We all like to reminisce about the great victories, the miracle comeback in the last seconds, the moments when you snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, the winning field goal, and beating the arch-rival in double-overtime. Boy, do we love to talk about it. However, for every great victory, there's an equally agonizing defeat. And those games are a lot more painful to talk about, so we generally avoid talking about them. Or, if we do so, it's in a much more somber tone.
Every loss sucks. So what makes a loss a particularly agonizing one? Well, there's a lot of things that go into it. Was the game close? Were you expected to win? Were you expected to lose but had the game in hand all game and lost in the final seconds? What was riding on the outcome of the game? Was a particularly giant coaching blunder (or series of blunders) that cost the team the game that even the most casual fans could pick up on? Did you lose a game because of a injury or a blown call? But it really comes down to how damn pissed off you are afterwards. Did it screw up your weekend? Did you call in sick Monday? Did you get so belligerently drunk at a bar you got arrested? Did you end up being this guy?
After last year's Alamo Bowl, I got into a conversation with a friend about the worst Beaver losses we could remember, and which was, in fact, the worst. After pondering this internally for awhile, I went through the last 15 years of Beaver football, and picked out the losses that I remember hurting the most.
I think it's important to note that I see worst and most painful as different things. Yes, Oregon kicked the crap out of Oregon State in 2011 by a score of 49-21, but I think we all saw that coming, so it's not quite the same stomach punch that other Civil War losses the last few years have been.
I was originally going to go with the top 5, but couldn't find a clean break at five, so went to 10, but after going through every year back to 1999, I couldn't come up with a clear break at 10, so I settled on 7, as there seemed a clear break between 7 and whatever 8 was going to end up being. There's a tilt towards the recent simply because that's what I recall best, plus I've only been a season ticket holder since 2005, although I attended numerous games before that.
I'm also eliminating every year before 1998, because at that point, just about every loss was expected, so it's hard to really think of them as more painful than games that matter, and you planned on/had a good shot at winning. 1998 felt like the first year losing was genuinely a disappointment, only missing a bowl game due to losing three games in a row by a total of seven points before the double-overtime Civil War win.
So let's take a walk down (Bad) Memory Lane, shall we? Starting with the least agonizing loss and getting worse as we go down the list. If you're looking for the Too Long, Didn't Read version of the article, just skip the play-by-play and go straight to the bolded paragraphs.
#7: November 13, 2010 -- Washington State 31, Oregon State 14
Washington State had lost 16 conference games in a row, dating back 721 days to their win over the 2008 Husky team which, as you might recall, went 0-12. The Cougars didn't have a conference win over another team with a conference win since the 2007 Apple Cup, just under three years. Their only win in 2010 was on a late rally against FBS Montana State. Their only win in 2009 was an OT win over SMU. Oregon State wasn't having a great year at 4-4, but their losses were generally close games to good or great teams, so the general consensus was that they were better than their record would indicate. With their only games left against WSU, USC, Stanford, and top-ranked Oregon, the Beavers needed a win to keep their bowl hopes alive. So, naturally, between the Beavers' need for a win and the Cougs' general ineptitude, this game should not have been close.
And it wasn't. Washington State outgained the Beavers in the first half 214-124, and jumped out to a 14-0 lead at the break. The fans were booing as the teams went to halftime, and it didn't get much better afterwards. A third TD early in the third quarter gave the Cougars a 21-0 lead, and the Beavers never seriously threatened. The final score of 31-14 was closer than it looked. Although the passing yards were about even, WSU out gained the Beavers on the ground 221-97, and committed fewer turnovers. Jacquizz Rodgers averaged 6.2 ypc, but only got 15 carries because the Beavers spent most of the second half passing to try to catch up. Ryan Katz went 12-for-21 with 2 TD's with only one INT, but it came on the WSU 12 yard line as time was winding down in the second quarter. He was bad enough that freshman Cody Vaz came in for a series to finish the first half.
