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Oregon State's trail hits roadblock Back to the riverbed for the Beavers

November 30, 2008|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Dufresne is a Times staff writer.

CORVALLIS, ORE. — The day was crisp and clear with a kickoff temperature of 62 degrees. Sunset left a stunning pink hue that clung to the hills that surround Reser Stadium.

It almost felt like Pasadena on Jan. 1

What a backdrop.

What a tease.

What a Beaver bummer.

Roses being housed in an adjacent building, guarded by a SWAT officer, were never threatened or presented.

There wasn't much to say up here after Oregon crushed Oregon State in the 112th Civil War, 65-38.

Beavers tried to make their mouths move.

"To be so close and lose that way, it hurts," Oregon State safety Greg Laybourn said.

It was just one of those humiliating, forgettable, embarrassing nights.

Oregon players, who had lost two straight to their Corvallis rivals, could have danced all the way back to Eugene.

"It feels good to finally get a win against Oregon State," cornerback Walter Thurmond III said. "The fans are so hostile, and it's a great atmosphere to play in."

It didn't help that Oregon (9-3) put a basketball number on the scoreboard and amassed a school-record 694 yards while scoring in dizzying displays and flamboyant fashion.

There was an 83-yard touchdown run, a 76-yard pass play and interception returns of 40 and 70 yards.

There was enough parading around to remind you of -- well, sorry, Beavers fans, we didn't mean to go there.

Oregon State played without star tailback Jacquizz Rodgers, sidelined because of a shoulder injury, but it might have mattered only if Rodgers could have played defense and tackled someone.

It didn't help that the Oregon mascot, a malicious mocker, waddled around Reser near the end of a game with a rose in his beak.

Incredible as it sounds, though, even as a devastating loss dropped the team's record to 8-4, Oregon State will still go its first Rose Bowl in 44 years if UCLA upsets USC next week.

Laybourn, pulled aside after a news conference in which he said "to come so close to a bowl like that and play like that is disappointing," barely raised an eyebrow when told all hope was not lost yet.

"I guess I'm a UCLA fan right now," he said. "But USC is a great team."

Oregon State Coach Mike Riley had similar thoughts about having to rely on 4-7 UCLA to do something extraordinary.

"You know I'm not going to lose any sleep over that one," Riley said.

So what now?

The Beavers go back to their riverbed and hope for a miracle.

Penn State is thrilled because it appears almost certain now it will be playing USC in the Rose Bowl instead of Oregon State, a team the Nittany Lions routed in September.

USC's national-title hopes officially ended when Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State in Stillwater late Saturday night.

Despite a 38-3 win against Notre Dame, USC is closed out, with that singular loss at Oregon State to blame.

The schools that USC needed to lose this weekend -- Florida, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech -- all won.

We don't know the teams that will meet for the Bowl Championship Series national title on Jan. 8, but we know which leagues will be involved.

The winner of next week's Southeastern Conference championship game, Florida or Alabama, will fill one title slot and face a Big 12 school: Oklahoma or Texas (sorry, Texas Tech).

Austin is officially on high outrage alert now that three schools in the South Division have all finished 11-1.

The decision on which team will play three-loss Missouri for the Big 12 title will be decided Sunday by the BCS standings.

Texas is No. 2 in the BCS but holds only a razor's-edge lead of .0084 over No. 3 Oklahoma.

Unless voters change course, Oklahoma probably will jump Texas in the standings today, based on the strength of the Sooners' win at No. 12 Oklahoma State on Saturday. Texas, on Thanksgiving night, beat up on unranked Texas A&M.

If Oklahoma finishes ahead of Texas and goes on to beat Missouri next week, which almost certainly will earn the Sooners the other post in the BCS championship game, there will be screaming on the outskirts of Austin.

Texas defeated Oklahoma, 45-35, on a neutral field in Dallas, but using the BCS standings to break the Big 12's three-way tie seems to be as much of a Big 12 problem as it is a BCS problem.

The Pac-10 isn't using the standings in the event it has a three-way tie.

If Oklahoma earns the South title based on highest ranking, Texas' only line to the BCS title would be Missouri defeating Oklahoma next week in Kansas City, Mo.

The schools didn't meet in the regular season this year, but Oklahoma scored two wins over Missouri in 2007.

So there you have it.

Oregon State is counting on UCLA and Texas is counting on Missouri.

Basically, count them out.

USC fans, campaigning to go to another major bowl game other than one that has apparently become, to them, "the Grandduddy," now must take care of business next week against UCLA to avoid a trip to the Holiday Bowl.

How does Pasadena sound now?

If USC beats UCLA, the Trojans are Rose Bowl-bound, Oregon earns the Holiday bid and Oregon State drops all the way to the Sun Bowl.

Yes, the sun sure did set up here.

"We've been in playoff mode for six weeks," Riley said. "Tonight the bubble burst."

And those roses, so heavily under guard, are headed back to the Southland.


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