I want to remember something. Something great.
As we get older, the memories tend to fade. Luckily sports provide us the opportunity to never forget special moments. Now that the Oregon State Beavers are off to a great start in the college football season, I am looking forward to the hope of another monumental occasion.
I graduated from Oregon State and as I look back at the football program, two games come to mind. Once upon a time, the then lowly Beavers traveled to University of Washington to face the Huskies in 1985. Back then, the Huskies were king of the hill. OSU went into the game as monster underdogs. And that is putting it mildly. The spread was 37 ½ points. Today it would compare to Oregon/Tennessee Tech or Alabama/Florida Atlantic. Some of you might recall, the Beavs came out 21-20 victors. Then or now, amazing. Despite finishing 3-8 that year under coach Dave Kragthorpe, in my mind the OSU-UW game stands the test of time in the pantheon of unforgettable moments in Oregon State lore.
The other landmark victory, more fresh to everyone’s mind, is the Fiesta Bowl in 2001. I still have my Fiesta Bowl hat. You can put that in my coffin when my day arrives (along with my back-to-back College World Series t-shirt). OSU put a 41-9 pasting on Notre Dame. Dennis Erickson was the coach and left for the NFL. Despite a loss that season, the Beavers, who finished fourth in the final polls, had several media personnel speculating they were the best football team in the country that year. At the time of this shellacking, my boss was a huge Irish fan. She made me quite aware of this fact. Afterwards, let’s just say I let the Beaver pride flow and decorated her office.
Outside the College World Series, sticking to football, I’m ready. We all are. The Husky game and the Fiesta Bowl were opposite spectrums of situations. While the outcomes were the same in terms of a win, each represented different make-ups of an Oregon State football team. One was an underdog; one was an unstoppable force. One came in the midst of many seasons of misery; one came on the precipice of a winning program. One came during multiple tenures of coaches with losing records; the other came with an established winner.
I remember Joe Avezzano, Kragthorpe and Jerry Pettibone. Bad times.
I will certainly never forget Erickson and what he did for Beaver nation. Good times.
Now it is Mike Riley‘s turn. Let the good times roll. I hope. With the win over UCLA last weekend, Riley tied Lon Stiner for all-time OSU wins. Make no mistake, Riley has had significant victories in his time as head coach. Along with the Wisconsin and UCLA games this season, his teams have beaten USC twice when ranked (#3 & #1) and eleven wins against ranked opponents. Furthermore, after his first arrival to Corvallis, he was (and rightly so) credited with putting the program on the winning track for years to follow. OSU has gone to six bowl games (winning five) in the last ten years with Riley at the helm.
Overall it has been a fantastic run. And after attending OSU during the stretch of 28 losing seasons, these times almost feel precious. With Riley leading the way, the program will never be at the point of driving off a cliff. He belongs in the Erickson conversation of positive vibes for the school.
But now, more than ever, appears to be the perfect time for a signature conquest. This team looks closer (I’m not saying it is) to Erickson’s 2000-2001 Fiesta squad than the inept 1985 team which put the pieces together for one game. In early 2000, no one saw the Fiesta Bowl coming. However, with each game, you could feel something bigger and better was building.
It is early for OSU this college football season. Anything can happen, right or wrong. I’m hoping for right, Call me a dreamer, but I’m hoping. I’m ready for Riley and this team to be remembered. Not for just another good year in the record books. For the one day when I can look back and say, “Yeah, the 2012 Beavers beat…”