuse Rudy Carpenter all day long to pull out a victory. DIFFICULTY(1-10 scale, 10 being Boise State on the road): 6.66

UCLA: Four-game losing streak, Karl Dorrell as coach, injured quarterback…ut oh. And I mean that. The last time Oregon State beat UCLA in the Rose Bowl was in 2000. It was by six. If this game was right after USC, I'd predict a hangover loss. I'm hoping that if the Beavs beat ASU, the victory will be enough insulation to keep swollen heads from losing focus down in La-La Land. DIFFICULTY: 6

STANFORD: Nice bye week before the Ducks. DIFFICULTY: -32498364

OREGON: Suddenly this game looks real winnable. If Oregon can field a whole team for the game, it will be close (either way) or it will be an OSU blowout. There are no other options. DIFFICULTY: 6.5 in reality, 7.5 because it's Oregon

HAWAII: If we win three (or possibly two) of the above four games, we will win here. Get ready to play pass defense. I miss Timmy Chang. DIFFICULTY: 7)

In summary, the games are all winnable, but only with a similar level of FOCUS that we've brought to the past four weeks. One can only hope.

POLE OF POWER

1. Cal (No team looks better right now than Da Bears – Oregon State might have helped with that)
2. USC (Still could beat Wazzu 99 times out of 100…wait…)
3. OSU (Though Washington State beat OSU early in the season, a game right now might be a very different story)
4. WSU (Brink is conference POTW on offense? Is Gordon Riese handing out these things now?)
5. Oregon (Jonathan Stewart, hurt? Who saw that coming?)
6. ASU (Could make a strong statement with a victory on Saturday. Dirk Koetter sucks.)
7. UCLA (How do you get a UCLA quarterback to beat the Trojans? Send him to Corvallis)
8. Washington (Should be every Beaver fan's new favorite team – victories against Oregon and/or Washington State would drastically help OSU's bowl dreams)
9. Arizona (TBB couldn't remember if these guys even played this week. Guess it amounts to the same either way)

(The Beaver Beat is published every Tuesday. As always, correct change is always appreciated.

thebeaverbeat@beaverfootball.com)

BeaverBlitz Top Stories