EUGENE — Oregon first-year coach Willie Taggart said this week that last year’s Civil War loss left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and that they were anxious to rectify that situation.
That taste was completely gone with 10 minutes left in the second quarter when it was 31-7 Ducks.
Taggart was at South Florida when Oregon State took last season’s rivalry game 34-24, but he got a crash course on the Civil War shortly after he was hired by boosters and fans. It seems like Taggart got an A+ on his final with a 69-10 dismantling of the Beavers in the 121st edition of this intense rivalry in front of 57,475 inside Autzen Stadium.
“We had a great week of practice. The guys came out focused and they were ticked off because of what happened last year, but it was a controlled ticked off,” Taggart said. “I enjoyed that (the win) a lot, but I enjoyed it more for our seniors. It was important to play well for those guys. They helped change the culture here.”
The 69 points was the most one team had ever scored in the Civil War, breaking Oregon’s 65 points it scored in the 2008 game up in Corvallis.
Oregon made sure the Beavers would know this time around would be different on the very first OSU offensive play. Duck defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt’s defense anticipated a swing pass to Ryan Nall and it resulted in a nine-yard loss and almost a safety.
It would have been cause for a big celebration, but the Oregon defense calmly huddled up for the next play. Oregon treated the entire game like a business trip although it was a home game.
Payback was the one and only thing on the Ducks’ mind all night. Oregon made sure OSU had absolutely no chance at a possible rally as the scoreboard read 52-7 Ducks at halftime.
“I was excited just like any other win. They had on their rain coats because it was reigning touchdowns,” Taggart said referring to some Beavers saying the Ducks were not tough last season because they wore rain coats during the game. I definitely didn’t want to be the coach to go through the off season with a loss to the school up North.”
RUNNING OUT OF THE SHADOWS: Royce Freeman might not be the most well-known Oregon tailback to put on the green and yellow uniform, but when it’s all said done, he’ll be ranked as the best ever in Eugene and the best Pac-12 running back not named Charles White.
Oregon has been Tailback U for the last decade with the likes of Johnathan Stewart, Kenjon Barner and LaMichael James all carrying the ball for the Ducks. But after Freeman torched the Beavers for 122 yards and two touchdowns, the senior from Imperial, Calif. ended the regular season with 5,621 career yards and 60 career touchdowns.
“Royce played like he always played. It was great he got the record,” Taggart said. “We haven’t even talked about the bowl game and whether he plays in it or not.”
Freeman usually likes to calm himself before games, but since this was his last game in front of the Duck fans, tonight was a little different.
“Today had more emotion involved,” the tailback said. “My faith is very important to me and it’s helped me get me to this point today.”
Among those fans happens to be his quarterback.
“Royce is a really special player. He’s special off the field as well,” Justin Herbert said. “I told him I was a big fan of his before I came here and I’m even a bigger fan of his now.”
MR. CONSISTENCY: Speaking of Herbert, his first touchdown went to Dillon Mitchell on a 29-yarder to the back on the end zone where Mitchell’s toe tapped in bounds. That scoring toss extended Herbert’s 14-game streak where he has thrown a touchdown pass in each of his starts. It also signified how dynamic the Duck offense is when the Eugene native is on the field.
Oregon had its share of trouble moving the ball down the field when Herbert missed five games due to a broken collarbone. The Ducks had to play true freshman Braxton Burmeister during that time and they scored 15 points per game in that stretch.
"It meant the world for our team,” said Taggart on seeing his signal caller return. “Justin is a franchise quarterback. It inspired everybody for him to be back.”
RECORD BREAKING HALF: A 52-7 score isn’t that big of a deal when a 6-5 team plays a 1-10 team, but when it’s at halftime, that’s something to look twice at. The 52 first half points was a Civil War record and it was the second most first half points this season in the FBS. Florida State scored 56 points in a half earlier this season. For Oregon, it wasn’t just one player dominating. The Ducks shared the wealth.
Herbert threw for three touchdowns to three different receivers and the quarterback rushed for another. Add in Freeman’s two trips to the end zone and you have a first half many Duck and Beaver faithful will remember for a very long time, albeit for very different reasons.
IT NEVER RAINS AT AUTZEN STADIUM: But it sure does at Reser Stadium and the Ducks put on rain gear to the delight of some of the Beavers. OSU staff commented on it, which didn’t go unnoticed by the Ducks.
“We had that quote in the weight room for quite some time,” said defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux. “It definitely motivated us.”
BOWLING TIME: Oregon finished the regular season with a 7-5 mark and a 4-5 conference record. Which bowl the Ducks might go to won’t be determined until next week’s games are finished, but it’s likely Oregon will end up in the Cactus Bowl in Tuscon, Arizona, against a Big 12 team.