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WSU at Oregon State: a somewhat brief and incomplete history

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Things don’t normally go as planned in Corvallis

Washington State v Oregon State Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Good morning. Your Washington State Cougars will make their way down the Willamette Valley soon, with designs on their fifth straight win over the Oregon State Beavers. While the Cougs have largely exceeded expectations in 2018, the Beavers are, as Dennis Green once screamed, who we thought they were. That is to say, not good Bob! The only team they’ve defeated so far this season is of the FCS variety.

That doesn’t mean they stand no chance this Saturday, as things can sometimes get weird when the kindred spirit state schools face off, especially in Corvallis. One need look no further than the last time WSU ventured into the big salsa bowl. The Cougs arrived sporting a five-game winning streak, while OSU limped in at 2-5. WSU was a hefty 14-point favorite. So naturally, OSU led 21-0 after 23 minutes. The Cougs scratched and clawed their way back, and escaped with a 35-31 win.

That is but one game in the history of this semi-rivalry, which will see its 103rd matchup Saturday. WSU leads the all-time series, 52-47-3. There are two all-time series between current Pac-12 members in which WSU has the upper hand, this one and Utah. That five game cushion was perilously close to disappearing, though, until the Cougs went on their current four game winning streak. Why did it get so close? Well, there was a time when it actually seemed that the Beavers had WSU’s number.

In the 10 year stretch between 2004 and 2013, Oregon State won eight of the contests. Their average margin of victory in those wins was just under 27 points. The way those games unfolded ranged from frustrating to maddening to “I am officially out on this coach” embarrassing. In 2005, WSU rolled into Corvallis with a 3-0 record and raced out to a 30-13 lead. It was then that Alex Brink decided to start pretending OSU defenders were his receivers, OSU scored 21 fourth quarter points and WSU left with a 44-33 defeat. 2005 would see many more games like that.

The Cougars did get a measure of payback the next year when, in a game that was the polar opposite of the 2005 points-fest, they scored the only touchdown of the game and held on to win, 13-6. It was their first win in Corvallis since 1996. It was also the third straight year they played down there, while they played Oregon at home every time during that stretch. It was a simpler time. I guess.

The 2008 game contained its own bit of hilarity, if only because of the way the halves went. After falling behind 21-0, which was totally out of character for a Paul Wulff team, a Louis Bland - remember when we thought guys like Louis Bland were good? - pick six brought the Cougs to within 21-13 late in the first half. My assumption is that many downtrodden WSU fans thought, “hey, maybe we’re in this thing!” Yeah, no.

The Beavers went on to score the game’s final 45 points. That included a 39-yard touchdown pass with OSU already leading 59-13. If I were to look up postgame quotes, I’d probably see something from Paul Wulff talking about chips on shoulders or some other nonsense. Fun fact: the head referee’s name was Jack Wood. The 66-13 final actually seemed like a nail-biter compared to the next game, when USC came to Pullman.

2010 brought what is almost certainly the one of the most bizarre results in series history. The Cougs came in at 1-9, and that one win was a miraculous comeback over Montana State. OSU was 4-4, and looking to notch an easy win enroute to another bowl game. The point spread was OSU -23.5, and the money line was WSU +1100 (meaning if you placed a $100 bet on WSU to win, you’d have pocketed $1100). That’s when C.J. Mizell nearly murdered Jacquizz Rodgers near the seats, WSU scored the game’s first 21 points and outrushed Rodgers and the Beavers 221-97 enroute to a 31-14 win. The next week, Oregon State beat 20th-ranked USC by 29 points, while WSU took its first of two straight weekends off before the Apple Cup. Sports!

2012 was decidedly meh, but WSU did hang tough against the 14th-ranked Beavers, ultimately falling 19-6. Jeff Tuel and Connor Halliday took turns throwing the ball to OSU defenders, and the Cougs squandered a good defensive performance. Following the great Halliday pickfest of 2013, WSU was in danger of losing its grip on the one conference series in which it had the upper hand. Enter Luke Falk, who would make the Beavers his personal punching bag for the next four years.

