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The Figgis Forum: Oregon State

California v Oregon State Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

Welcome to the 11th edition of The Figgis Forum, a fan-driven season preview for each Pac-12 team. Making our way out of Los Angeles, we’re just going to head straight north up I-5 through the wasteland between Bakersfield and Sacramento, make a quick stop in Redding for some In-N-Out and perhaps another stop in Medford since we forgot the animal style fries. Then we’ll continue on, straight through Eugene and up to highway 34 where we exit for Corvallis, where the farmers grow hay and the football players kidnap sheep.


Fast Facts:

All-Time Record: 535-585-50 (.479%)

National Championships: 0

Conference Championships: 5

Bowl Games: 15

Bowl Record: 9-6 (.600%)

Consensus All-Americans: 7

Heismans: 1

NFL Draft Picks: 162

1st Round Draft Picks: 6

Weeks in AP Poll: 95

Weeks at #1: 0

Vs Oregon:

All-Time Record: 47-63-10

Longest Win Streak: 8 Games (1964-1971)

Longest Losing Streak: 8 Games (1975-1982 & 2008-2015)

Largest Margin of Victory: 39-2 (1942)

Largest Margin of Defeat: 0-44 (1895 & 1987)

Last Meeting: 2016 (W 24-34)


The Oregon State Beavers of Reser Stadium. OSU has an overall winning record against just two teams in the Pac-12; relative newcomers Colorado (5-4) and Utah (11-9-1). They rank 103rd in the nation in all time win percentage, which surprisingly is not the worst among Power 5 Five teams. Kansas State, Iowa State, Northwestern, Indiana and Wake Forest rank 108th, 110th, 111th, 118th and 121st respectively. Since 1920, the Beavers have had 40 winning seasons, 49 losing seasons and eight .500 seasons. Since 1970, they have recorded just 12 winning seasons against 36 losing ones, which includes an impressive 28 year streak of sub-.500 seasons which I will refer to as “The Long Night”. This dark period of Oregon State’s history makes me think about Old Nan’s story about fear:

Fear is for the winter, when the snows fall a hundred feet deep. Fear is for the long night, when the sun hides for years and children are born and live and die, all in darkness. That is the time for fear, my little lord, when the white walkers move through the woods. Thousands of years ago there came a night that lasted a generation. Kings froze to death in their castles, same as the shepherds in their huts. And women smothered their babies rather than see them starve, and wept and felt the tears freeze on their cheeks.

Lon Stiner was arguably the first head coach of the Beavers to bring some successes to the program. Stiner led the program for 14 seasons from 1933 to 1948 (no teams were fielded in 1943 and 1944 due to the war) and finished with an overall record of 74-49-17. In 1939 he led OSU to their first bowl game, a victory over Hawaii in the Pineapple Bowl. Two years later, he improved on that feat with a conference championship and Rose Bowl victory over the Duke Blue Devils that was capped off with a number 12 final ranking in the AP poll. After that, the Beavers slipped back to the middle of the pack and appeared in just one more bowl game under Stiner; another victory over Hawaii in the Pineapple bowl in 1948.

Under new coach Kip Taylor, things quickly deteriorated as the beavers finished 7-3 in his first season (1949) and 1-8 in his last (1954). In his six seasons, he amassed a record of 20-36 and never finished better than fifth in the conference. OSU hired Tommy Prothro for the 1955 season and he was quickly able to turn things around, finishing 6-3 and second in the conference his first year. The next season, the Beavers won the conference and returned to the Rose Bowl where they lost to the Iowa Hawkeyes. They repeated as conference champions the next year, but did not participate in a bowl game due to the PCC’s no repeat rule at the time. The next few years were not as successful as the Beavers hovered around .500 until a 9-2 finish in 1962 that was capped off with a Liberty Bowl victory over Villanova and Terry Baker being awarded the Heisman Trophy. Two years later, the Beavers won the conference for the third time under Prothro and lost the Rose Bowl to the Michigan Wolverines. Ten days later, Prothro left the Beavers to accept the head coaching position at UCLA. The Beavers have not been to the Rose Bowl since.

To replace Prothro, Oregon State hired Dee Andros who was most well-known for his “Giant Killers” team of 1967. The Beavers finished with a 7-2-1 record on the year, but earned the nickname after going undefeated against three top two ranked teams in a four week period. That was the highlight of the Andros tenure. Just four years later, Andros led the Beavers to a 5-6 finish that led them into The Long Night. Five other coaches would see their teams live and die in this darkness. Over this 28 year period, the Beavers accumulated a record of 65-239-5 for a 0.210 win percentage. By the time the 1999 season started, there were 28 year old men and women who had lived their entire lives without even witnessing a single .500 season in Corvallis. So who was the hero that saved the Beavers from The Long Night? Enter, Dennis Erickson.

After Erickson’s failed venture into the NFL, he returned to the college ranks to try to put out a 28-year dumpster fire. In his first season, he got the Beavers back above .500, finishing 7-5 with a loss to Hawaii in the Oahu Bowl. The very next year, Erickson led the Beavers to their first conference title since 1964 and a dominant win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. In 2001, they fell back below .500 and rebounded in 2002 to finish 8-5 with a loss to Pitt in the Insight Bowl. Following the 2002 season, Erickson left Oregon State for another shot at the NFL.

