122nd Civil War is first as head coaches for Smith and Cristobal
Jonathan Smith has an edge in Civil War experience on Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, but all of that came as a player for the first-year Oregon State coach.
Oregon visits Oregon State on Friday for the 122nd edition of the Civil War. Kickoff is set for 1:05 p.m. at Reser Stadium in Corvallis. The game will be televised by FS1 and can be heard in the Umpqua Valley on KSKR-AM, 1490, and KQEN-AM, 1240.
Smith started four Civil War games at quarterback for the Beavers from 1998 through 2001, winning at home in ’98 and 2000 and losing in Eugene in ’99 and ’01.
Cristobal’s lone brush with the Civil War came last Thanksgiving weekend when he was the co-offensive coordinator and line coach for the Ducks. Oregon won that contest at Autzen Stadium, 69-10, in Willie Taggart’s final game as the Ducks’ head coach.
Whichever team wins, it will be the head coach’s first victory in the series, the most played rivalry game west of the Mississippi. Oregon has a 64-47-10 all-time advantage.
“I want our approach to be like another game, another opportunity, or your focus isn’t on where it needs to be, which is techniques,” Smith said in his weekly press conference. “It’s an important game, like all 12 of them are.”
For OSU (2-9, 1-7 Pac-12), Friday is an opportunity to own the state and grow its momentum moving into the offseason. The Beavers won in 2016, 34-24, in Mark Helfrich’s final game as Oregon coach. Gary Andersen, Oregon State’s coach in that game, resigned mid-season in 2017 and wasn’t around for the debacle that followed at Autzen Stadium.
“I learned the intensity of it (in 2017),” said Cristobal, who spent four years at Alabama and in the tradition-rich SEC as Nick Saban’s assistant head coach before coming to Oregon. “It’s the longest running rivalry between public schools in the west. It was a pretty intense deal in Corvallis two years ago and that intensity carried over to here last year. This (rivalry) did not disappoint.”
Oregon (7-4, 4-4) is bowl eligible for the second straight season and has the ability to win an eighth game for the first time since 2015.
The Ducks have lost three straight on the road and have struggled to start fast away from Autzen. Last Saturday, they held on to defeat Arizona State 31-29 despite four turnovers and being minus-3 in the turnover category.
“We’re educated to the point that we understand how hard that is to have four turnovers and still win — that’s hard to do,” Cristobal said. “It all points to our guys understanding that if we are dialed in and focused in to play at the highest level of physical and mental ability, that we are tough to beat.
“We have a mentality that there is no bad play, no penalty, no turnover that we can’t overcome. All of our focus is completely on this game.”
The Ducks haven’t won more than once away from Autzen since the 2015 season, a fall from grace that was unexpected following Oregon’s appearance in the BCS Championship game following the 2014 season.
Oregon is second in the Pac-12 in scoring offense (35.5) and ninth in scoring defense (28.1), while OSU is ninth in scoring offense (27.1) and 12th in scoring defense (44.8).
The Beavers have the top freshman running back in the conference in Jermar Jefferson, who set the school’s freshman season rushing record against Washington last week, gaining 115 yards to pass Jacquizz Rodgers (1,253 yards in 2008) with 1,316 yards.
OSU has also had an evolving quarterback situation with as many as three taking snaps in a given game. Senior Jake Luton has settled into a consistent role behind center in recent weeks, but others could still see the field.
Luton has completed 119 of 187 passes for 1,378 yards and eight touchdowns, with two interceptions.
Oregon, in many ways, goes as junior quarterback Justin Herbert and receiver Dillon Mitchell do.
Mitchell leads the Pac-12 in receiving yards with 68 receptions for 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns. Herbert has passed for 2,883 yards and 27 touchdowns with just eight interceptions.