With the sounds of a Civil War celebration in the background, members of the Oregon State football team filed out of their locker room at Autzen Stadium in Eugene on Friday evening.
The cheers, shouts and occasional booms of fireworks were not for the Beavers.
Heads were held high. This was not the blowout loss many thought was coming after the Beavers were dismantled at home by Washington the previous week on senior night.
“I told them during the week, I said this will sound horrible, I don’t even care about the score,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. “I want us to play football like we’re supposed to. Then I’ll check the scoreboard.”
At the end on Friday night, the scoreboard read UO 36, OSU 35.
The Beavers bounced back with one of their best performances of the season, but it was not quite enough as the Ducks put together a touchdown drive to pull it out at the end.
“We certainly played a good football game, as did Oregon. They just made the right plays at the right time, so they deserved to win,” Riley said. “We certainly had an opportunity to have that same feeling. It was just a good football game. I think both teams played hard and fought.”
After some struggles in recent games, OSU quarterback Sean Mannion put together a strong performance in the pocket. He completed 29 of 47 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
The big story for the Beavers was their ability to run the football.
Riley’s game plan was to focus on the run, and the Beavers came through with 231 yards.
This time the bulk came from the running backs. Terron Ward rushed for 145 yards and Storm Woods added 73.
“It makes me feel good and it makes me feel bad because I reflect on what might have been had we been able to accomplish that as an offensive team during the year,” Riley said. “We certainly would have been better down the stretch against the better teams. It was both good to see and bad to have to look back on. Almost 600 yards of offense and pretty balanced. That’s a pretty good way to go.”
Now the Beavers wait on a possible bowl bid while the staff makes some recruiting visits in the meantime.
At 6-6, the Beavers are bowl eligible, but they are low in the pecking order.
Recent bowl projections have the Beavers headed to Shreveport, La., for the AdvoCare V100 Bowl (Independence Bowl) on Dec. 31, the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Jan. 1, or the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise on Dec. 21.
“There is lots of speculation. I would hope that game (Friday) … helped us in regard of bowl games,” Riley said. “We might know soon. I think some people are selecting soon and we might not know for a week. Some people are going to select later.”
Riley said everyone on the team is operating as if they are headed to a bowl.
There is no thought to turning down an offer to save money.
“I think it’s absolutely necessary for us to get a bowl game. For lots of reasons,” Riley said. “For this team, for one, I think it’s really, really important for recruiting. I think it’s important for the future team, it’s really important the extra practice it will get the younger guys.
“There’s just lots of reasons.”