Why was this game so painful? It ended WSU's streak as a winless conference doormat, in a game that wasn't as close at the score indicates, on OSU's home turf. OSU finished 5-7, meaning a win here would have gotten them into a bowl game. This was also the end of Oregon State's four year run as the 3rd place team in the Pac-12, and started the downward trend that took over the entire 2011 season.
Why wasn't it as painful as the games below it? Oregon State wasn't good this year, and this game was really only a symptom of a larger problem. The Beavers came out and destroyed USC the next weekend 36-7, so this game kind of got forgotten about. The game wasn't a heartbreaking loss at the last minute in the way some others on this list were; the Beavers were just outplayed, albeit by a terrible team. And, as embarrassing as this one is, it got overshadowed the next September when Oregon State lost to an even worse team. Finally, the Cougs and Beavs are kindred spirits in a lot of ways, and losing to them doesn't hurt the same way losing to the Ducks (or Huskies) does.
#6: December 3, 2009 -- Oregon 37, Oregon State 33
Unofficially referred to as "The Civil War for the Roses," the 113th edition of the Civil War was the only one ever played where the winner was guaranteed to go to the Rose Bowl. Given the current alignment of the Pac-12, it appears destined to be the only time it ever happens.
Oregon came in to the game with a 7-1 record, and Oregon State was at 6-2. Oregon State had won their last three games very comfortably, whereas Oregon had just pulled out a double overtime win in Tucson, won in near-miraculous fashion, where a key memory is the Zona Zoo slinking back into the stands after preparing to rush the field.
Unlike the previous two years' Civil Wars, both teams came into the game relatively healthy. There were no excuses. The Jacquizz vs. Lamichael debate was at its peak. Both scored 1 yard TD runs in the first quarter, and LaMichael James' first career fumble helped OSU to take a 23-21 halftime lead. Oregon State took the ball to start the second half and scored on a Canfield-to-Kjos pass to take a 30-21 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Chip Kelly pulled LaGarette Blount off the
punch bench for the first time since the Boise State incident. Oregon was faced with a 4th and 6 from the OSU 35 on this drive, and Masoli managed to connect with Jeff Maehl for an 8 yard gain, to keep the drive going which ended with a Duck touchdown.
10 more Duck points sandwiched an OSU field goal to make the score 37-33 with 10:13 to go. OSU drove to the Ducks' 22, but got knocked back 5 yards, to set up a 4th and 15 with a little over 6 minutes to go. Riley was concerned about not getting the ball back if he just kicked a field goal, so he went for it, but Canfield's pass was just out of James' Rodgers reach, and they turned the ball over on downs.
The Ducks got the ball back, up 4, with 6:09 left. Oregon State had two timeouts left, so they ample time to stop Oregon and get the ball back; even a Duck field goal would keep them in the game. But Chip Kelly had other ideas. Two fourth down conversions, one by Jeremiah Masoli on a 4th and 3 (after they were 3rd-and-16) and one by Kenjon Barner on a 4th-and-2, and the Ducks were off to the roses. Oregon State limped off to the Vegas Bowl.
Why was this game so painful? Losing any game to your biggest rival sucks, and the stakes in this one were so much bigger than normal. OSU had a two possession lead in the second half and lost. LaGarette Blount played a key part of the game. The Ducks converted two fourth downs on the final drive to clinch the game. The Ducks went to the Rose Bowl. The Beavers fell all the way to the Vegas Bowl, where BYU took an uninterested OSU team out behind the woodshed in a game that I most remember for having Jacquizz Rodgers' only credited career fumble.
Why wasn't it as painful as the games below it? The game was in Autzen, and the Ducks were a slight favorite. I went in expecting a close game and that's exactly what happened; either team could have won, but the Ducks were simply the slightly better team that day. And, frankly, after the beatdown of the year before, the close nature of this game didn't feel so bad.
