Favorite Oregon St. Football Highlight

What is your favorite Oregon St. football highlight? Jacquizz Rodgers throwing a touchdown out of the "Wild Beaver" formation? Or any of several of his great plays in the first of two upsets of USC? Maybe it goes way back, to Jess Lewis running down O.J. Simpson to help preserve another upset of USC? Or is it Chad Johnson ("Ochocinco" wouldn't be thought of for years yet) maybe scoring a touchdown in the FIesta Bowl (or did he start to spike the ball inches early?) win over Notre Dame?

All great moments, and maybe you have another in mind. Johathan Smith, Mike Hass, Derek Anderson, Sammy Stroughter, Steven Jackson, James Rodgers, and many others have thrilled Beaver Nation in recent years as well. How about Terry Baker's touchdown run in the Liberty Bowl victory? Or Bill "Earthquake" Enyart's last run in his 299 yard day at Utah?

But for me, there is not, and may never be, one that equals Ken Simonton's game winning 16 yard touchdown run on a sweep play that ended with a sprint down the right sideline into the darkness and the northwest corner of [then] Parker Stadium to end the 1998 Civil War, giving Oregon St. a 44-41 win in double overtime.

Game-ending scoring plays aren't all that common, even since the inception of overtime in college football, since overtime games can be won on the first of a pair of possessions, and end with a failure to match or exceed the opponent's earlier score. That it was in the rivalry game puts it up there in pretty rare company anywhere.

But in this case, it was more than a game changer, it marked a change of eras at Oregon St. on a level that spanned generations in both directions.

And it had to be a really big play to even be the big play in the game, one that it had initially looked like Oregon would win in regulation, and then one that Oregon St. had apparently already won.

The Ducks held a 31-24 lead with less than 2 minutes left in the game, but Smith found Tim Alexander for a catch and 6 tackle-busting run for the 30 yard touchdown that forced the game into overtime.

Simonton scored his third touchdown of the game in the first possession of the first overtime, putting Oregon St. ahead 38-31, and when Oregon's 4th down pass fell incomplete, the over-capacity crowd of 37,777 (Parker Stadium as what is now known as Reser Stadium at the time seated just over 35,000, but temporary bleachers had been brought in to hold the crowd, as well as auxiliary lighting for tv that was intended for a gloomy afternoon, not a game that extended well into the night) rushed the field to celebrate the Civil War win. But a penalty flag for pass interference was on the field!

It took over 15 minutes to get the fans all back off the field, extending the Fox Sports Network broadcast a long time, and allowing for lots of heated debate between fans, before Akili Smith could hit Jed Weaver for a 2 yard touchdown, setting up the PAT kick to tie the game up again, and force another overtime.

Oregon reached the Oregon St. 9 to start the second overtime, but had to settle for a field goal, and a tenuous 3 point lead.

The Beavers got 9 yards on 1st down, and then, on second and 1, Simonton's 28th carry of the game would give him 157 yards for the day, a fourth score, and a permanent place in Oregon St. (and Oregon) history.

It was a classic game, in which the teams combined for 950 yards, 489 by Oregon St., as well as being the longest battle in terms of elapsed time in Civil War football history, thanks to both the quarter-long false start to the celebration, and the unprecedented second overtime.

But Simonton's score really underscored to Oregon St. players and fans that the Beavers could again be a factor in football. It only improved Oregon St. to 5-6 for the season, and it was the 34th year in a row with no bowl game. And Oregon, well ahead of the Beavers in the resurrection of their program, would go to their 7th bowl game in 10 years.

But it was not only the best year Oregon St. had had in 27 years, it was the first of 13 consecutive seasons with at least 5 wins, a night and day difference.

The Beavers had not beaten the Ducks in Corvallis in 10 years before the double overtime classic, but it would be 10 more years, until the dawning of the "era of Chip", before Oregon would win in Corvallis again.

Bowl games would follow for the Beavers the next 2 years, and 9 of the next 11. Something that never occurred to anyone of those 37,777 fans as possible until Simonton's sprint up the sideline, into the arms of disbelieving Beaver fans.

Add your memories of the play, or share your thoughts about the play that is your favorite highlight moment in Oregon St. football history, in the comments below.

Go Beavers!

Andy_Wooldridge@yahoo.com

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