Falk made his first career start in Corvallis, and it ended with him being carried off the field. In leading WSU to a 39-32 win, Falk passed for 471 yards and five touchdowns, leading the 2-7 Cougs over the heavily-favored Beavers. It would be the first of seven straight times Falk would triumph over FBS teams from Oregon.

So now we head to Saturday where, like 2016, WSU is the heavy favorite over downtrodden Oregon State. While the Cougs are clearly the better team, and although they’ve owned the series of late, do not be surprised if weird stuff happens. Let’s just hope the weird stuff is more Falkian than Brinkish.

Football

Way-too-early projections of where Washington State may go bowling in December | The Spokesman-Review
Entering the 2018 season, Washington State fans were cautiously optimistic, but never bullish, about the Cougars’ chances of claiming a postseason berth for the fourth time in four years.

Pac-12 picks: It could be another sour weekend for the South with four matchups against mighty North | The Spokesman-Review
The North has four more opportunities to assert its dominance over the South this weekend and the Buffs could continue to pull away from their peers by winning an all-South matchup with Arizona State.

Washington State vs. Oregon State Fearless Prediction, Game Preview
Not helping the OSU cause is a Wazzu defense that’s playing even better than the other side of the ball, ranking ninth in the nation in total defense allowing just 277 yards per game.

Mike Leach on sin-counting, rushing for zero yards and playing Oregon State | OregonLive.com
Mike Leach, Washington State football coach, joined me on the Bald Faced Truth radio show to talk about winning a game last week against Utah without rushing for a single yard.

OSU football: Beavers focus on faster start on offense | Football | gazettetimes.com
Getting off to a faster and better start offensively has been a point of emphasis so far this week as the Beavers (1-4, 0-2 Pac-12) get set to host Washington State (4-1, 1-1) this Saturday at 6 p.m. inside Reser Stadium.

Oregon State football notes: Defense grapples with tackling, turnover, pass rush problems | OregonLive.com
Tackling isn’t the only issue bedeviling Oregon State’s defense. Through five games, the Beavers have four takeaways, and only two since the season opener at Ohio State.

Oregon State Beavers' defensive focus this week is simple: tackling | OregonLive.com
After allowing 838 combined rushing yards during their 0-2 start to conference play, the Beavers are returning to fundamentals this week.

Pac-12 bowl projections: Oregon to the Fiesta, USC the Alamo
The Hotline's updated projections place Washington in the Rose Bowl and Oregon in the Fiesta. Meanwhile, Arizona faces a must-win game this weekend against Cal.

This Week in Parenting

My kids catch the school bus around 740, so we get them out of bed about 650. On Thursdays, for some reason, school starts an hour later. Despite the fact that this happens every week, my wife and I still only seem to remember on Wednesday night at about 10. It’s a lot like hiding that damn doll at Christmas time. Even though it happens regularly, you somehow block it from your mind until the last minute.

On normal days, it takes everything short of blasting caps, an air raid siren and a pair of forklifts to get the boys up and moving. On Thursdays, even though they know they can sleep for up to an extra hour, they’re voluntarily up and at ‘em right around the same time we’re normally having to threaten all but their very existence to get them out of bed. Why is this? I’ve yet to figure it out, but they take advantage of the extra hour by arguing with each other and driving my wife crazy before she’s had a sufficient amount of coffee. The little bastards are masterful at this subtle troll, so I’ve gotta hand it to them.

Beer

Best beer I had this week: Not a lot from which to choose since it’s a short week, but the Fuller’s Imperial IPA I had while penning most of this column was pretty tasty.

Why the intersection of coffee and beer has become a dominant force in craft brewing - Chicago Tribune
Coffee has become such a prominent ingredient that it’s far more difficult to think of a brewery that hasn't incorporated coffee into a brew than a brewery that has.

Non-Sports

We went undercover as ticket scalpers — and Ticketmaster offered to help us do business | The Star
As gatekeeper to the entertainment industry’s most coveted events, Ticketmaster implements strict purchasing limits designed to prevent scalpers from using bots to buy tickets on a mass scale.