#5: October 7, 2000 -- Washington 33, Oregon State 30
Oregon State was 4-0, and ranked in the AP poll for the first time in over 30 years. Washington was ranked 11th in the country, and had just come off a close loss to Oregon at Autzen. Washington had won 23 of the last 24 games in the series. Despite Oregon State being ranked, I don't think anyone actually expected this to be close. Oregon State had been a loser for so long, that even the previous year's Oahu Bowl appearance hadn't convinced the world they didn't still suck. Washington was a Pac-10 power and a fringe national title contender; Oregon State was a good little team with a nice story.
The game was a back-and-forth affair with Oregon State striking first, eventually taking a 14-7 lead after the first quarter. The second quarter, though, was all Huskies, and they scored all 13 points in the quarter to go into the half leading 20-14. A TJ Houshmanzadeh TD reception in the third gave the Beavers the lead back, but Washington came right back to go up 26-21. However, the Huskies' two point conversion was fumbled, and Keith Heyward-Johnson picked up the ball and rumbled, stumbled, bumbled 98 yards for what is probably the longest 2-point conversion in Beaver history, bringing the score back to 26-23.
However, the Beavers' ensuing posession went nowhere, and a Marcus Tuiasosopo TD run gave the Huskies a 10 point lead with 8:23 to go. The Beavers would not go quietly into the night, however, and Jonathan Smith hooked up with some guy named Chad Johnson on an 80 yard TD bomb to pull within 3 with 7:22 to go. A couple more possession changes, and Oregon State got the ball back with enough time left to make a drive. But some confusion on the final possession, combined with questionable play-calling, forced the Beavers to attempt a 45-yard Ryan Cesca field goal with 14 seconds left to tie the game. But the ball went wide by about three feet, which was the difference in the game, and the only game the Beavers lost all season.
Why was this game so painful? The single biggest "What If" game in Oregon State history. If I could go back in time and change the outcome of one sporting event in my entire lifetime, this would be the one. This was the only loss of the entire season; in a season where only one college football team finished undefeated, this game was likely the difference between the Fiesta Bowl and the National Championship Game. A missed field goal with 14 seconds left to send the game to overtime. It was against the Huskies which, at the time, was still the Evil Empire that the Ducks have since become.
Why wasn't it as painful as the games below it? Most of the agony of this game is hindsight. It was just another close loss. Nobody knew at the time that OSU was going to run the table and this was going to be the difference. Washington was expected to blow out the Beavers in this game, even keeping it close exceeded long suffering Beaver Nation's expectations. Oregon State actually moved UP in the polls after this loss, and it was still Oregon State's best season ever, ending in the Fiesta Bowl. The missed field goal would have only sent the game to overtime; there is no guarantee they would have won the game in OT.
#4: September 3, 2011 -- Sacramento State 29, Oregon State 28
2010 had ended with a thud. A promising 3-2 start with two very respectable losses turned into a spiral of bad game after bad game, losing to Pac-12 cellar dwellers WSU and UCLA. The highlights of the year were the victory at then #9 ranked Arizona (where James Rodgers got hurt), and a blowout home win over USC. Despite those wins, a 5-7 record does not get you to a bowl game. To add insult to injury, the team up the river made the national championship game.
So 2011 began with guarded optimism. It was going to be Katz' second year in the system, and Riley's QB's always got better in the second year. I don't think anyone really expected the world, but they certainly didn't expect what was delivered. For this game, the Beavers were really beat up, with James Rodgers, Joe Halahuni, Brandon Hardin, and Kevin Frahm all out. But against a medicore FCS school like Sacramento State, it shouldn't matter.
The first quarter seemed like the Beavers were the better team, although the period ended scoreless. OSU got 5 first downs to Sacramento State's one, and Oregon State fans have dealt with bad starts to FCS teams before (see: Eastern Washington, 2000) that worked out all right. And on the first drive of the second quarter, Trevor Romaine kicked his first college field goal to give the Beavers a 3-0 lead. Things were not great, but still OK.
