COMMENTARY: Just the beginning for Beavs

BACK DURING MY collegiate days at Oregon State and The Daily Barometer, I went looking for that tired old lead-in about what life was like the last time Oregon State beat the USC Trojans in Los Angeles. Sure, you've heard many of them this week. Here are a few you may not have come across.

Mike Riley (considered a native of Corvallis), still hadn't moved to Oregon. Perhaps fittingly, the No. 1 song in America was It's Now or Never by Elvis Presley. John F. Kennedy was a senator.

Oregon State 14, Southern California 0. September 16, 1960. The Beavers, then an independent who'd eventually finish the season 6-3, were coached by Tommy Prothro and featured a roster that included Rich Brooks and Terry Baker.

That was 49 years ago. Heck, it was 17 years before "The King" died on his golden toilet. Half a century has passed and the 21-game losing streak in L.A. feels more like 211.

But when the Beaver Nation searches deep down here in 2009, there's also this -- some strange, yet unmistakable feelings of hope. It feels like Oregon State has a chance, doesn't it?

MAYBE IT'S THE way they obliterated a similar streak of futility at Sun Devil Stadium earlier this month -- 40 years and 16 consecutive losses. Or maybe it's because Oregon State is now three weekends into October -- and winning is what the Beavers do this time of year.

Maybe it's because USC doesn't look like the USC of recent years. Maybe it's the brothers Rodgers or a senior OSU quarterback. That beast Stephen Paea, or that OSU's coaching staff has proven on more than one occasion that it has the savvy, smarts and chutzpah to X and O with the best of them.

FROM THIS SEAT, it just feels like OSU's heretofore once-or-twice-a-century time at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is coming. The Trojans seem vulnerable, and beatable, a significant step below the other USC teams that have have run roughshod over the Pac-10 in the Pete Carroll era.

Will it happen? Las Vegas certainly doesn't think so. The pundits at the casinos have installed USC as a 21-point favorite.

After all, the reasoning goes, the Trojans still wear cardinal and gold, still feature bona-fide studs like Joe McKnight, Taylor Mays and Matt Barkley. And they still haven't been dethroned as the conference's one, true power. So it goes, Kurt Vonnegut would say.

BUT WHAT'S TRULY changing isn't the USC Trojans at all -- it's Oregon State.

In the greater scheme of things the Beavers are a maturing program -- young up-and-comers in the club that is college football's perennial winners. Stick them in the right place at the right time and they'll seize the opportunity.

Sooner or later, that youngster is going to mature. And fewer of us will be amazed with what they just accomplished and what might be next.

I don't know if that will be the case this weekend or not. But I do believe that it's coming.

It's a shame Elvis won't be around to see it. I'm pretty sure you and I will.

Ryan Gabriel is a freelance writer and reporter in the Portland metropolitan area. A graduate of Oregon State and former Sports Editor of The Daily Barometer, Ryan's articles have appeared in the Lake Oswego Review, West Linn Tidings, Grants Pass Daily Courier and Salem Statesman Journal. His ever-evolving blog, The Sportsman's Lounge can be found at www.thesportsmanslounge.blogspot.com. You can reach Ryan at rsgabriel@ymail.com.

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