Every winning season – and this year the Beavers are aiming for their fifth straight – stands as a reminder of the massive rebuilding effort constructed under head coach Mike Riley's watch. Once upon a time, a history book was needed to find the most recent OSU bowl game. No longer.
Did you ever visit what was once called Parker (now Reser) Stadium? The place was so quaint, it made Spartan Stadium in San Jose look like the Rose Bowl in comparison.
I'll never forget being there when Stanford lost in 1996. At the time, students sat on the sunny side's grandstands, which were maybe about a third full at kickoff. Word got out across campus that the home team was leading at halftime. The third quarter saw the section filled to capacity with students, who then rushed the field at game's end. The outcome marked Oregon State's first Pac-10 win in almost two years.
Suffice to say, the Beavers have enjoyed many more significant moments since. Here's a peak into their lean times, but beginning with the "golden years" – apologies to David Bowie – of the program.
1967: After beating Bob Griese and No. 2 Purdue on the road, Oregon State ties second-ranked UCLA. "I'm tired of playing these No. 2 teams! Bring on No 1!" cried head coach Dee Andros. On they came to the Willamette Valley, the top-ranked USC Trojans led by O.J. Simpson. Down they went. Aided by a muddy field and a power run game, the Beavers were 3-0 victors. Governors from each state -- Ronald Reagan from California -- watched in person.
1968: The Beavers go 7-3 and win five of six in Pac-8 play, including a 29-7 thumping of Stanford in Palo Alto. Only a 17-13 loss to USC in the season's penultimate week prevents a Rose Bowl berth.
1970: A three-game winning streak gives Oregon State a 6-5 record, good for Andros' fifth straight winning season in Corvallis.
1971: The Beavers slip to 5-6. Nobody has the courage to tell them they'll wait another 28 years for their next season above .500.
1975: In the final of Andros' 11 seasons, his club stumbles to a 1-10 mark. Never before has the program dropped as many games in one year.
1976: Craig Fertig, a wide receiver on several of John McKay's great USC teams of a decade earlier, is hired. His first side goes 2-10, the lone Pac-8 victory being a 10-9 squeaker over Cal.
1978: Oregon State goes 3-7-1, a win total that won't be matched for eight years.
1979: Fertig doesn't survive after a 1-10 season, but the one win is a huge blow to the opponent. Stanford brings a 4-2-1 record into a Corvallis and builds a 24-7 lead. Back come the Beavers, whose 33-31 win is decided by a fourth-quarter safety. The Card win only one more game the remainder of the season.
1980: Joe Avezzano's (prison) term begins. Within two decades they'd emerge as possible Rose Bowl foes, but Oregon State and Northwestern compete for the title as Division I-A's worst team. Both finish 0-11.
1981: Sure, beating Fresno State 31-28 after falling behind 28-0 sounds neat, but how much is there to cheer about when you don't beat another Division I-A team for another two years?
1983: Once again, Stanford falls victim to the Beaver trap. A 31-18 final margin in Corvallis makes for extra embarrassment for the Cardinal, considering OSU's most recent victories: Portland State in 1983, and Montana a year earlier.
1984: Avezzano is let go after finishing 2-9. He lands in the NFL, where he wins three Super Bowl rings with Dallas, becoming the league's premier special teams coach.
1985: There's little to suggest the Beavers aren't deserving of their status as 37-point underdogs at Washington. But in holding on for a 21-20 victory, the Beavs claim what remains one of conference's most shocking upsets.
1988. Erik Wilhelm's Oregon State career: Four years, a Pac-10 record 61 career interceptions.
1991: Enter new head coach Jerry Pettibone, Barry Switzer's former assistant at Oklahoma. The Pac-10 has better things to do than be bothered by his new Wishbone offense. A win at Oregon prevents a winless season. He never earns more than four victories in a year and is ousted within five years.
1997: Mike Riley is hired.
1998: Riley's 5-6 record earns Oregon State its best record in 27 years. He departs for the San Diego Chargers. Dennis Erickson leads the program to new heights, including a Fiesta Bowl victory in 2000. The Beavers haven't looked back since.
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