But on Sacramento State's first drive of the second quarter, two 15 yard pass interference penalties (including one on 3rd down) allowed the Hornets to move down the field and take the lead on a 19 yard touchdown pass. The Beavers responded with a three and out, and Sac State put together an 11 play drive (without aid of OSU penalties this time) to take a 14-3 lead into the half. The boobirds were out in full effect when the teams adjourned for halftime.
The third quarter started off much like the second, and it was Sean Mannion's turn to make his college debut. On his first career drive, he got the Beavers deep into CSUS territory, and stalled. Romaine nailed his second career field goal, cutting the deficit to one score. But the ensuing possession turned into another Hornet touchdown, this time on a 39 yard TD pass. The teams exchanged ineffective drives, and the third quarter ended with the Beavers down 21-6.
But the Beavers got something going in the fourth. Their first two possessions both ended with touchdowns, and a Sean Mannion two point conversion to Markus Wheaton tied the score. OSU now had the momentum, the home crowd, the superior ...everything, and the Magic 8 ball was more upbeat about its predictions. After freshman Sean Martin forced a fumble on Sac State's next possession, and true freshman Malcolm Agnew ripped off a 30 yard run to get OSU into the Hornets' territory, and freshman Brandin Cooks followed up with a 9 yard run to get to the 25 yard line, everyone in the stands breathed a sign of relief because they knew what was coming next.
Which was, of course, a turnover. Sacramento State recovered the ball with 6:25 left in the game, and marched methodically towards the Beavers' end zone, finally stalling out at the 11, and lined up to kick a go-ahead field goal. But it was blocked! As the crowd breathes a sigh of relief, Oregon State takes over with 2:35 left.
They march down the field, Mannion firing passes all over the place, some complete, some incomplete, but none intercepted. Finally, with 4 seconds left in the game, Trevor Romaine (who had already hit from 29 and 45), lines up for a chip shot 22-yard game winning field goal. A false start penalty backs the Beavers up five yards, and Romaine's field goal misses by a hair. To overtime we go, the crowd in full panic mode.
Two Malcom Agnew runs, one for 17, and one for 8, give the Beavers the lead back, and Romaine redeems himself by kicking a PAT. Sacramento State is able to answer though, with Brandyn Reed catching a ball in the right corner of the end zone over Jordan Poyer for a touchdown. Sac State's coach makes the smart play and goes for two. A very similar play to the last one ensues, and although Reed appears to push off on Poyer, it wasn't called, and Sacramento State comes down with the ball and the win.
At that point, we knew what this season was going to be like. It wasn't just that things hadn't gone OSU's way, it was that they were outplayed most of the game. Too many freshmen. What happened to Ryan Katz? I remember having a legitimate debate with friends over whether 0-12 was a possibility. The season was bad enough that Mike Stoops got fired mid-season after Arizona gave the Beavers their first win.
Why was this game so painful? Losing to an FBS school in football is extremely embarrassing. Missed a field goal as time expired to win the game outright before losing in overtime. Started the worst Oregon State season in 15 years. Duck super-recruit Travis Tyner, originally expected to be a Beaver lean, attended this game as a Beaver guest and then promptly committed to the U of O. Ryan Katz, was who supposed to lead the team, didn't even play in the second half.
Why wasn't it as painful as the games below it? The whole season was terrible, a single loss didn't make any difference in the grand scheme of things. It was reminiscent of pre-1997, when every loss was expected and even being competitive was a bonus. This loss actually made the rest of the losses of the year a little better, as none of them were as bad, no matter the score. A combination of injuries and lots of freshmen made the loss a little more explainable.
#3: December 29, 2012 -- Texas 31, Oregon State 27
The game that started the thought process for this entire list. The third-place-in-the-Pac-12 Beavers came into this game about two bounces from being 11-1, and one bad bounce in Palo Alto away from the Fiesta Bowl. Texas had kind of sputtered around unspired in the Big 12, and although they were the 3rd place team, there were really a lot of teams that were roughly the same level. The game was in Texas' backyard, meaning it was effectively a road game for OSU. Which wasn't necessarily a problem, they had already beaten UCLA, Arizona and BYU on the road, and taken Pac-12 champ Stanford down to the wire. Neither team could figure out who their starting QB should be, an unusual position for two Top 25 teams.
