EUGENE — Following the 121st edition of the Civil War, Oregon State and its fans can finally turn the page on a season that ranks among the worst in school history.
Oregon rolled to a 69-10 victory Saturday at sold-out Autzen Stadium, setting records for most points and largest margin of victory in the rivalry game.
Is the gap between the Ducks and Beavers really that wide, a year after OSU's 34-24 victory over Oregon to snap an eight-game Civil War losing streak? The short answer is yes.
OSU interim coach Cory Hall said he did not see the blowout coming, but anyone who has followed the team closely this season should not have been surprised.
Mercifully, the disaster of 2017 is over. OSU (1-11, 0-9 Pac-12) concludes the season on a 10-game losing streak and stretched its road losing streak to 19 games dating back to 2014.
“2017 is done away with, so now you push forward to a new birth,” Hall said. “2018 will not be like 2017.”
That’s a fact, beginning with a new head coach.
Footballscoop.com reported Friday night that an announcement of Beau Baldwin as the next coach was imminent.
That report was disputed by an OSU official Saturday, although I would not be surprised to see California’s first-year offensive coordinator land the job.
Baldwin, who had an 85-32 record in nine seasons as head coach at Eastern Washington, led the Eagles to the FCS semifinals four times, with a national championship in 2010. His 2013 squad upset OSU 49-46 in the season opener.
A young coach on the rise at age 45, Baldwin is known as an offensive innovator, and he would be a good hire. So would former OSU quarterback Jonathan Smith, who is in his fourth season as co-offensive coordinator at Washington.
Hall’s job audition produced an 0-6 record, but he inherited a mess from former head coach Gary Andersen, who walked away midway through his third season with a 7-23 record, including a 3-18 mark in the Pac-12.
“It definitely took a toll on us,” senior linebacker Manase Hungalu said. “It’s definitely a situation you would not want the players to be in halfway through the season."
Hangalu added that the blame should not always be on the coaches because “you’ve gotta go out there and be able to perform.”
The Beavers did not perform at a high level this season. Not even close. Their only victory was a 35-32 Week 2 escape of lower-division opponent Portland State, which did not win a game this season.
There was improvement in Hall’s first two games as interim coach — a 36-33 loss to Colorado followed by a 15-14 loss to Stanford — but the Beavers were overmatched down the stretch.
“No one likes feeling like this at the end of the season. There’s a lot of frustration,” sophomore linebacker Andrzej Hughes-Murray said. “This is something we’re definitely gonna hold onto all the way up to the next Civil War.”
After improving from 2-10 in Andersen’s first season to 4-8 last year with three conference victories and a 34-24 win over Oregon that snapped an eight-game Civil War losing streak, there was talk of the Beavers contending for a bowl game in 2017.
Andersen made a puzzling decision in the first week of preseason camp, naming JUCO transfer Jake Luton as the starting quarterback even though Marcus McMaryion finished last season strong.
McMaryion, who was not an Andersen recruit, transferred to Fresno State in August and helped lead the Bulldogs to a 9-3 record.
Luton suffered a season-ending back injury in Game 4 against Washington State, and backup Darell Garreston was unable to generate much offense the rest of the way.
Would McMaryion have been a difference maker? We'll never know, but the Beavers showed encouraging signs with him at the helm.
Moving forward, OSU is the right coaching hire, a few quality recruiting classes and a Pac-12 caliber quarterback away from being competitive in the Pac-12. That's a lot of pieces to get right.
And the immediate future may not include junior tailback Ryan Nall, who plans to graduate winter quarter. He’ll have the option of playing for another school next season as a graduate transfer, making himself eligible for the 2018 NFL Draft or staying in Corvallis to play for a fourth coach in four seasons.
"Things happen in life as well, and you’ve gotta be able to bounce back and adjust," said Nall, who was limited to 41 yards on 14 carries Saturday after torching the Ducks for 155 yards and four touchdowns in last year’s Civil War.
"I think it’s key for us to buy into the new coaching staff and buy into the new program and move forward."
There’s a major rebuild ahead, but OSU could work its way out of the Pac-12 basement sooner than many expect.
Central Florida was 0-12 in 2015 but is currently 11-0 this season under second-year coach Scott Frost, and if the Knights prevail against Memphis in the American Athletic Conference championship game, they would play in a New Year’s Six bowl game.
The climb back will be steeper in a Power Five conference like the Pac-12. But the football program has been in worse shape, and a generation of fans remember the 28 consecutive non-winning seasons from 1971 to 1998.
“We’re gonna take it step by step,” freshman safety David Morris said. “First we’ve gotta find out who our coach is, and we’ll go on from there. All I know is we’re never gonna give up, we’re never gonna stop fighting.”
Those are encouraging words as OSU looks to better days ahead