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  • COLLEGE FOOTBALL

    Fans show their colors

    Civil War Luncheon gives Duck, Beaver fans chance to strut their support
  • If there is any residual effect from then-top-ranked Oregon's loss to Stanford last Saturday, it wasn't evident at the Civil War Luncheon in Medford Tuesday.
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  • If there is any residual effect from then-top-ranked Oregon's loss to Stanford last Saturday, it wasn't evident at the Civil War Luncheon in Medford Tuesday.
    Some 300 fans — more Ducks than Beavers — wore the colors of either Oregon or Oregon State, sang their respective fight songs and either spoke confidently or listened to speakers who did likewise during a festive ceremony at Rogue Valley Country Club.
    They're gearing up for the 116th meeting of the two schools — who this season have only three losses between them — at noon Saturday at Reser Stadium in Corvallis.
    Was there a Duck hangover from having the team's national championship aspirations severely wounded?
    "We were a little bit down at first, but we're bouncing back," said Michael Ross of Ashland.
    It "very definitely helps" that this is Civil War week, said Ross, a 1961 Oregon graduate. "I think the Ducks are really going to bounce back in character and put it to them."
    There were plenty of Beavers on hand to disagree.
    "They're looking really good, great, in fact," OSU alum Dave Henneman of Medford said about the Beavers' chances. "The Ducks got spanked last week, so their sails have to be deflated big-time after that demoralizing loss. And the Beavers put a whooping on (Cal) last week and they're rolling. They're having a great season and have all the confidence in the world."
    He and Kyle Lumsden, two years out of OSU and who lives in the Applegate, agreed that a home game serves the Beavers well.
    "Bottom line, I think it'll be a good game," said Lumsden.
    Oregon has won four straight and leads the series 59-46-10. The score last season was 49-21.
    The luncheon began with a nod to another successful team that will be in action Saturday: Southern Oregon University. Raiders head coach Craig Howard and SOU athletic director Matt Sayre were on hand.
    Howard said a few words, and when it came time to sing fight songs, he stood for the Ducks, having served as Don Read's head junior varsity coach in 1976. Howard comes from a house divided because his wife, Valerie, grew up in Corvallis and graduated from OSU.
    Videos of both teams were shown.
    Oregon's centered on the raucous atmosphere within Autzen Stadium.
    "You'll feel it before you see it, you'll hear it long after you leave it," said the narrator.
    OSU's had a decidedly Civil War theme, a key moment in one game being a blocked field goal.
    "Why do you guys have to bring up field goals, of all things, this week?" said co-master of ceremonies Marty Smith. He handled the Duck end of things while Jim Botsford was the Beaver voice.
    "It won't come down to a field goal this week, will it Ducks?" said Smith.
    Oregon missed two field goals against Stanford, including one that would have given it the lead in overtime of the 17-14 loss.
    Former players Steve Hilbert and Dave Cuttrell spoke for Oregon, while ex-Beaver football player Don Pinkham and ex-baseball player Rob Folsom spoke for OSU.
    Hilbert, a freshman from Los Angeles in 1966, didn't know much about the Civil War until the Duck sophomores played the OSU rooks. Oregon had a bad first half and fiery coach "Stormin'" Norman Chapman lit into the players at halftime.
    "He was a very, very volatile guy," said Hilbert, who, with his wife, Debbie, a former UO cheerleader, lives in Chiloquin. "He told us, 'A,' what he thought of the Beavers, and it was all Beavers. Then 'B,' he told us what he thought of us, then he told us what he would think of us if we didn't go out and win."
    The Ducks did as they were told.
    "And I never thought of the Oregon-Oregon State rivalry the same from that point on," said Hilbert.
    A year later, he was on the varsity and played the first game in Autzen against Colorado.
    In the year's final game, the Ducks, only 2-7, faced a powerful Beaver team that trampled the opposition en route to a 6-2-1 record. Two wins were against No. 1 USC and No. 2 Purdue, and the tie was against No. 2 UCLA.
    "We made a commitment, the Beavers were not going to run on the Ducks," said Hilbert.
    Oregon would do everything in its power to stop the likes of Bill "Earthquake" Enyart, Billy Main and Steve Preece. That meant putting "11 men in the box," said Hilbert.
    He recalled inching up to the line of scrimmage next to nose guard George Dames, a Medford product.
    "He said, 'I thought you were a safety,'" recalled Hilbert. "I said, 'Well, that was last week.'"
    Duck All-American defensive back Jimmy Smith was told that if one player released downfield, take him. If two did, "You're an All-American, handle it," said Hilbert.
    And three?
    "Good luck," said Hilbert. "The other 10 of us are going after 'Earthquake' Bill."
    The tactic didn't fully work. Oregon State triumphed, 14-10.
    Not all the seasons in Corvallis were good ones. Quite the opposite.
    Pinkham played for Dee Andros. Coaches who followed included Craig Fertig, Joe Avezzano and Dave Kragthorpe, and losses mounted with each of them. The Beavers endured 28 straight losing seasons, winning only seven Civil Wars during the streak.
    "That stretch of going 2-9, 3-8 if we were lucky ... a big year was a 3-8 year," joked Pinkham.
    Then he turned serious, and his voice cracked slightly.
    "Those were really tough years to live through," he said, "but you know, you still got to the end of the year. You still had the Civil War, and it was still that emotional time. That never changed."
    Cuttrell had come up from California to play at Oregon and culminated his career in the 1995 Rose Bowl against Penn State.
    Since discovering the meaning of the Civil War, he was a "purist." He couldn't watch, let alone root for, the Beavers.
    "I'd flip the channel," he said. "I'd rather watch the commercials. I'm a purist."
    But after last year's game, he was encouraged to embrace the other side. He could pull for the Beavers when they weren't opposite the Ducks. He didn't have to be that guy that stubbornly eschewed anything orange and black.
    "Be a proud Duck fan without stepping on their feelings," he said.
    He felt he'd done so, too, mixing well with Beaver friends, co-workers, golf partners, even relatives. He was to graciously welcome OSU relatives into his home this weekend.
    Then last week happened. Oregon's difficulty with Stanford prompted surly messages to his phone, so he turned it off.
    The next morning, they were there in bulk.
    "How does it feel to be a loser." "You guys suck." "Nine-and-two's a good year, sorry."
    "And on and on and on," said Cuttrell.
    Even a high school chum he hadn't seen in 20-plus years sent in a dig via Cuttrell's brother.
    "So I get dragged right back in," he said. "That little black on my green heart is gone. It's Beaver week, I'm back to being a purist and I will be forever more."
    Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email ttrower@mailtribune.com
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