The day started off terribly for Beaver fans, as Oregon State choked away a 19-point second half lead to Towson in basketball, to lose in overtime. I remember saying on the way out of the game "Well, no matter what happens this afternoon, it won't be as bad as this." I can still remember the taste of my foot. I put on my complimentary Alamo Bowl T-shirt and went home.
The game started off well enough. OSU held Texas to a three-and-out. On the Beavers' second offensive play, Cody Vaz threw an interception. But the defense held, and OSU got the ball back, and drove for a field goal. Another three and out by Texas, and Vaz got sacked by Alex Okafor for the first, but nowhere near the last, time. Vaz coughed up the ball and Texas recovered on the OSU 26. Three useless plays later, Texas kicks a field goal to tie the game. Vaz then put together a nice drive to score on a 12-yard Storm Woods touchdown. The quarter ends with the Longhorns about to punt, not having so much as a single first down, having gone three-and-out five times. Very impressive job by the defense.
Oh, but wait. They were only about to punt. OSU gets called for an offsides on the punt, and Texas gets a first down. The very next play, Marquise Goodwin turns the corner and threads between defenders for a 64-yard touchdown run, tying the game at 10-10 after the extra point. 7 points for Texas that should have been a punt. Think those might matter?
For the rest of the second quarter, though, the Beavers seem like the dominant team. Two more Texas possessions end in punts, and a 37 yard field goal by Romaine and a 9 yard run by Terron Ward put the Beavers up 20-10. With time winding down in the first half, OSU ends up with the ball on Texas' 46 on a 3rd and 15. They complete a pass for what everyone thinks is a first down, but isn't, the ball was marked just shy of the marker. Riley was told it was a first down, the sideline officials were moving the markers, but it wasn't. So nobody on the field notices the clock run down until Vaz takes a quick snap and spikes the ball as time expires, but it's too late. 20-10 Beavers, and there should have been a field goal try here. 49 yards isn't a gimme, but it's certainly makable. While this one wasn't entirely on Riley, he frequently has problems managing his time outs, particularly at the end of the first half. This is my single biggest complaint about his coaching, actually.
In the second half, both teams exchange ineffective drives, until Cody Vaz throws an interception in OSU territory, which turns into a Texas TD. The Beavers get it back later in the quarter though, when David Ash throws an interception in Longhorn territory, which turns into a 2 yard Storm Woods TD run. At the end of the third quarter, OSU leads 27-17.
OSU gets the ball back with 12:23 to go in the game and a 10-point lead. There's never an excuse to lose a game when you have a two score lead and the ball in the fourth quarter. To this point, OSU appeared to be the better team, and although they had made mistakes, they had made enough plays to make up for it. But this is where it changes.
OSU, 3-and-out, taking less than a minute off the clock. After a first down incompletion, David Ash suddenly turns into Tom Brady, completing every pass he throws for the rest of the game, including six on this drive, and finishes with a touchdown to Jordan Shipley, cutting the deficit to 27-24.
Cody Vaz gets sacked twice in the next possession, but the Beavers do pick up a couple of first downs and manage to take almost 4 minutes off the clock. Texas gets the ball back, and rushes for a first down on 4th and 1. The next play is a 36 yard TD pass, giving the Longhorns the lead, 31-27.
The ensuing Beaver possession consists of an incomplete pass, a useless rush, a sack, and a sack (making ten sacks on the day). This pretty much ends the game, giving Texas the ball with the chance to run the clock out. Or can they? Texas takes three knees, the third one on 3rd down with 16 seconds left in the game. Oregon State still has a time out, so they can take the time out, Texas can kick the field goal, and OSU will get the ball back with ~10 seconds or so left in the game, down 4 or 7. The odds admittedly aren't good, but the chances are still there, it's not over.
