Oregon State had not beaten Oregon since the 2007 season. But on Nov. 26, 2016, the day after Thanksgiving, they had a chance to snap the losing streak.
And Oregon State alum Roger Stearns knew what was on the line heading into the 2016 meeting.
“There was a lot of nervous energy going into that game,” Stearns said. “It had been a long time since we had beaten Oregon, and we all knew that this was the year it could finally happen.”
Though it had been a rough season for the Beavers and the Ducks, both teams had momentum coming into the rivalry matchup. The 3-8 Beavers were fresh off of a blowout win over Arizona, a 42-17 victory that went down as the team’s biggest win against an FBS opponent in 2016. Oregon, on the other hand, had just downed the 11th ranked Utah Utes 30-28 in Salt Lake City.
Though neither the Beavers nor Ducks had a shot at bowl-eligibility, University of Oregon student Blake Walker still knew there was plenty on the line in redeeming a lost season.
“It had obviously been a terrible season, especially by Oregon standards,” Walker said. “But we felt some renewed faith after the win over Utah, so we had confidence going into that game against Oregon State.”
The home-team Beavers got off to a strong start, scoring a touchdown off a nine-play, 61-yard drive on their opening possession. Oregon struck back quickly, however, with a three-yard touchdown rush from Tony Brooks-James on their ensuing possession. A 7-7 tie midway through the first quarter.
Both of the offenses stalled for the next couple of drives as each defense forced a three and out, before Oregon took the lead off of a 33-yard trick play with 12:24 remaining in the second quarter. But the Beavers answered Oregon’s score on their next possession, and the rivalry went into halftime tied at 14.
“I had mixed feelings about the first half,” Walker said. “But I was confident that our offense would be able to attack OSU in the second half.”
At the start of the third quarter, it appeared that Walker was right. Oregon scored on their opening drive of the half, and then opened up a 10-point lead with an Aidan Schneider field goal. For Stearns, hope was beginning to fade.
“None of us had very much to say after that field goal,” Stearns said. “We’re down ten in the second half, and at that point you start to get the feeling of ‘here we go again.’”
But the Beavers weren’t going down without a fight. On their ensuing possession, the offense utilized a rush-heavy drive which was capped off with a 14-yard touchdown from sophomore running back Ryan Nall. Oregon was forced to punt on their next drive, and the game went into the fourth quarter with Oregon leading 24-21.
After a 33-yard designed quarterback run by Marcus McMaryion early in the quarter, the Oregon State offense had finally found its rhythm. Now that the Ducks had to worry about McMaryion as a dual-threat, their defense looked flustered. The Beavers scored a few plays later off a Ryan Nall rush, and took a 28-24 lead with 9:40 to play. All of a sudden, the momentum had flipped.
“When we had that lead in the third quarter I kept telling my friends ‘this game isn’t over, our defense has been terrible all year.’ Once the Beavers took the lead, I knew that we were in trouble,” Walker said.
Now playing with the lead, the Oregon State defense stepped up and forced another three and out, giving their offense the ball back with just 7:13 remaining.
“At that point, we were like ‘holy crap,’” Stearns said. “This could actually happen, we have a chance to ice the game away.”
Oregon State’s offense did just that, putting together a nine-play, five-minute drive of exclusively running plays. After second string running back Artavis Pierce took the ball down to the one yard-line, Ryan Nall finished the job with his fourth rushing touchdown of the game. With just over two minutes to play, Reser Stadium erupted.
“We left after that last touchdown,” said Walker. “We knew that we’d lost, and we didn’t want to be there to see it.”
Oregon still had one last chance, and they drove the ball into Beaver territory. However, a dropped pass in the end zone on fourth and goal sealed their fate. Oregon State’s offense retook the field for a kneel down, and the Reser crowd stormed the field as the final seconds ticked away. For the first time in nearly a decade, the Oregon State Beavers had beaten their arch-rival.
“Nobody was gonna keep us off that field” Stearns said. “It was cold, wet, windy and miserable, but we could’ve cared less. Without a doubt, this was a game that I’ll always remember.”