BEAVERS, DUCKS SET FOR CIVIL WAR
The last time Oregon State's Mike Riley coached a Civil War game at Reser Stadium, it was 1998, a game OSU won 44-41 in double-overtime.
It's a game Riley remembers as one of the all-time best in the heated rivalry.
"That was just a great, great game to be involved in," Riley said. "The kind of unreal atmosphere through the overtimes, the false end of the game, then the overtime that came after it."
The game also left an impression on one of Riley's current players, Pendleton product and starting offensive guard, redshirt freshman Roy Schuening.
"It's my all-time favorite memory of this game," Schuening said. "To score that many points in a Civil War game is incredible. The thing I remember most is (Ken) Simonton, making big play after big play.
"I've been looking forward to this game for a long time. From before I even signed. From the point when I started getting recruited even."
Saturday in Corvallis, Riley will lead OSU (5-5) against the University of Oregon (5-5) in the 108th version of the intense rivalry.
This year, it's a game that has the most implicit of bowl ramifications.
Implicit as the winner gets into a bowl and the loser starts getting ready for the next season.
"This game has some added attractions for sure," Riley said. "It's a big game with a lot of ramifications for the future play of either team."
Ramifications, unfortunately, has become a big part of Riley's vocabulary in the past week in the wake of the indefinite suspensions of four players on the Beaver roster, all stemming from their involvement in an altercation at a bar in Corvallis last Friday.
Out of the four players suspended, redshirt fresmen Joe Rudulph and Anthony Wheat-Brown were the only two who have seen playing time this year.
Rudulph has appeared in nine games at defensive tackle and Wheat-Brown is coming off a career day against Stanford last Saturday.
In the 24-19 OSU win, Wheat-Brown had 11 catches for 117 yards, one grab shy of the school record.
"Ironically, Anthony's most productive game this year was this past weekend and we don't like to lose that continuity," Riley said. "We know the importance of the games and all that, but there are some issues that go above that realm and this is one of them."
For Schuening and the rest of the offense, the suspensions have meant worrying about who will be in the huddle on Saturday, not who isn't.
"We can't afford to spend time worrying about something negative," Schuening said. "Yeah, Anthony had a big game last week, but we think George Gillett is going to have the game he's been waiting his whole college career to have.
"We all want to keep the focus on this game."
On offense, the Beavers are led by senior quarterback Derek Anderson, who has passed for 2,906 yards this season along with 21 touchdowns.
For Anderson, Saturday's game will go a long ways in determining his place in OSU history.
"Derek has been a great Oregon Stater," Riley said. "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 as many big games and especially all the Civil Wars he's been involved in."
On defense, a hurting linebacker corps for OSU will have their hands full against versatile Oregon quarterback Kellen Clemens.
Beaver linebackers Keith Ellison and Jonathan Pollard are both nursing injuries.
"Keith played last week on one leg and led our team in tackles and got the game-clinching interception," Riley said. "I'm assuming Keith will be back and playing again, but I don't think he's 100 percent."
This year, Clemens has thrown for 2,402 yards and 19 touchdowns. He's also the second leading rusher for the Ducks.
"I think 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."
Schuening agreed with his coach.
"He's exactly right, we did get dominated last year," Schuening said. "And the way (the offensive line) approach the game is that it's always on our shoulders."
The Beavers are 4-1 since opening the season 1-4, and have won their last three road games.
"It's not like we're just hoping to pick a few games up at home anymore," Schuening said. "We've managed to get our swagger back."
It's a swagger the Beavers will take into one of the most heated rivalries in college football.
"I don't want to make it sound melodramatic, but I think these young guys won't really get it until they see one," Riley said. "That's when it really hits you."