To replace Erickson, OSU re-hired the man who led the program for the last two years of The Long Night, Mike Riley. In his second stint, Riley coached the Beavers for twelve seasons and always kept his teams competitive in the conference, though he was never able to claim a championship. In his time, he led the Beavers to eight bowl games with six being victories and finished with a record of 93-80. Riley surprised many after the 2014 season when he left Corvallis to fill the head coaching vacancy at the University of Nebraska.

To replace Riley, OSU managed to hire Gary Anderson away from Wisconsin after he had been there for just two seasons. Now, a third of the way through the 2017 season, Anderson has an overall record of 7-21 in Corvallis and a stretch of the schedule that will likely see the Beavers finish below .500 for the fifth straight year. In their next five games, Oregon State faces Washington, USC on the road, Colorado, Stanford and a surging Cal team on the road. Those are followed up with games against the scrappy Arizona schools and the Civil War in Eugene. It is entirely possible, and likely even, that the Beavers may not win another game in 2017. Anderson’s seat is getting hot and he may need a miracle to save his job.

Fan Q & A

For the following section, I would like to thank Building the Dam for taking the time to answer my questions and give perspective on their team.

What win total would constitute a successful season? What bowl game?

In general, becoming bowl eligible seems to be the goal for year three of the Gary Andersen era at Oregon State. After going 2-10 in 2015, the Beavers improved to 4-8 last season and a potential six-win campaign is probably what would constitute a successful season. However, I think what Beaver Nation most wants to see is a team that is improving and developing a core for both the present and the future. There seems to be a lot of trust in Gary Andersen in Corvallis at the moment. Another step in the right direction is what fans want to see.

What win total would constitute a failed season? What bowl game?

Due to the fact that the Beavers schedule looks pretty daunting, I don't think fans will be overly upset if Oregon State falls around the 4-5 plateau again and just misses a bowl game. However, anything less than that (or a lack of quality play across the board) would be a failure in the eyes of Beaver Nation.

What are you most optimistic about this coming season?

The running game. Oregon State has Ryan Nall returning as arguably the most talented player on the whole team (and a likely All-Pac-12 selection), as well as a load of depth behind him. Nall's backup heading into Fall Camp is Artavis Pierce, a speedy back who tallied 523 yards and 4 touchdowns last season as a freshman but the Beavers also were bolstered this off-season by the transfers of Trevorris Johnson (TCU) and Thomas Tyner (Oregon). Johnson projects as a serviceable depth back for the group, while Tyner is a bit of an unknown, considering he hasn't played organized football in two years since medically retiring from the Ducks. Overall though, this group has the potential to be the deepest running core in the whole conference, if the offensive line in front of them can get their act together.

What are you most apprehensive about this season?

The offense line and the quarterback position. My answer is mostly the offensive line, but the fact that it's July and there's three potential options for the quarterback position (Jake Luton, Marcus McMaryion, Darell Garretson) does keep most of Beaver Nation a bit nervous. However, the offensive line was depleted by the losses of Sean Harlow (Atlanta Falcons), Dustin Stanton (Cincinnati Bengals), Gavin Andrews (Buffalo Bills - Camp) and Will Hopkins (SMU - Transfer) and will have to fill voids across the board. There's no position that fans will be keeping an eye on (more than even quarterback) through Fall Camp than who will start on the offensive line.

What do you expect to be the toughest game?

Saturday, October 7th at USC. I don't know how much of an explanation is really needed for this.

What could be a potential trap game?

I'll say November 11th at Arizona. The Beavers walloped the Wildcats last season in impressive fashion and the expectations for Arizona are that things may not be too much better overall this season. At that point in the year, the Wildcats may be hungry for a win, fighting for their coach's job and trying to exact revenge on a team who gave them the business a season ago. That's enough motivation for any team that's playing on their home field.

Are there any injury or depth concerns heading into the season?

The biggest injury concern is probably to wide receiver Seth Collins, who for a while now has been battling some undisclosed medical issues. If he's healthy to play, Collins is one of the Beavers most reliable pass-catchers. If not, he could use a red-shirt season. As far as depth goes, the aforementioned issues on the offensive line are a major problem, but the team will also need to find more proven options at all three levels on defense. The team boasts a heavy number of wide receivers too, but most are largely inexperienced, with Collins status up in the air and Hunter Jarmon recently leaving the team to pursue a professional baseball career.

Who do you think will win each division?

I'm going with Washington in the North and USC in the South. I think they're hands down the best two teams in the Pac-12.

Who will come in last in each division?

California in the North and Arizona in South.

How do you think your in-state rival will finish?

Awful, of course. No, in all seriousness, it will be hard to gauge just what Oregon will become in the first year of Willie Taggart's tenure with the program. From what it sounds like, the Ducks will be a better defensive team than they were last year, but will that get them over the hump against the upper tier teams in the league? That's the question. It's not easy to steal a win in the Pac-12 so Oregon will have to improve by the week. I say they finish 6-6 overall with wins over Southern Utah, Wyoming, Arizona State, California, Utah and Arizona.

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Washington State