KERRY SAYS: Beavers will need to pass
If this isn't the biggest week of Cory Hall's life, it's on a very short list.
On Monday, Oregon State's interim head coach was at Corvallis' Good Samaritan Hospital for the birth of his eighth child, Isaiah Bernard Hall. "Baby Megatron," Hall says with a chuckle.
The rest of the week, Hall is consumed with preparing the Beavers for Saturday's 4 p.m. Civil War matchup at Autzen Stadium.
It's a tall order for OSU's interim coach, whose Beavers (1-10 overall, 0-8 in Pac-12 play) are 3 1/2-touchdown underdogs to the bowl-bound Ducks (6-5, 3-5).
"I never look at spreads," Hall says. "I never pay attention to that kind of stuff. The game is played on the field, not on what could happen. That always sets the stage for upsets."
A year ago at Reser Stadium, Oregon State rushed for 310 yards in a 34-24 victory over Oregon, snapping an eight-game losing streak to the Ducks.
"It was exhilarating," says Hall, then coaching OSU's cornerbacks. "I was happy for two sets of people. One, for Coach 'A' (Andersen) and our coaches and players. And two, for the community. I was happy for Beaver Nation. Happy for Corvallis. It didn't truly dawn on me until I drove down I-5 and saw 'Civil War champs, Oregon State,' on a billboard. To be a part of that was exciting."
Oregon has gotten a major boost with the return of sophomore quarterback Justin Herbert, who missed five games after suffering a fractured collarbone in late September. The Ducks floundered without him. With Herbert back at the controls, Oregon swept to a 48-28 victory over Arizona last Saturday.
"Herbert brings a different level of confidence to that offense," Hall says. "It's like they have their leader back out there. He's comfortable in that role. He's very poised. He plays a lot with his feet. He had them clicking on all cylinders against Arizona. Having Royce Freeman back there doesn't hurt, either."
Oregon's senior running back is tied for ninth on the FBS career rushing touchdowns list with 62.
Freeman also is UO's career rushing leader with more than 5,000 yards.
"That body of work speaks for itself," Hall says.
Couple that with the fact that Oregon State's run defense has been a sieve the past two weeks — 534 yards by Arizona, 286 yards by Arizona State — and it's not a good sign for the Beavers.
Oregon State's secondary is crippled, with its top three cornerbacks — Dwayne Williams, Javier Crawford and Jay Irvine — all missing. Kyle White (ankle) and Shawn Wilson (groin) should both return for the Civil War, joining with true freshman Isaiah Dunn to give Hall three semi-healthy corners with which to work.
In last year's win at Reser, Nall carried 31 times for 155 yards and four touchdowns. The Beavers rushed on their final 21 plays to close out the victory. Hall would love it to play out like that again, but it's much more likely OSU will need senior quarterback Darell Garretson to be effective throwing the ball to be in the game.
Oregon State has played very poorly in the first halves the last two weeks against Arizona and Arizona State, then quite well in the second halves.
"We're going to stick with the second-half adjustments we made and just let the boys play," Hall says. "It's going to be a war. Civil? We'll see. You want to turn the players loose, especially for us — last game of the season. You let it all hang out and have fun. That's going to be the message this week.
"The players will be juiced to be strapping it up one more time this season. We'll do what we can to put together two full halves."
It's amazing how much difference a quarterback can make. Oregon State lost a lot when Jake Luton went down for the season on Sept. 16 at Washington State with a thoracic spine fracture.
If Braxton Burmeister was at quarterback for UO, I think the Beavers would have more than a fighting chance for victory.
With Herbert, though, it might not be pretty for the men in orange and black.
THE PICK: Oregon 49, Oregon State 20