CORVALLIS — With a victory — finally — over rival Oregon in the Civil War, the Oregon State Beavers took a meaningful step in their evolution under coach Gary Andersen.
The Beavers finished 4-8 overall, a two-game improvement over last season, and won three Pac-12 games after going winless in the conference last year.
But perhaps the most positive indicator of where the Beavers are going came when they snapped an eight-game losing streak to the Ducks. Already out of postseason contention — it was essentially Oregon State's bowl game — the team was both tough and persistent.
"This is a big, big statement for us to be able to get ourselves back in a position to grow as a football team and football program," Andersen said.
The Beavers rallied from a 24-14 third-quarter deficit with three straight touchdown runs from sophomore tailback Ryan Nall, appropriately nicknamed "Wrecking Nall," to win it 34-24 .
Nall finished the game with four touchdowns, most for a Beaver since Jacquizz Rodgers ran for three and caught another against Washington in 2010. Steven Jackson had the last game with four rushing TDs in 2003.
Nall, a native Oregonian who played at Portland's Central Catholic High School, was named the Pac-12 offensive player of the week for the effort. He finished the season with 951 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns on the ground, and also caught a pair of TD passes. He had four 100-yard rushing games.
It was the second straight victory for Oregon State, which also beat Arizona 42-17 at home a week before the season finale. It was the first time since 2013 that the Beavers had won consecutive conference games.
For senior left tackle Sean Harlow, it was the perfect way to end his college career.
"That one has a little extra something special to it," Harlow said after the Civil War win. "To be able to get one last one, a home game in our place against them of all people, and to run the ball physically and force our will on them all game — there's nothing better."
And they did it despite numerous key injuries.
The Beavers lost starting quarterback Darell Garretson midway through the season to a broken ankle. Backup Conor Blount injured his knee in the same game — essentially thrusting sophomore Marcus McMaryion into the starting role for the Beavers' final six games.
McMaryion threw for 1,286 yards and 10 touchdowns, but also threw five interceptions. Five of those touchdown passes came in the victory over Arizona.
Sophomore receiver Seth Collins, arguably the most dynamic player on the Beavers' offense, missed the final two games with a serious illness that put him in the hospital for nearly two weeks. The nature of the illness was not disclosed because of privacy rules.
Collins, the Beavers' former quarterback, had 36 catches for 418 yards and a touchdown this season before falling ill. He was named an honorary captain for the Civil War.
Beavers' H-back Noah Togiai was lost early this season with a knee injury, while outside linebacker Bright Ugwoegbu, the team's top pass rusher, was lost late in the season to an ankle injury. In all, the Beavers lost 15 players to season-ending injuries this year.
In addition to Arizona and Oregon, the Beavers defeated Idaho State the second week of the season, and won their first conference game under Andersen at home against California on Oct. 8.
"They got knocked down a lot but they battled and got back up and all of a sudden you have some good things happen to you, it's absolutely got to help your growth and your program and it should help recruiting, too," Andersen said.
Oregon State will start next season with a pair of games at home against Portland State and Minnesota. The Beavers visit Colorado State before starting conference play.