CORVALLIS — Harkening back to the “Giant Killers” team of 1967, Oregon State has built a reputation on pulling off big upsets at home.
This season, the Beavers toppled No. 7 Arizona State at Reser Stadium, adding to the mystique. The team will get another chance Saturday when its hosts No. 3 Oregon in the Civil War rivalry game.
“We understand that Oregon State’s going to come out and play with a lot of fire, with a lot of juice, a lot of intensity and we have to be prepared for that,” Ducks quarterback Marcus Mariota said.
But first a little history: In 1967 the Beavers beat top-ranked USC 3-0 on Nov. 11 at then-Parker Stadium. Oregon State’s defense withstood the nation’s top rusher, O.J. Simpson, and his 188 yards.
Oregon State, which also knocked off No. 2 Purdue that season to earn the Giant Killers nickname, finished with a 7-2-1 record, but it wasn’t enough to get the Beavers to a bowl game. Southern California claimed the Pac-8 title that year and went on to beat Indiana in the Rose Bowl.
Beavers head coach Mike Riley’s dad, Bud Riley, was an assistant coach on that team.
Other big upsets would come in more recent years. In 2012, the Beavers upset No. 13 Wisconsin — which would go on to the Rose Bowl that season — 10-7 at Reser Stadium.
In 2008, the Beavers were 26-point underdogs when they knocked off then-No. 1 USC 27-21 on a Thursday night in Corvallis. Freshman Jacquizz Rodgers ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns for Oregon State.
Two years earlier, Oregon State toppled the then-No. 3 Trojans at Reser 33-31, snapping a 38-game regular-season winning streak for USC. Oregon State knocked down a two-point conversion with 7 seconds left that would have tied the game.
This season, the Beavers snapped a four-game losing streak by beating then-No. 7 Arizona State 35-27. The Sun Devils, then No. 6 in the College Football Playoff rankings, appeared to be on their way to the Pac-12 championship and even beyond.
Oregon (10-1, 7-1) is currently No. 2 in the CFP rankings, which determine the four teams that will appear in the game’s first playoffs. The Ducks have already secured a spot in the Pac-12 championship as the representative from the North Division; the South has yet to be determined.
While the Ducks depend on a victory to keep them in the chase for the playoffs, the stakes are also high for the Beavers (5-6, 2-6), who need one more win to become bowl eligible.
And there this: The Ducks have won the last six games overall in the series, and the last three at Reser Stadium.
“We are going to be amped up for that game because it is at home and it should be fun,” Oregon State receiver Jordan Villamin said. “Hopefully we can get that win and end the streak that we have got going.”
Last year at Autzen Stadium the Beavers nearly pulled off an upset. Oregon State took the lead on Victor Bolden’s 25-yard run with 1:39 left. But Mariota orchestrated a drive that was capped with a 12-yard touchdown pass to John Huff with 29 seconds to go for a 36-35 victory.
Mike Riley said Oregon State can draw inspiration from the Arizona State victory, but Oregon’s trajectory, the Beavers’ own possible bowl eligibility and the fact that it’s the state’s big rivalry, gives this game an entirely different dimension.
“We certainly understand how good they are and where they sit in the college football world, but our focus is, really, entirely on us. We’ve got to put a good game together,” Riley told reporters on a conference call Sunday. “We’ve got to orchestrate good practices for our team. We’ve got to get prepared to play against the best we’re going to play against this year. So it is definitely about us in our preparation.”