CORVALLIS- Oregon crushed Oregon State 55-15 in the 122nd Civil War on a typical rainy and cold November day in front of a weak 39,776 fans in Reser Stadium.
The rivalry victory launched the rambunctious Ducks on the sideline to erupt in a chant of "This is Our House" and caused a grinning embrace between UO coach Mario Cristobal and athletic director Rob Mullens. Alas, there was another noticeable change from the last time Oregon visited Corvallis; No one in a Ducks uniform donned a raincoat.
Cristobal made sure to change the narrative from the Ducks’ last trip to OSU. The 2016 game is one most Oregon fans and players would like to forget. Not only did OSU beat Oregon, 34-24, in a rainstorm but the Beavers proceeded to call the Ducks "soft" for putting on “shiny raincoats” when the showers hit.
Cristobal wasn’t on the coaching staff then but remembers the headlines well.
“I hate to bring it up again, but I read so many articles about shiny raincoats,” Cristobal said. “Shiny coats came out, Oregon gave up a 10-point lead and is accused of what a football player never wants to be accused of; being soft. Those words, they dig pretty deep now. Those things aren’t forgotten so easily.”
And forget they did not. This season’s Civil War exhibited the toughest weather conditions Oregon has faced so far in 2018, but the coaching staff prepared the Ducks to embrace the storm. This week, as the Ducks prepared for the Beavers in the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex, the giant screen displayed the weather forecast; 90 percent chance of rain.
“All week (Cristobal) was saying the rain is coming, we knew it was coming and it didn’t effect us at all,” freshman running back Travis Dye said. “We embraced it, took it and we ran with it.”
The Ducks literally ran with it. Oregon rushed for a season-high 392 yards, averaging 6.3 yards per carry. Both freshmen running backs reached career highs. CJ Verdell shined, barreling for a career-high 187 yards on 23 carries and four rushing touchdowns, adding one receiving touchdown to score five total. Dye was one yard away from the 200-yard mark, finishing with 33 carries, 199 yards and two touchdowns.
"They had some open holes, but they ran hard," Cristobal said of Verdell and Dye. "They broke tackles."
Dye set a new Oregon freshman record for single-game rushing yards. Verdell became the first player in the FBS this season with four rushing and one receiving touchdown.
“I’ve been telling people from the beginning, this one-two punch can’t be stopped,” said Dye.
It was an important game for Oregon to be able to count on the duo, as quarterback Justin Herbert went down with an injury after being sacked in the second quarter. The severity of the injury will be accessed this week but Cristobal confirmed after the game that the junior “took a shot”. Before leaving the game, Herbert extended his steak with a touchdown pass to 27 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the nation.
Without Herbert, Oregon’s offense scored 34 points. The Ducks looked anything but cold. Which was the plan.
Verdell said Cristobal didn’t talk about the raincoats this week, but he made it clear that ‘he didn’t want to see anyone being soft or acting like they are cold on the sidelines’.
I cannot confirm whether the raincoats made the trip to Corvallis or not. However, when the game ended and the rain intensified, no one could find the jackets.
“I know a few guys were looking for the coats after the game ended,” redshirt junior defensive lineman Gus Cumberlander said. “I don’t think Cristobal wanted us to bring them out on the field.”
The victory improved the Ducks to 8-4, 5-4 in Pac-12 conference play, surpassing their win total from last season. It also was Oregon’s 10th win in the last 11 Civil War meetings, the only loss coming in 2016. Who knew a shiny raincoat could trigger so much motivation?