Wait, Riley's running out onto the field with the team? He's got a time out left, what the @#%$@$ is he doing? (This is the part where my girlfriend and cats ran out of the room, afraid for their lives). By the way, if anyone can explain this to me, I would greatly appreciate it.
Why was this game so painful? The Beavers had a two possession lead with the ball in the fourth quarter, and were the better team for 75% of the game. Cody Vaz got sacked 10 times. The game was on national TV. The coaches never seemed to make any adjustments, either for an ineffective Vaz or trying to adjust to Alex Okafor. Texas' first TD came the play after a silly penalty extended the Longhorn drive, keeping them from having to punt. Time out blunders by the coaching staff at the end of both halves. A win here probably puts the Beavers in the Top 10 at the end of the year. A win here is fantastic for recruiting, and raises the national profile of the school. The end of the game was particularly embarrassing. I gave a perfectly good T-shirt away after one use. "Cody Vaz just got sacked again" is now ammunition to troll Beaver fans on internet boards everywhere. QB questions abound, as Vaz seemed uncomfortable from the first possession on.
Why wasn't it as painful as the games below it? Oregon State played well for three quarters, and looked good against a legendary program in their backyard. The outcome of bowl games rarely matter as much as what bowl game you actually qualify for.
#2: September 4, 2004 -- LSU 22, Oregon State 21
LSU was the defending national champ. OSU was the defending Vegas Bowl champion. The game was in Baton Rouge, Death Valley, in front of 100,000 screaming Tiger fans, all of whom were excited to see their national champion team return to form, and beat the crap out of this poor school from the Pacific 10 who didn't stand a chance.
But it didn't start well for LSU. On their first offensive play, they fumbled the ball. Despite managing to accrue enough false start penalties to make it a first-and-35, OSU managed to score a touchdown on a a 6 yard Derek Anderson-to-George Gillett pass. Nicely done. True freshman Alexis Serna lines up for the PAT, and shanks it. Oh well, he'll do better next time.
The teams spent the rest of the first quarter slap-tickling each other for nothing doing, the only scoring chance being LSU missing a 41 yard field goal attempt. In the second quarter, both teams try a field goal. Only Alexis Serna makes his, extended the Beavers' lead to 9-0 at halftime. Good thing he's got the jitters out of his system now, huh?
In the third quarter, LSU starting QB Marcus Randall is replaced by some guy named JaMarcus Russell, who you might have heard of, but who Al Davis wishes he had never heard of. Russell doesn't really look much better, at least to start, and his first five passes (over three possessions) are all incomplete. Then he gets it together, and his 16 yard TD pass to Skyler Green with just under 6 minutes left in the third quarter gets the Tigers on the board. They manage to hit their extra point, making the score 9-7.
The Beavers put together a nice drive, ending up scoring another touchdown on a 4 yard TD reception by Anthony Wheat-Brown. All Serna has to do is put it through the uprights, and the Beavers have a two score lead again. Shank II. Sigh.
Three misses by JaMarcus give the ball back to OSU to start the fourth quarter with an 8-point lead and the ball. OSU gets to the LSU 28 and lines up on 4th-and-1, but an offsides penalty pushes them back 5 yards, out of field goal range, apparently. Anderson's pass is batted down, and they turn the ball over on downs.
Luckily, JaMarcus still hasn't gotten comfortable, and the next two Tiger possessions end in three and out. The Beavers return the favor, however, not able to take any real time off the clock. LSU gets the ball back with 6:26 and Russell puts together a heck of a drive, leading the Tigers down the field, and ends up with a first and goal from the 8. However, the Beaver defense, stout all day, holds them off, and on a 4th and goal from the 2, JaMarcus' pass is incomplete. The Beavers get the ball on downs with 2:47 to go.
The Beavers don't do much (anything?), and take a minute off the clock before giving the ball back to JaMarcus Russell and the Tigers, who take over on their own 36.
