Civil War Memories
Nov. 21, 2003
Corvallis, Ore. - OSU's TOP 10 CIVIL WAR VICTORIES
By George P. Edmonston Jr.
In the beginning, the Civil War game had no name.
That would not come until years later, when it was variously known asthe 'Oregon Classic' or the 'State Championship Game.'
According to Oregon State's sports information department, the firstreference to the OSU-Oregon football game as the 'Civil War' appears to havebeen in a few newspaper articles preceding the 1929 game. For several years,the term continued to be used only sparingly in newspaper stories. By 1937,the term had come into fairly common use.
A 1933 column by The Oregonian's L.H. Gregory said that former Oregoncoach Capt. John J. McEwan (1926-29) had often called the annual Beaver-Duckclash 'the great civil war.'
The 1938 Beaver yearbook, reporting on the '37 season, is the first OSUstudent publication to actually label the yearly dogfight between Oregon'stwo Division I schools the 'Civil War.'
Until the late 1930s, the UO served as Oregon State's annual homecomingopponent.
So anticipated is the Civil War game today ... some would say it's THEgame of any season ... it's hard to imagine that the very first one, playedin Corvallis on Nov. 3, 1894, hardly caused a ripple.
The big news that fall was the arrival of an elixir called Shilo'sVitalizer, a medical panacea guaranteed to cure everything from the commoncold to dyspepsia and every liver and kidney aliment known to man. Cost wasone cent per dose. There was also much discussion on the streets about astray horse Charles Heckart had picked up near his Corvallis home, an animaldescribed as a 'roan weighing 1,000 pounds, with saddle marks and broken toharness.'
Seventeen players calling themselves 'The Hayseeds' suited up for OregonAgricultural College that cold November day to play the boys from StateUniversity in Eugene. They were without shoulder pads, helmets, numbers sewnon jerseys, scholarships, football shoes, cheerleaders or support from theBenton County population at large.
For money, they had $135 to pay for everything but the cost of staging agame. The coach's salary was to be paid from this fund. The problem was, theteam had no coach. OAC faculty member and school alumnus John Fulton hadstarted the campaign in the position but, by the first game, had resignedand was now, at kickoff, set to serve as a referee.
Seven of the 17 who had started football at OAC the year before wereback for a go at the new season. Five were starters from the '93 team. Asthe game with State University progressed, they looked as if they had neverseen a football. The boys from Eugene were not much better. Both teams knewa combined total of five plays, and they ran them over and over and overagain the entire game. By halftime, the crowd was bored silly. OAC foundenough success around Eugene's right end to rack up a 16-0 victory.
Afterward, both teams retired to Alpha Hall, OAC's women's dormitory,for a sit-down meal prepared by the president's wife and the school's headof Household Economy, Margaret Snell, who used the occasion to show off theculinary talents of her students.
To both those who watched it and those who played it, thatopening-season win in 1894, over what would one day become the University ofOregon Ducks, was just another football game, at a time and era when thesport was just another extracurricular activity at a school where the debateteam enjoyed the most prestige in the community.
There was no way they could have known they were the opening spark inwhat has become one of college football's most storied rivalries, the oldestin the West, and one that will have lasted for 107 games when this day isover.
In recognition of what these 17 young men did so many years ago, let'sreturn now to the history of the series and look at what I personallyconsider to be the Top 10 OSU Civil War victories of all time. To honor the1894 team, I have put it in the 10th spot. Here are the other nine:
9. OSU 21, UO 10 (1988): When Dave Kragthorpe's 3-6-1 Beavers met RichBrooks' 6-5 Ducks on Nov. 19 before 40,597 fans at Parker Stadium, OSU hadnot beaten the UO in 13 seasons, a string of defeats with one tie going backto 1974. The series had become dull for most fans in the 1980s and it wasthis game that, for them, helped put the 'war' back in Civil War.
