EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Last year around this time, Oregon's coach was on the verge of being dismissed and Oregon State was about to finally win a Civil War after eight seasons of futility. Seems like a long time ago, now.
EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Last year around this time, Oregon's coach was on the verge of being dismissed and Oregon State was about to finally win a Civil War after eight seasons of futility.
Seems like a long time ago, now.
Oregon and Oregon State head into the 121st Civil War game Saturday looking VERY different from last season.
Mark Helfrich was let go by Oregon just a few days after the Ducks lost 34-24 to the Beavers and finished in the basement of the Pac-12 North. He was replaced by Willie Taggart, whose first season in Eugene has not gone as planned.
The Ducks started with promise and even popped into the rankings at No. 24 with a three-game winning streak in non-conference play.
Oregon would win four of its first five games, but misfortune struck during the first half of the Ducks' 45-24 victory over California on Sept. 30 when starting quarterback Justin Herbert fractured his collarbone.
Herbert missed the next five games and the Ducks won just one of those. He returned last weekend to lead Oregon to a 48-28 victory over Arizona. The win made the Ducks (6-5, 3-5) bowl eligible. It also left a lot of fans wondering how the season would have gone if Herbert had been healthy.
A victory against the rival Beavers would not only put Oregon in better bowl position with seven wins, it would also help erase the lingering memories of last season's loss and perhaps even diminish the sting of the what-ifs this season.
"I know all of them were ticked off when I got here," Taggart said. "You hear everybody was ticked off. Not just our players, but everybody. And considering it had been so long since that happened, that really just stays with you."
Taggart has taken the extra step of showing the team film from last season — with an emphasis on the mistakes.
"Got to come out ready to roll and you can throw the records out in a ballgame like this. You've got to come ready to play and the team that plays the best will be the team that wins," he said.
In contrast, the Beavers' 2016 Civil War win was a much-needed boost for a team that was building under coach Gary Andersen — the Beavers capped the season with four wins, doubling the victories from the previous season, Andersen's first.
Following the victory, the coach said: "Huge victory. Awesome for the kids in the program. Awesome for Beaver Nation."
But this season didn't go as planned for Oregon State, either. Like the Ducks, the Beavers lost their starting quarterback. Jake Luton, a community college transfer, sustained a thoracic spine fracture in a loss to Washington State, the fourth game of the season.
And with just one win against lower division Portland State in the second game of the season, Oregon State mutually agreed to part ways with Andersen on Oct. 9.
The Beavers promoted cornerbacks coach Cory Hall to the position, and since then they've shown spark — playing Stanford to a close 14-15 loss — but still haven't won. The players started the social media hashtag #HallIn to indicate their support for Hall.
Hall watched last season's Civil War from above in the coaches' box as an assistant, telling reporters on Monday he almost jumped through the glass when the final whistle blew.
But he's realistic about the challenge on Saturday. The Beavers (1-10, 0-8) have lost 17 straight road games heading into the game at Autzen Stadium.
And he knows that Oregon will want a measure of revenge.
"Don't think for one minute that Oregon has forgotten about that," Hall said.