First play: incomplete. Second play: incomplete. Third play: 26 yard completion to Dwayne Bowe. Fourth play: 38 yard TD pass to Dwayne Bowe. Russell runs the 2 pt conversion in, and the score is tied at 15 with 1 minute left.
Riley elects to play for overtime, rushing for 2 yards, and a short pass to Joe Newton, so overtime is what he gets.
LSU gets the ball to start overtime. On 3rd-and-6 from the 21, OSU commits a penalty, giving the Tigers a first down. On 2nd-and-10 from the 12, OSU commits a penalty to give the Tigers a first down. A TD follows, as does a successful PAT.
The Beavers take over. Incompletion. Incompletion. Mike Hass for 6. On 4th and 4 from the LSU 19, Derek Anderson pulls a rabbit out of his hat, and completes a 19 yard pass to Joe Newton for a TD to pull within one. I (and thousands of other Beaver fans) all being screaming from our living rooms: "Go for 2!"
Ten years later, and I still don't understand why Mike Riley doesn't go for two here. Serna is 0-for-2 on extra points, the momentum is with the Tigers, there's 100,000 really loud LSU fans. Supposedly, Riley tried to call time out to think about it, but couldn't get the officials attention. Why didn't he think about it before he sent the kicking team out there?
You know the rest of the story. Shank III. Wide right. LSU wins 22-21.
Alexis Serna is the best kicker in Oregon State history, and it's not close. He also holds the OSU record for most consecutive extra points made and, I believe, the record for most consecutive extra points missed. Serna missed the first three of his college career, all in this game, and never missed another in four years, making the next 144. He also won the Lou Groza award for the nation's best kicker his sophomore year. Perhaps those things don't happen if he doesn't fail this game, but his first game is still his worst (and, sadly, his most memorable).
Why was this game so painful? Three missed extra points. The opportunity to shock the defending national champion on their home field. A huge statement game for the program. The simplest play in football to execute failed three times.
Why wasn't it as painful as the games below it? OSU was supposed to get blown out, but were competitive and generally the better team most of that day. It was a "moral victory" in many senses. Nobody expected OSU to have a chance. It was just the manner in which they lost that made it so painful. If LSU wins by 30, this game doesn't get a sniff on this list. OSU still ended the season with a respectable 7-5 record, beating Notre Dame in the Insight Bowl. A win in this game would not have changed that.
#1: November 29, 2008 -- Oregon 65, Oregon State 38
You knew this was coming, didn't you?
The plot was simple: Oregon State wins this game, they go to the Rose Bowl. Oregon State loses, they finish tied for second with the Ducks at 7-2, and play in the Sun Bowl, and USC goes to the Rose Bowl. Oregon was going to the Holiday Bowl regardless of the outcome of the game, while Oregon State would drop to the Sun Bowl, meaning only one Pac-10 team (USC) would go to a BCS game instead of two, so Oregon would actually cost their program money by winning.
Oregon hadn't had a banner year for a while, this was Oregon State's third straight year finishing third or better in the Pac-12, and both schools had been to exactly one BCS game, although it had been six and seven years, respectively. Oregon State had won two Civil Wars in a row, breaking the 14-year home team winning streak the year before. A common topic on talk radio was whether Oregon State was actually about to surpass Oregon in terms of their ability as a football program, and some of them believed that if the Beavers won this game, they would be the better team in Oregon. All talk of this ended with this game, and the gap has been getting wider ever since.
It didn't start out well, with Jacquizz Rodgers getting injured the week before against Arizona, and was forced to sit out. The Beavers tried to counteract with a balance of James Rodgers on the fly sweep and Ryan McCants out of the backfield, but the running game was not good. The passing game actually did pretty well, as Lyle Moevao ended up throwing for 374 yards and 5 TD's. Of course, he also threw two pick sixes.