8. OSU 20, UO 17 (1962): In a televised game before 28,447 ParkerStadium fans on Nov. 24, Tommy Prothro's historic 1962 squad entered thegame sporting an 8-2 record and needing but one win to become one of thegreat teams in OSU history and qualify for a bowl. Both goals were achievedbut had to be earned the hard way ... with sweat and muscle. OSU trailed17-6 at halftime then pulled to within four late in the third quarter,17-13. As the game wound to a close, Oregon State punter Rich Brooks booteda nice spiral that accidentally hit Duck Mel Renfro's leg and bounced intothe arms of a Beaver. Renfro could only watch now as an old Jefferson HighSchool teammate, Terry Baker, engineered OSU to pay dirt for the winningscore. Baker found Danny Espalin in the back of the end zone for a 13-yardtouchdown pass, giving the Beavs 20-17 victory and a trip to the LibertyBowl in Philadelphia. Many feel Baker's performance in this game played akey role in his winning the Heisman.
7. OSU 30, UO 29 (1971): Before the Beavers' double overtime win overthe Ducks in 1998, many long-time OSU fans considered this game to be thegreatest 'nail biter' in Civil War history. OSU had won seven in a row underDee Andros, and the Ducks played this one as if they were ready for a changein their luck. Oregon entered the contest at 5-5, OSU at 4-6, so, with nopost-season or conference honors on the line, the only thing at stake waspride. For this Nov. 20 game in Eugene, before 43,000 screaming fans, bothteams showed plenty. The Beavers came from behind three times in the game tocatch the Ducks and had to play stellar defense to keep things close. In thethird quarter, Oregon coach Jerry Frei decided against going for a fieldgoal and instead, went for a TD from fourth and goal inside the one. Ducktailback Jim Anderson met a stone wall in his attempt to plunge over lefttackle, and some Duck fans still argue about Frei's call to this day. Thiswas a real turning point in the second half, but a winner didn't emergebefore the lead had changed hands four times in the fourth quarter. On thegame-winning drive, OSU was third down from the UO six. Taking the snap,quarterback Steve Endicott pitched the ball to Bill Carlquist who raced intothe end zone for the go-ahead points. In the last hundred minutes of thegame, OSU's defense stiffened and didn't allow Oregon past midfield.
6. OAC 6, UO 0 (1923): When this Civil War was played at Hayward Fieldbefore 12,000 fans on Nov. 25, it had been 15 years since Oregon State hadbeaten the Lemon-Yellow in Eugene. In fact, in the 29 years the rivalry hadbeen contested, Oregon Agricultural College had only beaten Oregon on theroad on two other occasions, making this an era when most Beaver fans tookit as a given that a trip 'south to Lane County' was as good as a loss. In1923, OAC coach R.B. Rutherford and team captain Percy Locey felt otherwise.So did quarterback Roy Price. In the second quarter, Price took a Webfootpunt on his own 23-yard line and didn't stop until he had reached the Oregonend zone for the game's only score. Price missed the extra point but itdidn't matter. Besides the excellent play of Locey, OSU's punter, Luke Gill,brother of legendary Beaver basketball coach Slats Gill, turned in a greatday with his booming kicks.
5. OSU 7, UO 6 (1964): This game, played in Corvallis on Nov. 21, wasagainst a 17th-ranked, 7-1-1 Duck team needing a victory to have one of itsbest teams ever. Each school had one conference loss, and the Beavers were asingle victory away from an invitation to the Rose Bowl. The Ducks led 6-0for an elapsed time of 59 minutes and six seconds, but games are only wonwhen time has completely expired. Thank goodness for that because with 54seconds remaining, OSU's Booker Washington scored from one-yard out to givethe Beavers a tie. Steve Clark's all-important extra point was good enoughfor a trip to Pasadena.
