by: COURTESY OF MICHAEL WORKMAN - Oregon receiver Keanon Lowe (right) tries to shake Washington State's Daquawn Brown.EUGENE -- In the beginning, there was Chip Kelly and "Win the Day."

Or so it seems to many University of Oregon football faithful, who got comfortable with BCS bowl appearances and the idea that each game on the schedule was equally important to the next, arch-rival or not.

The Civil War rears its suddenly somewhat ugly head Friday at Autzen Stadium. It will match two teams coming off stinkers ready to lock horns in the interstate rivalry duel Dee Andros used to proclaim as being staged "for the right to live in the state of Oregon."

Kelly got away from that, and Mark Helfrich is following his predecessor's lead -- to a point.

Helfrich is not from New Hampshire but from Coos Bay. He grew up a Duck fan where "there was that back and forth amongst the community that will happen after this game," he said Monday. "I wanted to be on the right side of that, for sure."

So when I asked Helfrich if the Civil War is any more meaningful to him than other games, Helfrich began, "It's the next one, so it's very meaningful."

Helfrich had hardly taken a breath when he got a little more real.

"I certainly understand the makeup of that (rivalry), growing up in the state," he said. "I grew up in a community that was very divided in allegiance. I know what that means, there's no question about that.

"It's more important this week for us to play better, for us to execute, to compete, to play our way."

During the Kelly era, the Ducks were trained to focus on every opponent the same -- no more, no less. Maybe that will be relaxed a trifle with the players under Helfrich. Asked about the meaning of the Civil War, Marcus Mariota smiled.

"I know you're going to hate this answer, but we have to take it one game at a time," he began. "It's a faceless opponent."

Mariota took less time than had Helfrich to continue.

"But no, in all honesty, talking around the community, this game does mean a lot," the sophomore quarterback from Honolulu said. "It means a lot to the state. It's an honor to be able to play in it. To be able to represent this community the best we can is what we're going to try to do."

The fans care. Oregon followers love the idea of lording a five-game win streak over Beaver believers, who would give a small intestine to knock off the Ducks Friday in their House of Horrors.

Keanon Lowe understands. The Jesuit High grad grew up feeling the passion of those with ties to one school or the other.

"In this state, you're either a Duck or a Beaver," Oregon's junior receiver said. "Everyone I've grown up with or been around picks a side."

Lowe said he grew up liking both schools.

"I never had any hatred toward Oregon State as a kid growing up in the state," he said. "Always respected that program. Always respected Mike Riley, especially. I root for Oregon State when they're not playing us."

Lowe was offered scholarships by Oregon, Oregon State and Washington. He verbally committed to the Huskies, then switched gears and signed with the Ducks. The Beavers, he said, were in it, too.

"It's a great program," Lowe said. "They have great people there. When you have a coach like Mike Riley … he's a good person first and foremost. It was a tough call, but Oregon was where I was meant to be."

Lowe never attended a Civil War game growing up but watched "about every one" on TV. His biggest memory was "the one where Jeremiah Johnson got loose," Oregon's 65-38 victory in Corvallis in 2008 when the Ducks erased the Beavers' Rose Bowl hopes.

As a native, Lowe said the Civil War "means a whole lot. To all of us guys from Oregon, it means a lot."

So do the Oregon kids have to teach their out-of-state teammates the meaning of the rivalry?

"When guys come on campus and start to learn about our program while they're getting recruited, it's obvious this is our biggest game," Lowe said. "The Civil War is a big deal. A lot of guys around the country don't know exactly what it means until they've experienced it."

Some of those guys say they have caught the spirit.

"I love the rivalry," said running back De'Anthony Thomas out of Los Angeles. "The Beavers play hard every game. It's a great feeling to go out there and represent for the state of Oregon."

Linebacker Boseko Lokombo, out of Abbotsford, British Columbia, is one of the Oregon players playing his final game at Autzen on Senior Day.

"It's an opportunity for me and all the other seniors to finish strong," Lobombo said. "It's going to be very emotional.

"It's exciting. Both teams look forward to it. It's going to be a fun game."

Any hatred between players on the two sides?

"Not at all," Thomas said. "I know a couple of their players from high school. It's always great to play against. It's fun. Every game with them is a hard game, and this is going to be another tough game to play. They're going to give us their best shot."

Lokombo begs to differ about the hate part.

"I would say so, yeah," he said. "We do have bad feelings toward them. We'll talk a little trash before the game. We've beat them a couple of times, and they're probably hungry to try to beat us, too."

Senior receiver Josh Huff considers the Civil War "very important."

"Oregon State is Oregon State," Huff said. "They have their deals going on; we have our deals going on. Two great teams are going to meet each other, and hopefully I'm on top of the final outcome.

"I can't end our (regular) season in a loss against Oregon State. I'm going to come out and give everything I have."

The Beavers, it was suggested, looked lost in a demoralizing loss to Washington on Saturday.

"We did, too," he said, the reference to Arizona's dismantling of the Ducks in Tucson. "It's a lose-lose for the both of us. We have to go back to the drawing boards and get ready to go to war with those guys."

To Huff, there's something special about facing Oregon State.

"It's like one of those feelings you get when you're a kid in a candy store," he said. "You want to get what you want. If you don't get what you want, you're going to be mad. Hopefully, I'll be a kid who gets what I want."

There are reminders that the rivals up the road are coming to town. Garbage cans adjacent to the Football Performance Center were lined this week with the Beaver mascot. At some point, the Ducks' X-rated version of the OSU fight song -- made popular during Civil War week in the Rich Brooks era -- will resurface.

"Yeah, that song is still around," Lowe said with a grin. "I don't know every word. Maybe that's a good thing. Some of the older guys are going to teach it to some of the younger guys, but I won't be one of those guys teaching it."

Lowe will be there, smiling and participating, though. It's kind of what rivalries are about. Chip Kelly didn't much buy into it, and Helfrich is following suit, sort of.

It probably would take an Oregon State victory to get Oregon's full attention in the rivalry. That's exactly what the Ducks intend on preventing Friday at Autzen.

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