Why Saturday at Arizona feels like 2000

IS ANYONE ELSE starting to see the parallels between the Oregon State game on Saturday and a game played in Tucson back during the greatest season in Beaver football history? The similarities are many, including that it's the penultimate contest for both teams before heading into rivalry games. And might the Beaver Faithful see a similar outcome this Saturday as they did back in 2000?

A look back at both teams circa 2000, and the buildup to the clash in the desert.

The Orange and Black
The Beavers that year started out slowly in their non-conference slate, barely edging out a 1-AA team at home, and having to find a way to squeak out a win on the road against New Mexico. There wasn't a Penn State on the schedule like there was in '08, but the Beavers' start to the season eight years ago managed to leave some of the faithful unimpressed.

But OSU first served notice to the college football world soon thereafter, opening up Pac-10 play by beating a top-10 ranked USC team in Corvallis.

Still, some thought the Beavers weren't ready for the spotlight when they followed that home victory over 'SC with a 33-30 road loss to a highly-ranked opponent in No. 11 Washington -- similar, of course, to the 2008 Beaver road loss to another standout team, now No. 7 Utah.

The Beavers went quietly about working through the lesser portion of their schedule, some wins were more impressive than others. Blowout victories against downtrodden Stanford and Washington State were also mixed in with tough road wins over UCLA and California, and a rising chorus began to opine that the Beavers were only good enough to beat bad teams.

The Red and Blue
Arizona had come off a disappointing '99 season but with high hopes for 2000. They started the year unranked and finished up their non-conference games with a 2-1 mark, comprised of two wins over lesser competition and a home loss to Ohio State.

But the Wildcats started off the Pac-10 season in a strong fashion, winning their first three conference games.

After moving to 5-1 overall and leaping to a No. 20 ranking, the season began to slowly lose its luster courtesy of three straight agonizingly close losses by a combined total of 10 points. Two of those defeats came at the hands of Oregon and Washington, both top 10 teams and eventual conference co-champions. The Cats, now sitting at 5-4, still had a bowl game well within their grasp with two home games remaining when dawn broke on Nov. 11, 2000.

The Clash
The Beaver Nation was nervous. Oregon State was perched at 8-1 with a No. 10 national ranking. It was uncharted territory but they desperately wanted to notch one more quality road win. And the road performances to date hadn't been as impressive as the 3-1 record away from Reser Stadium might have indicated -- OSU needed to dig deep to knock off New Mexico, UCLA, and California. And they walked out of Husky Stadium with a crushing defeat full of "what ifs".

Arizona was led by their experienced quarterback, Ortege Jenkins, along with standout running back Clarence Farmer. A young Bobby Wade was just starting to work his way into the rotation. The "Desert Swarm" defense was allowing just a touch over 300 yards per game. This was not going to be a pushover. Arizona had beaten some quality teams on the season, and many thought they were better than their 5-4 record.

Things got off to a rough start for Oregon State and Arizona opened with a field goal to take a 3-0 lead. But after that, it was all Beavs.

Oregon State scored on their first five possessions, building a 23-3 lead at halftime largely through the dominance of its defense. The second half wasn't much different -- the Beavers held Arizona without a touchdown on the day, Chad Johnson featured one of the more memorable catches in Beaver history, going horizontal to snare a ball thrown behind him, and Oregon State rolled to a 33-9 triumph. It was not as close as the score indicated. Arizona gained a mere 158 yards of total offense, and the Beaver defense racked up six sacks.

The Aftermath
The Beavers went on, as we all know, to beat the Ducks in a humongous Civil War contest 23-13, and then followed up the Civil War win by bludgeoning Notre Dame 41-9 in the Fiesta Bowl. Since then, the Beavers have made going bowling a staple of the program -- Oregon State will later this year be headed to their 8th bowl game in the past 10 seasons.

Meanwhile, Arizona in 2000, after losing to in-state rival Arizona State in a battle for bowl eligibility, forced the resignation of Dick Tomey and replaced him with John Mackovic. The Mackovic era was a resounding failure, in more ways than one, and lasted just three seasons.

Despite some disappointing losses in '08, Arizona has become bowl eligible for the first time since the Tomey era and will be spending the holidays somewhere other than Tucson. From UA's point of view, Saturday's outcome will have a huge impact on where that game is -- the Cats can now finish no higher than third place in the Pac-10 but still have a shot at the Holiday Bowl, or they could finish as low as a Poinsettia Bowl selection. Two losses could also reignite the pressure to replace Stoops as the latter half would represent an extremely disappointing 6-6 (possibly 6-7 with a bowl loss) finish after the Wildcats were riding high earlier this season at 4-1 (2-0 Pac-10).

The Beavers, by contrast, could replicate the run to glory of the 2000 season, finishing with wins against Arizona and Oregon, and then strapping on the pads on New Year's Day once again, this time in the Rose Bowl.

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