4. OSC 12, UO 7 (1941): For the generations of Beaver fans, this was thegreatest Civil War game played up to and including the 1960s. The reason isthat OSU's win sent the school to its first-ever Rose Bowl, this one playedin Durham, N.C., against the Duke Blue Devils, who were led by future OSUHead Football Coach Tommy Prothro. Like so many Civil War games before orsince, Oregon State College had to come from behind, the winning tallyresulting from a 29-yard run to pay dirt by fullback Joe Day. Oregon's CurtMecham's 53-yard run for six was the highlight of the low-scoring affair,but it was not enough to give his Webfooters the victory.
3. OSU 10, UO 7 (1957): If the Civil War is really all about playing forpride, plus the honor that comes with being the best college football teamin the state, few Civil War games match this one, played in Eugene on Nov.23, before a crowd of 23,150. At kickoff, the situation for the Beavers wasunprecedented in both school and Pacific Coast Conference history. OSU wassecond in the conference with a 5-2 record, the Ducks on top at 6-1. ABeaver win would put both schools at 6-2 in the PCC. But the conference hada no-repeat rule, which meant that because the Beavers had gone to the RoseBowl in 1956, they could not go again if they finished the season in a tiefor the conference championship. For OSU, the message was simple: win theCivil War game and go home ...lose the game and go home. OSU put all thisaside and played the Ducks to win, if for no other reason than to prove whowas best. OSU prevailed and packed it in. The Ducks lost and packed theirbags for California.
2. OSU 23, UO 13 (2000): With Oregon entering this Nov. 18 contest inCorvallis ranked No. 5, and OSU No. 8, no Civil War had ever featured thetwo schools at kickoff so high in the polls. Nationally, fans had beenwaiting for this game for weeks. In Oregon, fans of the two schools had beenwaiting for generations. With a victory, OSU would have a 10-win season forits first time in school history. Oregon was undefeated in conference play,and OSU had lost only to Washington earlier in the season, 33-30. Bowl bidswere on the line, a Pac-10 championship was on the line, and a chance wasthere for each school to have its highest ranking of all time. With anationwide TV audience looking on, OSU's Jonathan Smith threw for twofirst-quarter touchdowns, and the Beavers never looked back. One gameremained to play, a game made possible by this historic Civil War win ...the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl! In losing, the Ducks were knocked out of the RoseBowl and had to settle for the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.
1. OSU 44, UO 41 (1998): Few Beaver or Duck fans today will disagree that,for sheer sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting excitement, this isthe greatest game ever played by the two schools. The Ducks were ranked No.15, with a 5-2 conference record, 8-2 overall. The Beavers had played wellduring the season but still entered the game 1-6 and 4-6. But this was theCivil War. Throw the records out and play ball. Which is what they did, withan intensity few had ever seen in the annual rivalry. At the end ofregulation time, the game was tied, and at the end of the first overtime, aDuck pass fell incomplete on fourth down with the Beavers ahead by atouchdown. Game over, right? The Parker Stadium crowd of 37,777 thought soand stormed the field, not noticing a yellow flag the officials had thrownduring the last play, a pass interference call against OSU. After the nearly15 minutes it took to clear the crowd from the field, the game resumed andthe Ducks scored to deadlock things once again. During the second overtimeperiod, Oregon put up three points on the first possession and this setthe stage for Beaver freshman running back Ken Simonton to score on a sweepto give his team the big upset and a new level of respectability around thePac-10. Fans also remember the game for what it did to help in the amazingturnaround Beaver football enjoyed in the late 1990s. This was the game thatreturned pride to thousands of Beaver Believers who had all but turned intheir school colors, and brought thousands of new Believers into thefootball family.
Other games we should remember as 'honorable mention' include: the 1965game, won by OSU 19-14. The 1967 game, in which OSU followed its 3-0stunning upset of USC in the immortal 'Giant Killer' game with a sweet 14-10victory; and the most unforgettably forgettable Civil War game evercontested ... the 1983 'Toilet Bowl,' which ended in a 0-0 tie.