The game started out well, with the Beavers holding the Ducks to a three-and-out. That, however, was the high water mark of the game for the home team. The Beavers offense did their own three-and-out, and then Masoli marched the Ducks down the field for their first touchdown. Another three-and-out by Oregon State led to a Duck field goal, and then the Beavers put a drive together to pull back to 10-7 on a 20 yard TD pass to Jeremy Francis.
Oregon got the ball back, and Jeremiah Johnson promptly ran 79 yards down to the Beaver 9. The next play was a Blount TD run to go up 17-7. That was just the first quarter. The teams traded field goals and OSU got the ball back with 2:13 to go in the half, trailing 23-10. Time for a touchdown drive, go in down by 7, get the ball back to start the second half, right? No.
Three incomplete passes, and the Ducks get the ball back with 1:53 to go. A penalty and an incompletion puts the Ducks on 3rd and 19 from their own 17 yard line. So what happens? An 83 yard touchdown run from Jeremiah Johnson, that's what. 30-10 Ducks with 0:58 left.
First play for OSU, pick six. 37-10 Ducks. Oregon State had the ball with 2:13 to go, down by 13. With 0:43 left in the half, they were down 27. That's not going to win you a lot of games. Oregon State actually scored a TD at the end of the half to pull back within three touchdowns, but the damage was done, and Reser Stadium was very quiet at halftime, except for the southwest corner.
Oregon State actually scored first in the second half, cutting the lead to 37-24. It's not over, right? Another 45 yard Blount run leads to another Duck TD. Oregon State scores again, keeping the lead to two scores. OSU pins them deep in their own territory, and on a 3rd and 5, Masoli throws a 76 yard TD pass to go back up by 20, 51-31.
The teams exchange three and outs, and then OSU scores again to get within 51-38 with 8:34 left. Still doable ... if only the Beavers can get a stop. The Beavers get the Ducks get to 3rd and 7 and.... give up a 45 yard touchdown pass to put the game out of reach at 58-38. Oh, and for good measure, Moevao throws about pick six on the next posession to get it to the final score of 65-38.
Why was this game so painful? Hi. Are you new here? Everything about this game sucks. Scoreboard. Rivalry game. Dropping from the Rose Bowl to the Sun Bowl. The Ducks had nothing to play for but pride, OSU had everything to play for. Oregon scored more points against Oregon State than any other team ever has, before or since. It was a blowout, but Oregon State kept scoring and keeping pace, so it seemed like they were always on the verge of making a stop and getting back in the game, it never seemed really out of reach until the end. Which made it worse than having it be a foregone conclusion. The Ducks had touchdowns of 83, 40, 76, 45, and 70 yards, and had non-scoring runs of 79 and 45. An Oregon State fan threw paint on the Duck band. It all happened at Reser, meaning they did it in our house. The injuries to Jacquizz Rodgers, keeping him out of the game, and James, who left the game early leaving at least a little bit of room for "what if?" The crushed roses littering Parker Plaza on the way out of the stadium.
Why wasn't it as painful as the games below it? There are no games below it. It sucks the worst. It made me feel physically ill during and afterwards. This is the only game on this list I still hate even talking about, which makes it clearly the #1 choice. I've spent more time writing about this game for this article than I have thinking about it since it happened. I have still never consciously watched a highlight from the game.
Also considered (in reverse chronological order): 2012 Stanford, 2012 Washington, 2010 Washington, 2008 Utah, 2008 Stanford, 2007 UCLA, 2001 Fresno State, 1998 Washington, 1998 Cal, 1998 UCLA, every Civil War loss since 1999.
Feel free to chime in with your worst Beaver game memories in the comments below. I'd be curious to see if I missed anything tragic, or what other people have in mind. At some point, I plan on doing a Top 10 Beaver victory list as well, so if you want to talk about that, and have suggestions for that, feel free to leave those in the comments as well.
And, seriously, if you can explain why Riley didn't take the time out at the end of the Alamo Bowl, I will buy you a beer before the home game of your choosing somewhere in the general vicinity of Reser stadium.